Sept 8: International Literacy Day: My Literacy Reflections

Today is International Literacy Day, and in honor of this, it’s time to reflect on literacy…

…schools are full of children and yet every day there are children who do not go to school….

…overcoming adult illiteracy means understanding the power relationships…we say “the power is with the pen”…and yet do we reflect on how that same lack of power affects the illiterate?

…adults learners do not need to start their literacy journey by learning their a,b,c’s but rather they can start with things they understand, like their name…

…if someone cannot read what you write, how will they know you are about to take their home or business…in Accra, landlords will spray paint notices on street-side vendor stalls requesting payment or threatening eviction and yet, can the owners read the notices? Maybe, maybe not….literacy is strongly linked to a person’s rights and their ability to understand those rights.

…even text messaging requires basic reading and writing skills…

…until we have equality of all people, we do not have equality between women and men…

…until we can figure out how to fund effective literacy programs for all we cannot change the world…

…I have friends who cannot read this blog…

…literacy matters…

…what can we all do about it…

…I have an idea

I may need your help…

Talk soon,

A musing Maureen

A whirlwind of good byes

Friday was my final day in the office, and we had a lot to do.  Regardless of what my mandate was originally expected to be, it changed as I landed on the ground and had a chance to assess reality.  And so, my mandate grew significantly to include the research, set up, modification and installation of a free (open source) financial system.  This also meant that I had to learn the selected system, test it with prior transactions, work out some bugs and train my colleague adequately before my departure so that he could be comfortable with it before I left.  A lot of work in two weeks!  That meant Friday would be full of good byes and the final bits of training.

Fortunately for me, my colleague is a bright young man and he caught on quickly.  I was especially happy with the progress we made on Friday and I left the office with full confidence that he would be fine after I was back in Canada, and we could keep in touch via the internet, so all is good.

Friday was also the wrap up day with the WUSC office and the National Coordinator as we celebrated and discussed the work that we had accomplished.  Since I love to write, and share my ideas, my report was long and I hope it was also useful.  I shared some ideas for future projects that I am hopeful might one day be posted for a new volunteer.

Friday was also the day for goodbyes.  I wore the beautiful traditional dress that Alfred had commissioned Regina (his seamstress sister) to make for me…without any measurements…and it fit perfectly. 

Millicent, Patience, Maureen, Alfred, Janet, Carol

The dress is linen with appliques of real Kente cloth – the cloth of kings and queens.  I love the dress and am thankful for my friends at Pamoja Ghan who made my stay in Ghana so wonderful!  Pamoja told me that they were having another dress made for me as well that was almost complete and my friend Carol would deliver it later.  It is a beautiful dress and I will post a picture of it later.

When I left the office, I took with me some work they need help with that I would finish once I was back in Canada…which reminds me, I have some work to do!  I left behind some souveniers from Canada including some strong and free Canada t-shirts and some NSCC little knap sacks – the cinch bag type.  They loved them! 🙂

I have always loved Fridays and in Ghana they are especially cool as folks wear traditional cloth to the office.  It is a day that you see wonderful clothes with vibrant colors.  Often times, even the little ones will be wearing traditional cloth and it is adorable to see them waddling along in the fine attire.

Back at the hotel, with one volunteer friend ill it was a slow night and a good chance to start to say good bye to some of the friends I had made in the neighborhood.  Saying goodbye is important since relationships matter.  I also had to pick up a dress I had made from the Pamoja cloth that I had bought and it turned out beautifully (check back later for a photo!).  A friend dropped by the shirts I had made for my boys out of Ghanaian cloth.  My friend Carol dropped by with the dress given to me as a thank you by Pamoja and it fit perfectly!  They have been so kind to me that it is hard to express in words how I feel.

Saturday was a bit crazy – final packing, saying good bye to more friends in the neighborhood, especially a couple of children who had become my friends…I hope they understand why I am leaving.  People really wanted to chat with us before we left and so each goodbye took some time and we all agreed to keep in touch, somehow – just not by e-mail since no one has e-mail.  We took lots of pictures!

Saying good bye to Joyce and Mispah, two little ones came by…

“yEfrE wo sEn?”  (What is your name?)

