The Job We're Doing

From Estero to Africa

Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Kathryn Taubert
Today was an all-time high: watching two young men discover the world through computers.
Francis and Emmanuel, both in their early twenties, are victims of poverty.
Having finished high school but thwarted in continuing education, they are the youngest members of the CBO (community-based organization), wanting to help their village find ways to increase educational opportunities. They are always polite, dressed neatly in long pants and shirts, looking as though they stepped off any USA college campus and found themselves caught between yesterday and tomorrow, with no way of transition.
My work with the CBO has been productive. Within a week, we identified a plan for the Village that will, hopefully, meet their long-term and short-term needs. It quickly became apparent that they’ve seen many projects come with a flourish, then die on the vine for lack of long-range planning to make them self-sustaining. That loss may, however, be Kloe’s gain if our plan comes to fruition. (Two empty buildings built by well-intentioned organizations sit empty, ripe for other opportunities.)
Their initial goal is to raise $1,500 for educational and play materials for their children from 1 to 6 years old. But what happens after that money is spent? How do we build a program that encourages self-sufficiency and renewal? There are resources here that lend themselves to a long-term, two-pronged approach to create opportunities for the village to obtain the materials they need through outside funding sources and through their own efforts.
So our plan is twofold: by the end of my stay here, we will have drafted a long-range plan which provides two income streams for the village: one for their immediate needs from grants and individual donations, and a longer-term one from eventual profit villagers realize by establishing small businesses through “micro-financing“ loans. Both sources of funds will be “seed” money: intended to get them started so that they can become, eventually, totally self-sufficient.
With the demographic information they are collecting, I am writing a “model” funding proposal for both money and supplies, instructing them in business practices and procedures necessary to properly manage donated funds & materials, helping identify initial sources of funding, and training them to take it over when I leave. And believe it or not, we are more than half way there. Opening their very first bank account (thank you Bob K., Joanne C., Judy H.!), was a red letter day. We have checks and balances to insure all donations are properly accounted for. And you think U.S. banks are cautious? It took almost all day to secure the account at Stanbic Bank in Ho!
Today, Emmanuel and Francis used computers for the first time ever. I was almost breathless at the speed with which these two young men learned how to boot up, navigate with the mouse, open a Word document, type a few lines, save it to file, close and relocate it. But the real fun came with Google.
When they discovered the world through their finger tips just by “googling” anything they wished, the two hours of this first lesson was not nearly enough. Francis told me as we left the office: “The time was too short! We want to spend five hours here!!” (BRIDGE has offered free use of computers and supplies). I can’t believe they never touched a computer before. But I feel fairly certain their lives have been changed dramatically as a result of having done so now. Next week, we learn how to send and receive e-mails, and further refine search parameters .
Samson, Francis and Emmanuel represent Ghana’s future. So do Joy and Aretha and Judith and Mawunya and Colby and David and all the rest. They are smart and motivated. I can’t help but believe that learning to speak at least three languages by the time they are twenty has a lot to do with their intelligence. Were they in the USA, they’d be working at McDonald’s to finance school, getting college loans, pursuing their dreams. But those opportunities don’t yet exist here.
These young people represent the future of an emerging nation that is soon to be drilling and exporting huge reserves of oil off its shores, presently the fourth largest importer of U.S. goods, the most stable democracy in Africa. They just happen to be dirt poor at a time when their country is emerging. They are on the cusp.
And I thought two hours of computer training would overload them! Their eagerness to continue was worth my trip. The privilege of opening the door is enough, because I have no doubt that these young men can walk proudly through it by themselves, if only they have a chance. And one day, with persistence, a little more help, and perhaps some luck, I may be fortunate enough to greet them again as, Dr. Samson Hayward, Nurse Francis Afedo and Mr. Obikyere Emmanuel, CEO.

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