Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 13

Hi all. I'm going to paste below my notes of Friday and Sat.because I could not send them out earlier.Today internet seems to be working. Jonas is back and apologized to me for all my troubles, and said a guy is coming tomorrow. We'll see.Rich, I'm sending this to you, too, to forward if the other one doesn't work. Anastasia sent me a text message for mother's day---nice of her. I was sitting next to her working at our data, and my phone beeped and here was a nice message from her. She's a sweetheart.

Today I attended the Methodist church with Bentil and Anastasia. The music was terrific, the sermon preached by a lay woman in the absence of Pastor B. All in all a wonderful day. I was asked to "bring greetings", but I used most of my time to discuss the goals/etc. of WCHH, etc. Decided to greet briefly, and use my remarks time to do a little PR work. After church, who should zoom up his motorcycle but John Abugri. Now that the streets are tarred, I see more bikes and motor cycles---not loud ones, but small quiet ones.

Annie, Esi and Anastasia came up to ABH with me, and we worked all afternoon on getting the details recorded on each WHH Scholar---family situation, why they need a home, current situation, etc. They just left, and I'm going to relax a little. Many extremely sad stories---they have done a good job of selecting truly needy kids, I think.

Here's Friday and yesterday's:
I just spent half an hour getting into the Netmail service, composing, only to have it all disappear somewhere when I tried to send. I

I really enjoyed Chamsou and Lo. They are really good, gracious, gentle, caring people. She joined in our meetings, although she knows little English. Really great folks. Of course, I invited them to connect with us when/if they/he is in Seattle area.

Well, that's off my chest. Now on to the good news. Yesterday was a good day---we started off with Chamsou (Boeing rep) and I and Lo, his wife, going to the building site at about 8:30. We spent about half an hour looking at everything, taking photos, etc. He was positively impressed, had a lot of questions. The workers are making really good progress---working hard and skillfully. Mostly it's the masons and plasterer now, but Michael says on Monday they'll start the roof. He is anxious because of the long delay and the rains are coming. Michael has the solar all worked out---says using the roof is just major unnecessary expense. If we install, we will put on a stand, like the Hot Water systems here at ABH. Plenty of proper exposure, he says.

Then back to ABH for the WHH Board meeting. Good meeting. Discussed name change but took no action yet, decided to go for water pipe AND bore hole, agreed that a Polytank is an absolute necessity, discussed a less expensive fence, etc. Then we joined Chamsou and went over to the Dist Chief Exec office to meet with Mr. E., all but one of the elected assembly members, some other officials. Patrick is an assembly man so he was there, too, kind of for both them and us. James went over the whole plan, blueprints, status, etc. They were very receptive, very positive. Felicia (from our gender dialog) is an assembly woman and also works at Manye Academy, and was a very positive advocate. She said the Assembly members should finish off the playfield behind Manye, and asked for support for that. They were all very enthusiastic about the whole project, I thought. Very very positive. It was really a great feeling. They, too, gently suggested taking the "Christian" out of the name, because they want it to belong to the whole community. James is following the proper route and will bring it to a vote at next Board mtg.

Finally, the DCE looked at everyone, and said "This is our baby. We need to support it. We will provide the water pipe and fix the road"! Well, people clapped! He didn't mention "when", but this is good news, nevertheless. Also, Annie told me today he'd promised both a pipe and borehole, so, if that happens, we'll be in good shape. When we left, our WHH people were ecstatic. The Dist Chief Exec said he'd come to see me at the hotel. Later that evening, one of the staff came to get me and two of the DCE’s assistants were here saying he regretted he could not meet me that evening (which I hadn't quite caught on was the plan, but I would have been happy to host him). I thanked him for the barracuda, after the meeting, and he laughed! James said he thought he'd had to go to the Regional Minister to get it approved. Not sure if that is true. He also said that at least one of the Assembly members should serve on the WHH board. I'm hoping maybe Felicia will, but James will know which one to choose. I think Father Paul will also come on board.

Ravyn, it was at the Board meeting described above, which was in full swing when you called, and we'd all just promised not to answer our cell phones. I really was so sorry, but I really couldn't talk then. Maybe it was just as well, since I have included a lot more info since I talked to you.

