Hope for Ghana

This weekend I realized just how much potential Ghana has. And believe me—there’s a lot.

The realization struck me as I walked with Ahmed to his football match. We were walking through the campus of a high school in the area in the hot afternoon sun. As we passed dorms where music was playing and people were dancing, some of the team members started to dance. After all, a three o’ clock match start time in Ghana is very flexible, so why not stop to enjoy yourself with a little grooving? I tried some Ghanaian moves and we laughed together at how ridiculous I looked. Still, I felt the beat of the red dirt and it was good.

Then, this song came on:

Everyone in Ghana knows this song. It’s played non-stop in most public places and usually I find it annoying. But not this time.

The guys got really into the song (it’s a hit for a reason) and they started to dance and laugh even more. I stopped and looked out across the football pitch. Some of the boys had started kicking the ball around skillfully. They were framed by two large cell phone towers in the distance and a herd of goats crossing the field nervously.

This is epiphany-making material.

It was then, as I stood in the shade of a tree with the footballers dancing around me and this song playing in the background that it struck me. I’m sure you know the feeling; it has a certain bigness to it. It’s like this overwhelming lightness that brings with it a certain almost-contentedness that’s more like feeling at peace than being overwhelmingly happy, but really not like either of those things. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.

This place is good. Amazing, even, I thought to myself.

Ghana has so many things right. The people that I’ve met so far are so inspiring, because they truly care about their country. They know what’s wrong and why and they know what could be done about it. Because they care, they educate themselves on what’s going on and they vote. They’re enterprising and funny and the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. I think that’s where this feeling starts–with the people.

Beyond that, though, Ghana is working to develop itself. Right around the corner from where I was standing I saw this sign:

More epiphany-making material.

The University for Development Studies (UDS) was created in 1992 by the Ghanaian government to train students so that they can have a positive impact on developing their own country. Here, a UDS project is promoting safe sex on a high school campus. This would be considered progressive in some “developed” countries (like the USA). But in Ghana, a far more religious land, the root of the issue is central to solving the problem.

It’s the little things and the big things like this all the time that inspire me on a daily basis. From chats with Yaku about his dreams to be a teacher to Alhassan’s huge plans for revolutionizing the way education administration goes in the Northern Region; I’m continually motivated by these happy, concerned, funny, and challenged people who’ve been handed a context that they didn’t have the opportunity to create, but with which they’ve got to deal. Ghanaians are working hard and I really believe that poverty has a lifespan here because of it.

So, the question is: what does Ghana need to get to get to the end of that lifespan now? I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to answer that accurately, to be honest. If I had to guess, I’d say that Ghana needs someone who is willing to really question the status quo in a serious way and to courageously commit to making the changes that s/he wants to see in this country of red dust and bright people.

And, like most things, I think Ghana needs time. Development seems like a slow walk some days, but it has to end at some point.

-C

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4 responses to “Hope for Ghana

  1. I love those moments of bigness and optimism in the face of so much (well, and I love writing about them). Epiphanaic!

    I don’t think there is an ‘end,’ though, or some kind of ‘yes now we are developed’ point – I think some things can be measured to a close (like HIV transmission, for example), and certainly dependence on/meddling of NGOs can end, but progression towards a world with less poverty and inequality continues on apace even in Canada.

    That said, I lovelovelove the determination to get there now, and fast, because I think you’re right, that it’s completely within Ghana’s grasp to do so. FIGHT FIGHT KILL! TULLACH ARD! EULALIA!
    -c

    P.S. Apologies for the war cries, I’ve got fire in the belly from EWB’s advocacy badassery today.

    • I would disagree with the part about Development having an end. I obviously agree that poverty and inequality exist even in so-called developed countries and that efforts to get rid of these things do exist, but I think that the underlying reasons for the existence of these things in a “developed” country are generally different than the reasons for their existence in so-called developing countries. For example, in Canada some risk factors for being poor include unemployment, mental illness, being a woman, being queer or transgender, being a senior citizen, or being a descendant of First Nations. In Ghana, you can be a functioning farmer who works 24/7 in the fields with four wives who all have their own businesses and still be poor. From the informal chats I’ve had with many people in my community, I’ve learned that the poverty might look the same in Canada as it does in Ghana (or at least very similar), but that it’s actually very, very different.
      Now, with that said, I don’t think that even Canada has reached some ideal endpoint of being “developed”. The reasons for being impoverished in Canada that I listed above make no sense, really, and they need to change. I like to believe that people are working to make those changes, in spite of the Harper Agenda’s setbacks. But there must be some endpoint. Development as an industry will just self-perpetuate unless its practitioners have an unsustainable view of their involvement paired with a sustainable view of their work. Otherwise, they’ll just continue to profit on projects that rely on the existence of poverty in developing countries.
      So, I guess what I’m saying is twofold: 1. that there at the very least ought to be some endpoint to this slow walk and that 2. envisioning that endpoint requires some fairly “radical” thinking, including being humble enough to say that even us Canadians aren’t there yet.

  2. Christian enough for abstinence, but they’ve still got ghosts! So frustrating sometimes.

    Also loved the parable of flossing very, very much.

  3. Loved this post when I first read it….re-reading it now and I’m loving the music accompaniment, and that sense that things are good, and have potential is really a feeling I empathize with. It’s really inspiring that you’ve found it here and I love the panorama shot to go with it.

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