Friday, January 31, 2014

One last item on my 'To Do' List....

It was our last day in Sunyani and Joan and I had a few things we wanted to do before we left.....okay let's make that I had one BIG thing I wanted to do before we left and my partner was kind enough to indulge me on one last request.

I decided I wanted to open an account at the Sunyani Municipal Teachers Cooperative Credit Union.  Call it research....or giving back to this community....or heck just plain believing in this credit union and all they have done.  For my coworkers back home the entire process took approximately 10 minutes and they even take your photo as they have it available online.....but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't confuse me with another member....LOL!

Akua with her passbook from Sunyani Municipal Teachers CCU

While I was there the Chair of the Board just happened to come in to do his banking and he was thrilled when he saw I was opening an account at his credit union.  I had met the Chair previously 3 years ago and it was very nice to see him again.  I told him how proud I was of all they had accomplished in such a a short period of time, and that I had always promised to come back and see their completed water hole one day and now I had fulfilled my promise. He was very pleased.

We then travelled to Accra, the capital city in Accra to meet up with all the other teams that have been working in Ghana. It was an awesome reunion seeing everyone again and hearing all their stories from the last week and a half and seeing how the partners have bonded during their time here, this truly is a remarkable program.  I've seen first hand some real changes and improvements since I was last here 3 years ago and that my friends is a wonderful feeling. I have no doubt the coaches from 2014 have made a contribution by providing yet another hand up not a hand out.

Akua Heidi in I could really use a long hot shower!!! Hahahah........

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Learning and growing.....

Today was a very good day......even though I shed a few tears and am again now as I write was a very good day......

We had a great wrap us visit with our credit union.  We offered many suggestions to our new friends at the Berekum Area Teachers' Cooperative Credit Union and even gave them some very forward thinking ideas......I know they will seriously consider them and implement the ones that they can.

As I was giving the summary to the Board and was thanking them for being so gracious to us.....I teared is just so overwhelming at times how appreciated you feel by these amazing people and how good it feels inside to truly be helping others when you know the ideas will benefit so many. Thankfully my partner Ya Joan jumped in to "save me" when I started to get choked up as it really was an overwhelming moment for me....thanks Joan :)

Joan & Lynne - Heidi & Jonah
We also gave back on a personal level today. We asked our driver Moses if we could take his children swimming in our pool at the hotel.  They had visited us last week when we stayed here and seemed very curious about the pool as they have never been swimming before. So tonight when we arrived in town we picked them up on the way and took them in the pool with us.  WOW what an experience!! They loved it and it was so much fun seeing their reaction to being in that much water and learning how to keep their mouth closed so they didn't swallow the water LOL!  We take so much for granted back much....imagine your child never swimming before, not even in a bathtub full of water.  I wonder how that must have felt for them was a priceless memory that I'm sure none of us will ever forget. :)

Heidi, Moses & Joan
Moses stopped by later to give us his sincere gratitude for giving that moment to his children. was truly an honour to do that for you and Jonah and Lynne after you have done so much for us these last 2 weeks. Keeping us safe and listening to all our stories in the car (you poor thing!). I will miss you and all the new friends we have made here.

Sister Akua Heidi in Sunyani, Ghana.....feeling very fulfilled.....

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Live like you mean it!

Today was one of those days.....a hectic one full of all sorts of surprises and hidden gems (lots more stories for when I return).  We started out by visiting our last credit union we will be working with here and it hit me.....where on earth has the time gone?!  My Dad has this excellent analogy he has shared with me in the past....(feel free to steal this one as he is a VERY smart you Dad!)

"Life is like a toilet roll (how fitting given our lack of washroom facilities over here...LOL!) when you put on a fresh roll it seems like it is going to last forever,  but the closer you get to the end the quicker it goes."

Ya Joan & Akua Heidi
That is exactly how I feel about this trip. When we first arrived it felt like we had so much time ahead of us to take everything in but now that we are wrapping up tomorrow with our last credit union visit I'm really wondering where did the time go?!

While I know Joan and I have definitely left our mark over here I still can't help but think of how much more we could have done if we just had a bit more time.....

One thing I do know for sure.....don't wait for the things that you've always dreamt about......have an adventure and make new friends wherever you go...and LIVE your LIFE like you mean it!!