The little girl whispered, “Adwoa” (pronounced A-d&ju-a) (born on Monday)

“Adwoa!  yEfrE me Adwoa!”  (Adwoa!  my name is Adwoa!)

And that’s when I saw her dimples!

Her friend, also shares a name with me; he is Maurice and a bit shy.  How fitting that on my final day I would meet two little ones with the same name as me.  They are siblings, both three years old.

My friend took a group photo for us – Joyce borrowed the sunglasses from the mannequin for a cool picture!

Maureen, Joyce, Mispah, Adwoa, Maurice

Next stop was visiting Mabel and Charity, across the street.  Maurice who had been so shy, watched us from across the street and when I looked over his way, he waved.  We traded waves for some time until he was distracted by something more fun.  Since Joyce’s shop was slow, she popped by to Mabel’s and spent more time with us there.

Maureen, Mabel, Stephanie, Charity

With a break in the schedule, and packing under control, I opted to take a taxi to Medina market because I had a few cedis left and space in my suitcase.  My mission was simple, say goodbye to Rose whom I had visited and purchased some cloth from and pick out a bit more cloth since I had room in my suitcase.  The cloth is beautiful!  I sew a lot when I am at home and buy cotton every year and so it made sense to take the time to pick out some more.  The prices are unbelievable for the quality and it is worth spending the money in Ghana and help support another family.  It may be worth making a special trip sometime just to buy more of the beautiful cottons! 🙂

Medina market was crazy full of people, which is apparently common for a Saturday.  The taxi got stuck on the road approaching the market and so I told him to just allow me to alight where I was and I would walk.  I actually got lost looking for Rose…there were so many people that I lost my bearings.  I did manage to find some beads, and the seller was happy to have me take her picture, and she charged me fair prices which was nice treat for my last day in the market,

Bead seller in Medina Market

I tripped upon another cloth shop and bought a nice piece of cotton with a pattern of drums and women balancing stuff on their head.  It is really nice and I wish the woman had had a larger piece.  I decided to ask her for directions to Zongo junction and she was happy to oblige so I made my way back out to the road, and then started over to find Rose.  It was a good idea that worked!

When I arrived at Rose’s shop, the first thing they said as soon as they saw me was that I had forgotten a small parcel there last weekend.  It was a shawl I had bought from them and I had thought for sure it was lost for ever – thinking I had dropped it somewhere on my journey.  They had noticed after I left and kept it for me, expecting my return.  I was shocked that they had kept it for over a week and wondered how many Canadian shops would have done the same.  I was so thankful for them since I had planned for the shawl as a gift for someone.  I celebrated by buying some more Ghanaian fabric! 😉

Maureen & Rose at her shop

It was time to head quickly back to the hotel, and I had just arrived back when Patience from WUSC came by the hotel to have lunch with us and say good bye.  It was nice to see her and she was wearing a beautiful green linen traditional dress with cream embroidery…truly stunning and something that would be hard to find in Canada.

Finally, a good-bye to some special children in the neighborhood who I will tell you about in another blog,

Gifty, Maame Queen Elizabeth, and Maureen

The good byes at the Suma Court Hotel were our final good byes.  They are all so kind and took good care of us,

Maureen and JuliannaMaureen, Eric, Nicholas

 

 

The cab arrived shortly after 6 to take us to the airport, and as the men threw our bags in the back of the wagon, the tire went flat…did I buy too much fabric! LOL!…so the bags were taken out as everyone, and I mean everyone, worked on changing the tire quickly.  With new rubber, our bags were restacked, and we gave our last hugs in Ghana.  It was a bit emotional for me since they had become my family.  As we pulled out of the driveway, I looked out the rear window and commented to my new friend and co-volunteer, “how many hotels in Canada would do that?”.  They all stood in a line in the drive and waved as we left, everyone at the hotel, wow!

We turned right out of the hotel and I was greeted with even more enthusiastic waving from my two youngest friends, Gifty and her sister Maame and their family.  I had told them for the past few days that I was going home to see my family and I think they were truly happy for me.  I waved frantically back until I could not see them anymore.