The Wedding is On!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The “Knocking” – Samuel and Henrietta
This is an interesting ceremony where the whole family of the potential groom visits the family
of the potential bride to ask for her hand in marriage.
In the U.S. this is an old ceremony and usually only includes the man asking the parents of the
bride for her hand in marriage.
There are some distinct differences. First, the whole family is involved!
Wow! I was also asked to participate as Samuel’s boss and friend. We arrived at Henrietta’s
home in Sapieman about 8 A.M.
The ceremony proceeds where Samuel’s family offers Henrietta’s family a bottle of Schnapps –
if Henrietta’s family accepts and serves this refreshment, then it is assumed that the wedding is on!
In addition, her family makes a list of gift items that they would like and Samuel (and his family) will
provide these gifts for them (in exchange for their daughter?)
Henrietta was present from time to time, serving refreshments – but she was not included in the
conversation – she did not join us.
Henrietta’s father was gracious and when deep in thought, he told Samuel that their families are not “in-laws”
but one family. And, if Samuel and Henrietta ever have a problem too big to handle, he would be there to help
them solve it.
It was really quite touching to see the families joke and laugh together. It was clear that they had welcomed
Samuel into their family. The two grandfathers, both Chiefs of their villages, shared old stories about long ago
when they were young and they liked to fight! They were laughing together and it was hard not to laugh along
(even though I didn’t understand the language!) Both grandfathers are in their 90’s.

The ceremony also includes pouring of a glass of Schnapps (or some alcoholic beverage)…but before they would drink, they would spill a little for their ancestors to share in the event.
When they poured my glass, I tipped the glass once for my father and once for my mother. I was really moved to tears remembering them and wondering what they thought of me now.

I was given a new Ga name today…. Naa Momo. I was told this is a woman who was a warrior! (Naa meaning Chief,
Momo meaning Mother)

Where in the world is….

I realize that some of you may be wondering, “where in the world is Kathleen?” Some of you do not know that I have chosen to “retire” a little early, leaving the rat race for the race to sustainability here at Joy2theWorld.

The need for funds (as with any non-profit) is on-going. We are always in need for the funds to provide loans for new women clients. We now have over 100,000 Ghc in circulation. That means that Joy2theWorld (thanks to YOU!) has provided over 600 micro loans and contributed to the community significantly.

Today, five years after we started, the new loans begin at 200 cedes (approximately $135) due to the economy here. As you can imagine, while the cost of doing business is much less than in the U.S., it still has still increased. In 2007-2008, our new loans were about $40 but just like the U.S., $40 doesn’t increase inventory substantially enough to generate a profit. (Or, even more important, enough to earn and repay their loans.) However, this means that more donations are needed to fill the gap.

As a “retiree”, my job here at Joy2theWorld in Ghana, is to generate more donations, keep the flow of loans going out and then being repaid in a particular rhythm so that new clients are welcome and the senior clients are respected with their new loans. It is a full time job! I volunteer my time here but it looks like 6-8 hours each day where I can interact with our women and get involved in the local community. (below is a picture of me living the life I dreamed as a “retiree”) I am hoping to use this blog to keep you all up to date with the activities here and report on how your donations make such a huge difference.

Our Entrepreneur’s Club members (a history of 6 loans, perfect repayments) can qualify for 500-800 cedes, repaid over 6 months. They have used their loans to build great businesses, increasing their inventories, expanding their stores, hiring employees and more. They used to earn $1.50/day which they would take home to feed their families.

Today, our Entrepreneurs’ Club members have created their Business Plans and earn (after they pay themselves a salary of 3-5 cedes per day) a PROFIT of 20-40 cedes per month! They are able to put their children in school and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families!

Nick Manuele, Treasurer of Joy2theWorld, was here for 6 weeks working with the women. A picture below shows Nick leading a class on “developing a Business Plan” for our Entrepreneur Club members. He learned from these women as well. They are keeping accurate records of income, expenses and profits. We are adding a new column for them called “Revenue” or savings…a place to save for future business expenses. (Nick spent his last week in Ghana visiting the Volta Region, the sight of beautiful waterfalls and the location that provides electricity for all of Ghana. He said it was like living inside a National Geographic Magazine! He also spent a weekend with friends at the beach in Cape Coast.)

