Ghana diary

  • Apr. 17, 2009 7:00 a.m.

Lareina Grosse, branch manager of Northern Savings Credit Union in Masset, recently spent a couple of months in Ghana, doing development work with credit unions there. She kept a diary of her time in Ghana, and shared it with the Observer.January 22My partner and I have received our assignments for Ghana. I’ve had a few days to think about where we are going and I guess my reaction is one of disappointment, we are staying (in) the city of Accra and will be working at credit unions within in the city…One of the credit unions we are assigned to is the Prisoners Service Credit Union, that should be interesting! There is a prison between our hotel and the airport, so I am wondering if that’s the one that is connected to the credit union.January 24I am flying with nuns. Literally, there are nuns on the plane from Vancouver to Toronto. I always feel better when people pray on planes.January 26Northern Savings ROCKS!! In four days you donated $360.00 US for soccer balls!! The exchange is better this year so instead of par, I got $460.00 Ghana Cedis…that’s a lot of soccer balls. I’ve bought 9 so far at $15 gc and have given them to the other coaching teams that are travelling throughout the country. I will buy the rest here and distribute them throughout the city.After exchanging our money we went to the Credit Union Association (CUA) House to receive our assignments and greetings. The CEO seemed more open with us this year about the challenges that the Ghanaian movement is facing…Micro financing is rampant throughout the country…Ghana has two banking laws, one is a Banking Law, and another is the Non-Banking Law. Credit Unions don’t fall into either category…Another area they need to work on is compliance…Our final item of the day was a demonstration on how to use the female condom…The CCA encouraged us to talk about gender disparity should the occasion arise. January 28 …Time to go to our first credit union…90 percent of its members are church members; the rest is made up of relatives of the church members…They only have a membership of about 600 and want new ones but they are afraid of who will walk through in their doors…they are worried that the funds that people deposit will be from proceeds of crime, they are worried about being robbed or just that the members will be undesirable…they want us to look into how to go about merging with other church credit unions in the surrounding area.January 29I was able to buy another 6 soccer balls today; I am going to take them with me this weekend when we go to the fishing village. We are also going to take our medical supplies and drop them off at a woman’s clinic.January 30Many of the children in this area are not in school, they play with what they can find…sticks, tires etc. Others are like little adults…there was a girl of about 7 or 8 packing a baby on her back. My god, we take so much for granted.February 2We made our way to the Ghanaian Broadcasting Co-operation Credit Union. Both Vivian and I were excited; this was the first woman manager that we’ve had the opportunity to work with. She is doing a fantastic job.February 3When we arrived at the credit union this morning we were immediately asked for copies of our passports. Apparently we were being investigated by Ghana’s equivalent of the FBI! We tried to back out of the visit but it was too late, the arrangements for the investigation had already been made.[We took] a short break to go to the neighbouring school to deliver some of the soccer balls. As soon as we stepped onto the school grounds I heard kids yelling, I didn’t think much about it other than they were being quite loud. As we walked into the Headmistress’s office the credit union manager turned to me and asked if the children in Canada were beat? My stomach dropped, that’s what the noise was.February 4Today we presented our report to the board and manager. It is the first time I’ve noticed a board take notes, and it’s definitely the first time they’ve asked such detailed questions. While the last credit union was a role model for others in Ghana to merge, I see this one as a role model for development. They’ll be the first to extend amortizations, introduce more products, etc.February 5Ghana just had an election which resulted in a new president. When there is political unrest and a group wants to overtake the government one of the things they do is take over the broadcasting company. Hence the investigation on Vivian and myself. After that incident I didn’t think it could get any better, until today at the Prison Services credit union. Here I am, in Africa in a prison, working?!? This credit union is quite challenging, they are very militaristic in their way of doing business and don’t seem very open to change. Our conversation with the staff was very lively and sometimes heated. At one point I put my hands up and told everyone to calm down. The funny thing about it was the manager basically ignored us and continued doing his work. I’ve never had a conversation like here, ever. That was the highlight of the day. We’d have to spend weeks if not months here to have an effect on this one.February 7This afternoon, Vivian and I headed back to the Broadcasters Credit Union for the ceremony of the old board leaving. Strategically, this was a really great move on the board’s part, to have the Canadians there as the guests of honour (witnesses) to basically sever the ties with the old board.February 9Today was our debrief. We all gave a condensed report on the credit unions we visited…[the] capacity for the CUA to handle all the new credit unions is proving to be a challenge. I believe they said that there were 140 new ones started in the last year. We stressed that many of them need to merge. February 17ReflectionsI fell in love with the people and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute there, the good and the bad. I stopped lots, took deep breaths and really tried to be in the moment, I don’t want to forget any of it.

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