Then, on to the ABH where we WHH people met for another 3 hour w/Chamsou. Michael Biney, the contractor, also joined us. Chamsou had a lot of questions which the WHH people answered very forthrightly. In the end, he said he thought it was a very good project, he was very impressed by the quality of the facility, and like them, he has concerns about its distance from town but he feels they addressed it, and he really liked the relationship in distance from and also the nature of Manye Acad. He said he'd like to help us more, and gave us (me esp.) info about applying for a grant for 2007! He said he preferred to work with our US organization because we'd gone through the Boeing process for being a trustworthy, reliable organization, properly registered, etc.(rather then WHH directly---so they very formally requested me to represent them and follow up, etc) So, he and I talked more later. Since the grant money was available only two days before I'd left for Ghana (having cleared three banks), it's a little hard to say exactly how we used what we have, but we of GCJ need to report on the Boeing website by June 6 as to progress, and then write a new grant request. He stressed having a plan, knowing your outcomes, etc. He was positively impressed by the Board, I think, as to the quality and focus. Well, they were very happy about the whole business. He mentioned working together on infrastructure over 3-4 years!

After all that, I tried to send out email or blog or something, but no...the African Internet God was not with me/has utterly abandoned me, I guess.

So, then comes this mammoth thunderstorm---lightening, thunder, pounding rain, high waves, etc. When it subsided, I ventured to the restaurant and joined Chamsou and Lo for a light supper and of course, the storm resumed, leaving us in the dark. Thanks for headlamp, Rich---worked great---we dined by headlamp light, and the staff all wanted to know how it worked, how much it cost, etc. It was amazing how that little light lit up the whole area, really. This went on most of the night, back and forth. And today was actually "cool"--as in Washington State type temperatures, but much more humid. But a relief. And just to make sure, Florence left two sheets for me tonight in case I get cold--not much chance of that!

Today another surprise. I happened to notice the calendar in the office had "April" up and a photo of the Skagit Valley! I said to the receptionist that it was a photo of my own home valley. She was amazed, and then said that on May 7 another guest, a guy, had mentioned that it was HIS home valley and he was amazed that they had it! Of course, she is new and didn't know us from before. Of course, since this was Ghana, they told me name, description, parts of his conversations, etc. He is Michael O. from Anacortes. I have heard of Michael---he does development work---but have not met him. Unfortunately, we did not connect, even though I'm in room 13 and he was in room 14! I noticed two young-ish, nice looking guys around, but... I'll call him when I get back. The staff is appropriately somewhat flabbergasted by this event, with two of us from the same spot. They see very few Americans, after all, as compared to Europeans and Africans, and from the same place?!

Then, Frank showed up. Yesterday he had worked on the office computer and got all the activations done from the Trial Software to the real stuff, a few more updates, and loaded Encarta. The half hour internet part of the task took five hours and cost me 150,000 cedis. He also sent you all an email, I believe. This is "reality" at this time; I’m not sure why. Last week everything was working quite well with the Ethernet. They blame it on the weather, but…. Today he came a bit early and helped me get ready for the GCJ Ghana alum group. We had a little time and he pumped me with “computer” questions---Leif had told him, he said, to learn all he could from me. Well, I tried to share whatever knowledge I might have. Tonight I just refused to pay for half the time Sammy seemed a little crestfallen, but I told him if you go to a restaurant and don't get anything to eat, it's not fair to make the person pay. He agreed.

Leif, you are doing a wonderful job coaching Frank. He is so motivated, so grateful, and, compared to when I was with him last fall, so MUCH more knowledgeable---it's just so great to see. He will keep the administrator password and told me he has no money to donate to WHH, but he will donate his abilities and time to help Anastasia as she needs it. That is just so great.

