After all of our team's hard work and preparation we finally made it to Patriensa, Ghana. We arrived on June 6th, 2010. Though our initial team consisted of 9 students, our travel team included only 4 team members: Caleb, Edward, Stephen and Carrie. Along with the students, technical advisers Jim and David participated in the project.
We were met at the airport by Pastor Kofi, our local Patriensa contact. Pastor Kofi is originally from Kumasi, Ghana and has been working in the village of Patriensa at the Presbyterian Church for many years. He is very interested in furthering the development of the community to ensure that young people have the opportunity to remain in the village and start their own families as opposed to traveling to the larger cities and irking out a living selling goods on the street. An important component of his plan is education. With proper education and skills, young children will develop into adults that have the brain power to create initiatives and ideas for business development within their own community. By providing the school with clean drinking water, our cooperation with the village will encourage more children to attend and remain in school throughout the school day.
On our first night in Ghana we heard a talk from Dr. Osei Darkwa. Dr. Darkwa is a university professor who has taught both in the US and Ghana. He currently runs a technical university that he established in Accra. Dr. Darkwa is originally from Patriensa and still has ties to the village. During his lecture, Dr. Darkwa emphasized the role of community participation in development work. Through his past development efforts he has concluded that the incorporation of community support and volunteers is critical to a projects long-term success. When a community has put forth its own funds, support and time a sense of pride and ownership is instilled. Without this, many projects stumble once the initial construction is completed and the international volunteers depart.
Throughout the development of the PUC Ghana project we have tried to be very aware of this potential road block to success. We have strategized to generate a sense of community ownership through an initial fund drive in the community. Church members took up a collection in support of this project and raised approximately $500, no small sum for a subsistence farming community in Western Africa. Volunteers have been arranged by Pastor Kofi and Dr. Darkwa to support the students and the project in anyway they can: housing, security, cars, drivers, translators, cooks, manual labor, etc.