Friday, August 2, 2013

Ready, Set, Go


I’m convinced my fan is possessed.
(Which I wouldn’t ever say to anyone here, even jokingly, because most Ghanaians take possession very seriously.) Half the time I turn it on, it starts buzzing as it struggles to get going. So I’ll turn it off to mess with the cords, but before I can touch anything- voila! It starts running beautifully as soon as I turn it off… And no, I am not confusing on and off.
My fan is just one of countless things in Ghana that works in ways I don’t understand.

Most of those things I can take with humor, or at least shrug off, however today was a real gem of a day when it came to dealing with the faults in the Ghanaian system.
My afternoon was a three-hour debacle over going to see some land we’re interested in buying. We’re hunting for a permanent location for SISCO, and my friend Charity found a potential place. I was put directly in touch with Kwame- who is basically the realtor- and he suggested we meet between 1:00 and 2:00. I was told the land in Aflao is by the cement factory, so I asked him to call me when he was ready to go and we would meet by the police station, where the cement factory road splits off the main border road.
At 2:30 I got a call from Charity saying they were waiting for us, so Worfa and I booked it to the police station. No Charity, no Kwame. Another phone call. They’re at the District Assembly in Tokor where they work because the land is on the cement factory road in Tokor…which apparently is still officially considered Aflao. (Quick geography lesson: Denu is neighbors with Aflao on one side and Tokor on the other. All three are very close together, but travel time would be something like Ann Arbor-Saline or Marquette-Harvey because of road conditions) We got to Tokor as fast as we could, having already gone nearly ten minutes in the wrong direction to get to the police station…and Kwame had left because we made him wait too long. I was spitting mad by this point. I never did- and never will- figure out why he agreed to call me, didn’t, and then blamed me for being late. Or why he agreed to meet me at the police station in Aflao and then expected me at the District Assembly in Tokor. Perhaps it was an honest mistake, but I am running low in the Assume The Best Department. This type of situation has happened a lot recently, and just once I would love to get the right information the first time so things can proceed at the pace I prefer. (My frustration is just seeping off the screen, isn’t it? It was a rough afternoon, I apologize.)
Kwame finally waltzed in TWO HOURS later, and the 21-year-old college student in me wanted to pop him upside the head. The semi-adult non-profit Founder in me won, thankfully, and all I did was initiated a very firm handshake to show him that I am not some little American girl to be trifled with and he had another thing coming if he expected some groveling apology and the last thing I was going to do was sit meekly by while the men conducted business. Ok, ok- I doubt he read all that into my handshake, but it made me feel a little better to think he did.
Fortunately (for Kwame’s sake, I like to think), everything proceeded smoothly from there, and we’ve decided to pursue this location further.

Here’s the upside though, because being an optimistic blogger makes me a more optimistic human in real life:

Despite all my frustration over the numerous times I’ve had to wait, or gotten mixed signals, or gotten the wrong signal completely…it is truly amazing how quickly this foundation has come together. It’s been two and a half weeks since I first decided to do this, and already I have a Constitution, a complete Board of Directors, an Advisory Council, an Executive Director, and an Auditor.

Not only that, but I have a damn fine group of people in those positions.

Just today our final Board Member volunteered for the position. He has over a decade of experience working with international human rights for Ford, and is about to start doing similar work here in West Africa with a different company. He approached me, but I couldn’t have picked someone better if I’d tried. Not only is he more than qualified, but he should be physically on the continent far more often than I expect to be myself. I didn’t even hope to find that in a fellow American, which is why our Board was entirely Ghanaian except myself up. Pending one more vote of approval, that just changed.
The Head of our Board of Directors, Daniel, is an educator with two Masters degrees, and over thirty years of teaching experience in several countries. His wife Caroline is the Head of the Advisory Council; she has even more teaching experience and is currently the headmistress of a school. Samuel, our Financial Director, is an accountant with the District Assembly and former teacher. Our other Board Member, Tony, is a District Magistrate with a background in education and social work in addition to his decade of experience as a judge. Charlotte and Karina, two of our Advisory Council members, are social educators in Denmark, which is something of a hybrid between a social worker, counselor, special education teacher and super hero. One of the other Advisory Council members is my father Thomas, with his extensive leadership experience in business and the military. Our last Council member is Nichodemus, a young teacher who is currently working towards a degree in Educational Psychology. Worfa is our Executive Director; his qualifications have already spoken for themselves. Of all people, though, I assumed that our auditor would be pretty cut and dry, just someone hired to keep things legally and financially sound. But Emmanuel, the auditor we just hired today, works for the Education Office at the District Assembly and is just as passionate about our mission as the rest of our crew- you could even use the word “excited.”

I honestly don’t know how this happened. I don’t know how I’ve ended up with eleven people who among themselves are experts in law, finance, business, social work, psychology, general and special education, and human rights issues. Several of them have previous experience working with non-profits. Most of them are far more educated than I am. And every single one of them is dedicated to our cause. They all believe in what we are doing.
Believe me when I say I didn’t expect such a strong group of people on my side. They give me this marvelous little hope for the future of this foundation. As if maybe the crazy dreams I’ve dreamed for the last three years might suddenly have rooted into something far more concrete and realistic. It must be, because I leave for Accra tomorrow to start the registration process.

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