Saturday, June 6

One on one

I've have been able to learn so much this week.

I've been interviewing students one on one, asking about their future plans and getting suggestions on how to develop entrepreneurial skills, among other things. Some students have absolutely blown me away.

Some students offered valuable insights into how students learn best, and on how to develop the best program to teach entrepreneurial skills. Others shared with me their exciting ambitions for the future, and still others provided concrete examples of youth entrepreneurship. Ibrahim, for example, explained how he had purchased one young bull and fattened it and then sold it, in order to get enough money to buy an older bull. This he fattened as well in order to make enough to buy two bulls. He continued doing this until he had four bulls, which he sold so that he could afford to write the exams and come to Pong-Tamale Vet College at the age of 30.

Abdul in particular, age 25, amazed me with his story of perseverance and determination. We sat down on a bench just outside the male dormitories as the sun was retreating behind the trees on the horizon. The bench was uncomfortable and I struggled to keep all my papers in place as the breeze flicked them around. This was soon forgotten as Abdul explained that, "Yes." he did have experience in entrepreneurship. As a result of his father's death, which happened while Abdul, an only child, was still in second grade, he had to find money on his won to cover his school fees while in junior high. To do this, he learned how to repair shoes, purchased a small show repair kit, and and visited homes in his community, fixing shoes for a small price. Then, before completing junior high, Abdul's mother died. Abdul was completely on his own and started a small field of corn, which he sold so that he could go to high school. Abdul was actually the only person in his community to have completed primary school, let alone pass high school and be accepted into a college.

As Abdul continued his narrative, I could only nod slowly as I felt the faint stirrings of tears in the corners of my eyes, which I fought back in order to avoid embarrassing Abdul, who was stoically sharing the facts of his life. He explained, "In Ghana, to save money, you must starve." Illustrating how he had been forced to cut back significantly on his diet in order to save enough money to start another small corn field, which was supporting him while he was at college. He wished to counter the view that massive amounts of capital are required to start up small businesses, he explained that you simply had to save and start very small. And he explained the most important thing was to be independent and passionate about reaching your goals. He then told me that he simply wanted to establish his own commercial livestock farm after graduation. He also wanted to return to his community to encourage young people to finish school. He thought that he could serve as an example that the only thing required to succeed was determination and a refusal to quit.

When he had finished, I was stricken and could barely bring myself to continue on to the remaining questions. As the strength of the sun was dying, I jotted down his thoughts on youth groups and developing entrepreneurial skills in students. Then when he asked for my number in Canada so that we could stay in contact, I could hardly refuse, he had fascinated me and blown me away with his strength of character. I would be honoured to be able to share as we both continued on our own journeys.


  1. Hey Evan, just catching up on your blog (and Nushka's) tonight. Hope you're having a great experience in Ghana, it certainly sounds like you're meeting some fascinating folks.


  2. Hi Evan!
    I hope all is well. Did you find a home in your community after? I think thats what you were talking about in your last post.
    What other kinds of things do you do when you're not working with the students at the college? Do you see/talk to any of them outside of the classroom? How do you find interacting with the girls in the class as opposed to the boys? Or is it just boys? I cant remember.
    We're all thinking about you back home and we love hearing about your experiences :)
    - Maria

  3. Wow... Ev... This gives me cold shivers. I guess being lucky enough to live in Canada, we really don't realize how lucky we've got things. If I were in your position over in Ghana, I would be in tears, and probably trying to take home everyone (which I know is not possible) But it's a great thing you're doing over there. I Admire you!
    Take Care!

  4. Hey Evan!
    Wow that sounds great, I also have had some encouters where I really struggle to keep the tears in. I recently met my Dorothy, Solange 11, possibly def and slightly mute and maybe a bit mentally disabled but no doctor has diagnosed her and the family doesn't have time to try and connect with her. She is completely cut off from communication with others and only follows as her mother works, I saw her smile during my village stay and wanted to hug her but she is so used to be shooed away that she walked away from me as soon as I put out my hand.
    Also, Bintou, her husband died 4 years ago, she is working as a cleaning lady, speaks a little french and spends most of her time taking care of her children or at home with her father and the family. She wants to do so much and struggles to find ways to learn since she cannot read or write.
    There are so many great people I wish to talk about, do you also find everyone has such strength and determination and always says things are going well and that there aren't any problems, that life is simply hard but people smile?
    i wish I had a chance to have one on ones with the people at the villages where I work, but unfortunately I still don't have much "mooré" knowledge and cannot have real conversations with them.
    Hope you are having a great time, retreat happen yet? How was it? Busy and exciting? Intense and sleepless? Typical EWB? :)
    Take care!

  5. Hi Evan
    Your blogs are always a pleasure to read. I hope you have found a place to settle in. In regards to being homesick don't worry you will see all of us soon enough. Do you get to do much at night time in the communities to socialize and see some of their customs/cultures? I guess from your experiences you are learning that we are really fortunate to live in Canada and we as Canadians sometimes take alot of things in life for granted. I can't wait to hear more of your experiences when you get home. We will be expecting a slide show of the agricultural sector in Ghana when you get back.
    Take Care Evan


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