I've had a tremendous trip with an excellent partner and I can hardly wait for tomorrow ......BRING IT!!!

Akua Heidi in Ghana......feeling heartfelt :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Under the mango tree....

Today we finished up at Mim Ahafo Community Cooperative Credit Union or MACCCU for short. ;)

I just have to describe the scene for you....

Board Meeting with MACCCU
Close your eyes and picture 15 Board and Committee members, sitting on Rubbermaid chairs under the shade of a huge mango tree.....all waiting for 'Ya Joan'  and I to give our final report to was surreal, it really was.....and I have a wicked sunburn to prove it!  LOL

They have some real issues here, loan delinquency being the biggest exactly do you say no to someone when they a need a loan to be able to live for the next month....let's just pause and think about that for a minute  ......  ........  ........

Hmmmm....kind of puts things into perspective doesn't it?! DOESN'T IT! And how truly lucky we really are....

We had some big ideas in our report that we borrowed from home for them to try and combat their issues.  Ideas such as:

- A longer term loan so the payments can be smaller and more affordable (all they offer here are 12 month loans)
-  Looking at the savings history and basing loan payments on what amount they are able to save each month and taking their income and expenses into account vs. the current method of loaning double what they currently have in their savings account
- We also suggested they offer members the option of the credit union processing their loan payment for them rather then the member having to come in to make the payment personally to their loan.....a hard feat for many members when most arrive on foot. 

We finished off our meeting with some presentations and then opened it up for any questions they may have...and they had plenty. It was a really wonderful day, one that will stick with me probably for the rest of my days...knowing in our small way we are making a difference over here with this incredible program through The Canadian Cooperative Association.  Medasi! 

Oh and 'Ya Joan' and I received these incredible matching dresses that they had made specially for us. I'm not sure how they managed to have them made so accurately without our measurements....LOL....and the PF side of me really doesn't want to know...but I absolutely love mine and already wore it to dinner and can't wait to wear it on my first day back at work.  

Akua Heidi in Ghana.....feeling humbled.....

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Oh wow....WOWEEEE what a day!! We had the weekend off for some leisure time so we made the 9 hour trek up to Mole National Park for a safari. For a SAFARI people!!! In Africa!!! I mean come on....who doesn't want to do that in their lifetime??!!

I was so was excited at the opportunity to get to go and my partner Ya Joan is always up for anything so we went for it....even though it was a long drive it was so worth it!!

The moment we pulled up you could see them off in the distance, down at the watering only am I in Africa again but I am actually seeing elephants in the wild...AWESOME!!

Right across the road from the elephants!
So after a few hours there Joan and I decided to go get our bathing suits on so we could go for a dip in the pool and low and behold 4 elephants were just down the road from our room!! Wow....and I mean WOW another Bucket List item for me to cross off!!

First of all they are black not grey and they are very loud as they go stomping through the bush and eating all the leaves and branches. We were also told they have bad eyesight but excellent smell. Apparently if an elephant is ever coming at you, you are to hide behind a tree as they will typically not be able to see you as long as you go directly behind the tree and if there are several of you together then stand single file, one behind each other. Who knew?! Thankfully I didn't have to put this to the test today.

Having a FABULOUS time over here. Can't believe it is going by so fast (boo, hoo).

Ya Joan and I are already back at it tonight working on our board report for Mim Community Credit Union tomorrow. I can't wait for that meeting and to present all of our ideas...we have some real gems in there for them...Bring it!! :)

Akua Heidi in Sunyani, Ghana....feeling so damn lucky!!!! <BIG HUGE SMILE!>

Friday, January 24, 2014

Speaking the same language

The time is just whizzing by and my partner, "Ya Joan" (LOL YES there is a story there!) and I are having a fabulous time just taking it all in and enjoying every experience that comes our way.

So far we have:

My future husband?!
- met the Chief of the town we were in

- wandered in the community marketplace
- got bombarded by some kids at a road side stand
- was asked for my hand in marriage by a 60 something year old with 4 teeth (that one I had to really think about!)