It is very exciting to watch the womens progress and their participation in their communities.

There are many new clients who want the same opportunity. They want their first loans and we have some of the senior clients mentoring the new women who come on board.

But, of course, all of this takes funding. Your generosity is what keeps this operation working. Your donation makes it possible for new women (living at poverty level) to build their businesses. If $135 seems high for you, even a portion can make a huge difference here. Give it some thought, and then donate to make a difference in a woman’s life (and her family). While your donation is tax deductible, this is not charity for them. Each woman is required to be wise with their loans and to repay them with interest. The interest earned is used to pay the salaries of our 2 Ghanaian staff. Not one cent is wasted! No government interference!

Food in Ghana!

Well, the word diet comes to mind. While there isn’t the constant barrage of “looking good” books, magazines, TV programs and radio ads, there is still the chatter going on in my head from time to time.

Two categories: one, what is healthy to eat here (that is nourishing and will not make you “suffer” the next day) and two, what tastes good. The first is real (to me) and the second is subjective, I guess.

There is a wide variety of fruits and vegetables! These are wonderful and easily available. Stands with fresh fruits and vegetables abound. I can walk to the corner and buy fresh oranges (she is able to peel the whole orange for me, leaving the outside pulp for me to peel myself when I am ready to eat it!), bananas, apples, papaya, grapes and more. Shopping at the corner before going home, I can purchase onions, eggplants (small and white in color), tomatoes, carrots and potatoes and sweet potatoes. A little further down the road I can purchase lettuce, celery, green & red peppers for salads.

All of these require extra washings and a final soak in vinegar. Funny, most of our vegetables don’t last very long and they are straight from the farm. But the U.S. vegetables seem to have chemicals or vitamins to make them greener, redder, larger, etc. and that doesn’t exist here.

Eggs are fresh, fresh, fresh!

I shop for meats in Accra once a week. I am not brave enough to purchase meats in the rural areas. There is a store called “Shop-Rite” and it is similar to grocery stores in the West. They have chicken (very popular), beef and pork. I purchased a pork roast and the results were tasty but very fatty; lots of waste. No more of that! Ha! Pork chops were very good.

Chicken is packaged in a variety of ways, just like the U.S. Cooking is easy and we have tried a variety of ways to serve it at home. Ghanaian’s LOVE chicken! So when we have local friends over, we cook chicken for dinner (with rice!).
This week we have a guest coming for Sunday Dinner. Fred is a missionary and he commented that he was longing for American food (and so was his digestive system!) so I am preparing roast beef with roasted potatoes, onions and green beans.

I know, I know….not very adventurous. I have eaten out and had delicious tilapia, chicken and rice and some other local meals. Of course, there is the traditional banku (corn and cassava dough rolled like a matzo ball in the middle of a stew containing fish, chicken, goat, beef – whatever they choose) that everyone loves here (pictured below). The cook provides a dish with soap to wash hands prior to eating because the meal is eaten with your fingers. Another version is kenke or corn rolled up, again eaten with your fingers. Then fufu, plantains and cassava dough is yet another version.

I limit the number of meals like this since I am not fond of dipping my fingers into my food (as opposed to eating with my fingers!)

If you walk by the corner, the women are roasting sweet potatoes (now you’re talking!) and I can buy 3 large chunks of roasted sweet potato for 60 pesawas (about 40 cents), this is very filling for lunch and of course, delicious!
Bread is baked fresh (no sliced bread, you must slice your own!). It is wrapped in a cellophane bag and costs about 1 cedi (70 cents). Again, it doesn’t last very long (couple, three days) – no preservatives!

Coke, Sprite and local cans of Malta are available as well as fruit juices. Water (only Voltic brand) is safe to drink. Unfortunately, there are no diet sodas! So I must be careful to limit the cans of soda. I found one Coke One (one calorie) in Accra and that was pretty good.

So in summary, eating can be an adventure in itself! But it doesn’t have to be. It just takes a little planning.

P.S. We found a great pizza place yesterday! We can walk there from our office…the pizza has all the same ingredients but it tastes more like a casserole. A deep dish pizza with crispy dough, mushrooms, tomato sauce, onions, green peppers… very good!