"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, June 16, 2004 Today, we got up early and drove out of Accra to Ho, which is in the Volta Region. It was a 3.5 hour drive through some really beautiful country. When we got there, we attended a long meeting of reps from the different NGOs in the region that are working on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. The regional director for health ministries for the regional govt. was there, so everyone was really excited.
It was an interesting meeting ... NGOs here are really struggling for funding. CENCOSAD is in really bad shape right now because about 80% of its funding comes from one foreign aid source, which has already released the money to the Ghanian government, but the government (Ghana Health Services, to be precise) isn't releasing it to the NGOs because it is still looking for the right mechanism to release. In the meantime, salaries aren't getting paid and funds are really, really tight.
They also told some stories about people living with AIDS and the stigma they suffer from and the ostracization that remind me of the U.S. in the 80s only a lot worse. And of course, the big problem here that we never had in the U.S. is the orphan problem -- 700,000 in Ghana alone ... and Ghana's HIV infection rate is a low (for Africa) 3.6%. And the people who are doing the most to fight it are these NGOs that are being held together by duct tape and good wishes.
Given all that, the most amazing thing is that these people are dauntless. I truly believe the only thing greater than the obstacles in their path is their determination to overcome them.
I was going to go back to Ho this weekend to do the rounds with the NGO folks visiting people living with HIV/AIDS, but since that's pretty much what I'm going to be doing in all my visits to the Western part of the country all next week and since it would require Josephine, James' hard working deputy director, to make an extra trip she wasn't otherwise going to make, I told them not to worry about it ... that I would stay in Accra this weekend. Besides, the Crossroads students (10 college students from around North America) are showing up Friday night and I think they could probably use some help around the villa this weekend. Some of these students are just out of high school and others are freshmen and sophomores in college and for many (most?) it will be their first time in the developing world. I know this would have freaked me out when I was 19! Anyway, I just have a sense I can be of some help staying put ... especially since I'll be on the road all next week.
On the way back from Ho, we stopped at the dam on the Volta River that supplies 90% of Ghana's power (and that formed Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world). We got a tour of the outside of it and then when the tour guide discovered that James used to be his tutor in school, he said that when we came back with Robin, he would give us a special tour of the inner workings of it.
The country up there is so beautiful ... big hills (they'd pass for mountains in Missouri), with lush green everywhere. A lot of small towns spring up alongside the roads. Not as much concrete, more mud brick and thatched roof houses. We passed any number of schools that didn't have buildings and so the classes met under the shade of big trees (but they were all still in their orange and brown school uniforms).
Tomorrow is a LONG day. Bus into Accra and spend the whole day wandering around Ga Mashie seeing and filming different CENCOSAD project sites, and other efforts. James is really excited about this video ... I'm trying to get him to temper his expectations seeing as I've never made a video before. Hope the software can cover a multitude of rookie mistakes.
Gotta run now. It's late and bed is calling for morning will come early (the Pentecostal church outside my window has moved up their choir rehearsal time from 5:30 a.m. to 4:45 a.m.!)
| Mike at 6/16/2004 03:55:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."