- went 4X4'ing on a "shortcut" (only hit my head 10x on the roof  of the truck.....okay maybe I'm was more like 5)

I had my first shower tonight since I've been here....OMG....that felt soooo good. We take so much for granted back much!!  I even turned off the water while I was shampooing as it felt so precious, amazing how quickly you can adapt and truly be thankful for the little things that really mean so much.

Conversing in Twi with the local shop keepers
I've made it a goal to learn a new Twi (local dialect) word every day....I'm at 12 now LOL!!  It's really coming back to me. We were standing in the street outside our credit union this afternoon and an older lady was walking by and smiled at me so I said "maahaaa" (phonetic spelling)  which means good afternoon, she stopped dead in her tracks and asked me in twi how are you and I said "mo ho yay" which means I am good!  Then I told her "ma deen day" (my name is) Akua Heidi and she laughed and broke into a whole conversation with me in Twi which of course I knew none of those words...LOL...I just laughed and told her that's all I know.  It was awesome though....I love it <BIG HUGE SMILE!>

We're in Mim now working with the credit union here.  There is a great vibe in this credit union.   They are very warm and inviting and we even had dinner with their Founder - wow - they are so generous to us here.
Mim Credit Union

I really hope we can find some real gems, or our one 'ting' (as my former Irish coach and friend Damien would say) to leave behind to help them.....I'm quite certain we will :)

Akua Heidi in Ghana.....feeling so grateful....

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WOW!!! What a day.....

Well....where do I even begin?! Today I got to cross another thing off my Bucket List!!

 I was able to visit with the staff of the Sunyani Municipal Teacher's Co-operative Credit Union and see my old friends - James, Sylvia and Samuel.  James has just been promoted to Manager and I couldn't be happier.  He is such a hard worker and it's great to see him rewarded for that.  Even though they weren't expecting me James took time out of his day to show me all their progress since I was last here in 2011.

Well let's see, they've built a hostel, to house 10 students a year who are going to school in their community AND purchased land and cement blocks for their new branch location AND built a water hole which is now servicing not only their members but also their community at large!

Wow....WOW, that was an amazing moment for me...seeing the water hole project in person....I was only sorry my previous partner Damien wasn't here to share that moment with me. :(

And on top of all of that they had a 152.83% increase in general performance over last year.  Yup, that's right 152.83%!!! I think it is time I moved to Sunyani and took a job here at this credit union as they have a very bright future ahead of them!

Honestly, it was a very overwhelming day for me and I shed a few tears of pride today in all that this credit union has accomplished in such a short period of time and how committed they are to their community...well done!!

Heidi in Ghana....feeling blessed..... :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Training to BA we go!

We finished up our training today.  It was excellent and a very enjoyable day.  It's great to see all the improvements in the program since I was last here.  A highlight from awesome ice breaker that Ernest from CUA led for us!  He combined Ghana, Ireland and Canada into a new word = GHANIRECAN

We all had to get up out of our seats, put our hands on our hips and spell out our new word with our was so funny!! We all laughed and laughed and it was such a good ice breaker! YES we will be trying this out in 'The Hood' when I get back!  Hands down best ice breaker ever, feel free to steal this idea.

We're off to BA tomorrow, a full day of travel and a first for me as we now fly on a domestic flight thanks to Scott and Brian who set that standard for all of us in 2012.

I have a new partner, Joan, from Fort St James as we both have a personal connection to the BA Region. Joan has hosted a lady in Canada in the Women's Mentorship Program and I want to return to BA so I can see the completed water hole that Damien and I (my coaching partner from 2011) worked on. We also learned today that we will have the same driver I had in 2011 - Moses - so this trip is really shaping up to be a trip down memory lane for me <BIG HUGE SMILE!>

Yup, another awesome day in Africa :) I can't wait for tomorrow!!

Heidi in Ghana......

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We made it!

We all arrived safely with our luggage intact so things are off to a very good start over here.  Excited for our first day in Ghana and to see what has changed since I was last here 3 years ago.

Court yard of Paloma Hotel - Accra, Ghana
It's around 28 degrees already and I'm sitting here in a nice cool breeze in the court yard at the Paloma Hotel listening to some African music in the background...after a great breakfast of eggs, dry toast and watermelon...ahhhhh....does it get any better than this?!

We're on the move today to the central credit union's training centre where we will be stationed for the next two days while we complete our in country training....bring on the Adventure!! :)