Frank and Patrick were on time; Gifty came about 1.5 hours late. Annie and Esi were 2.5 hours late. But, nevertheless, Dina, Gifty, JC, Patrick, Bentil, Annie, Esi, Frank and I were there. James and Justine were doing a motivational talk at a SS. JJ is 7th day Aventist and Sat is not good for him. Mustapha is the new Deputy Head master at a private SS in the middle of the country and couldn't come. Steve was at his Mother's funeral. Highlight was the 45 minute discussion going through items in the Town Hall notes. Finally, I suggested very gingerly, that perhaps they might consider....holding a public Town hall Followup meeting. They were a bit skeptical, but I could tell they wanted to do it. I suggested that if they would find it helpful, perhaps Barbara could assist them since she's been trained in Appreciative Inquiry, and would be here in Sept. That seemed to galvanize them---they were determined to go ahead on their own, without our help. They didn’t feel they need training. They have also experienced AI with a USAID program and know how to do it. They decided right then and there to do it themselves (nothing to do with you, BJG just more or less got them focused on what they wanted to do---this is rheir baby). And they decided to do it BEFORE we come, on the third Tues. in July. Then the ideas just came flowing out---finally Gifty insisted on a talking object to keep the discussion reasonable! They really got their collective juices going. They more or less planned the whole thing right then and there, right down to who would do what and when, including where to find cardboard for writing on. I said I still have some magic markers in my suitcase, and will leave all of them. Frank took a copy of the Town Hall Notes on his thumb drive, and Bentil offered the paper to print copies for each GCJ person, plus Constance and a couple of other women they will ask to help. They agreed to invite all who had been there before and aim for 100 people, and hold it in the new WHH building if it's ready. I was spellbound. I suggested that we North Americans might help a little bit with expenses if they think it would be helpful. They said they'd let me know! This may or may not end up being the most perfect AI session, but it will be a perfect Town Hall Meeting!!

Then another big surprise. At the beginning of the meeting, JC rather formally introduced me and welcomed me. Then, according to the agenda, I had to make a speech. So, I briefly summarized some happenings, including the new journeys being planned for Burundi and Nigeria in 2008. Then, I was knocked off my feet by JC saying that he would like to be a delegate to Burundi, to join the non-Burundians part of the delegation there!! They all concurred that this would be exactly what they want to happen. They are serious. SUSAN, CAN WE POSSIBLY MAKE THIS HAPPEN? I think it would be great. I realize it would be a bit of a stretch with training, etc., but he's such an insightful, articulate, intelligent, and warm guy, that I think it would work. And he is trained already, one might say. I suggested that since Burundi is poorer than Ghana, perhaps they would have to assume some of the expenses, just as we had to for Ghana, which is poorer than the US. That didn't seem to phase them too much”in fact, they agreed! I guess we'll need to think about it, but really, this is a terrific development, in my opinion. (The airfare will be a problem for them, I think.) I told them that the latest I'd heard was the possibility of working together on a well/borehole as the legacy project, which they thought was a great idea---they are well aware of the Hutu/Tutsi situation, and they just want to be involved---Africans working together one said (can't remember who) put it. He asked me to find out how he could apply.

Patrick spoke eloquently about how, as assembly man, he goes around his district each morning and urges all the children to go to school. He is really a motivated man. Just a terrific guy.
Not only Patrick's father, but also Stephen's mother, and Bentil's mother (Aunt actually, but assumes mother position when the biological mother dies) have died in the last week. Bentil's brother also died this week, and a couple of Gifty's cousins recently.

Well, you'll get the minutes from Frank at some point, so I won't go into everything. I used the some of the gift money from you guys to buy a nice lunch (including Dina and Gifty's sons), and I would say we had a really good meeting and a good time. So thanks for the help, esp. Diana, and we enjoyed the chicken and fried rice a lot. I told Gifty I would wire her money as soon as I get back and know for certain what has cleared the bank on our end. She was fine with that.
Jerome, Dina and Frank have seen to the young man's college. They have helped him do all the registration paperwork, and in June he will have to do more forms. Dina has the money and she and Frank assured me they will pay for him when he starts in September, which is the start of the new year. He had to wait until then to start.

That's about it. I'm zonked, but kind of hyped--hence this long conversation. Had to talk to someone!!. I'll try to get this out sometime tomorrow. I will meet Bentil at the Meth. Church tomorrow. Time to sing a little!!