When You Eat, They Eat

As I have come to learn over these past couple of weeks, fundraising is not an easy task. As part of my mandate I have been asked to create a Go Fund Me account to raise money for the program my organization runs every year around Christmas time. At first I was a little hesitant, I didn’t want my organization to be solely dependent on me and my network of people, but as it was explained to me by my all-knowing mother, this is how fundraising works. And as I came to understand, sponsorship in Ghana is really hard to get. We went to 5 local companies and all but one, rejected our letters. The one particular company allowed us to enter, pass security and drop off our letter at reception, because the organization has a contact within the company.

All in all it, let me tell you it was a very long day but one that taught me something. Before we started this process I thought handing out these letters would be easy and quick. Well I was very wrong. The main answer we got from the companies we asked was that they don’t do sponsorship in Kumasi and they letter must be directed towards Accra, they wouldn’t even let us past the security guard. So many things frustrated me about that day, it was hot, no one wanted to listen to us, it felt like we were wasting our time. I’m still a little annoyed that no one would help us out or take the time to listen to what we had to say but I guess that’s how it works here in Ghana. At least we tried and as time is running out we will pursue most of our fundraising through Go Fund Me, but I am determined to crack this sponsorship nutshell and I vow to try my hardest in the new year.

So I’m now trying to get the message of Solutions for Life to everyone and anyone who will listen. Solutions for Life teaches girls and young women that they are not confined to a limited life due to present circumstances and they can make choices about their future. We strive to help girls who are in the poorest economic situations and allow them to flourish and live to their fullest potential. I have had the privilege to talk to a couple of these girls and they really are unique and all have different stories that are worth sharing.

This coming December will mark the 4th annual ‘When You Eat, They Eat’ program. Here is a little bit about it and how you can help.

As people all over the world start to make plans to visit family, buy presents and think about Christmas dinner, many children are unable to have those small Christmas wishes fulfilled. ‘When You Eat, They Eat’ is an annual event organized by Solutions For Life Initiative Ghana, (the organization that I work with) which sees over 700 orphans and other less privileged children from the Ashanti Region, including street children, enjoying a day filled with lots of love, laughter and food. For the less privileged in this society it can be a constant struggle trying to find enough food to survive day to day, a battle that is even more pronounced as Christmas time comes around. While others are enjoying an abundance of food and presents at this time, there are many who go without. As a result of this, SFLIG organizes a Christmas Day Picnic filled with games, rides and of course food. This day is shared by both the privileged and the less privileged of the Kumasi community and it continues to prove that the greatest gift at Christmas time is not one that is found under a tree, but rather one that is given from the heart. This year SFLIG will also take this gathering as an opportunity to launch our Back to School Program. This program is designed to allow girls to attend school as a new academic school year starts. There are many challenges to the beginning of an academic year. Girls here struggle with access to school materials like books and stationary and some are even unable to pay for their tuition to attend grade school.
The funds raised through this platform will go towards providing a small part of Christmas for these children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to spend Christmas with a meal in a family setting filled with laughter and love. Funds will also go towards school fees and scholastic materials for girls who are unable to pay out of pocket. At SFLIG we believe that education is the key to unlocking the potential of girls in nation building and their education must be of primary importance.

Here is the link to donate or share: http://www.gofundme.com/g1jkz0

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This is a picture of me and some of the girls who are part of our Girls Club in Adiebeba, a region of Kumasi. These girls will benefit from both programs we are fundraising for.

me and girls Adiebeba

 

They are so full of life and are such a joy to talk to. They all go to school and have great aspirations in life, one wants to become a fashion designer, another an actress. They are dreaming as big as they can and we hope to make their dreams a reality, but we need to start somewhere.

Any donation small or large really goes a long way in helping these kids have one day where they can forget about their next meal and they can become part of a family. Please help me by donating or sharing with your friends and family this story and the link.

Thank you in advance to everyone who has helped out and continues to help get this link out for many to see. I appreciate it very much and so does everyone at Solutions For Life.

Andrea

 

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Going to Ghana

A little while ago (it was April) I learned that I will be going to Kumasi, Ghana to finish out my fourth year and complete the requirements of an international placement for my degree. I learned while I was home in Calgary, all of my friends were in Ontario. Note the 2 hour time difference. I can tell you exactly what I was doing that day. I had to take the car in to get the winter tires changed (although it was still snowing), then in the evening I was going to go out for dinner with friends.

I woke up to my phone vibrating, thinking it was my alarm I tossed it aside and rolled over, but my phone continually went off. I got annoyed so I checked it. I had about 7 texts asking about what placement I had received. I read the texts, open my email and immediately froze. I was scared to open that email: what if I didn’t get the placement I wanted, what if I wasn’t going where I wanted. What if, what if, what if… I finally decided to man up and opened the email. I was so relieved to read that I was going to Kumasi, Ghana and was going to work for Solutions for Life Initiative – Ghana (SLFIG). It had been my first choice.

I also distinctly remember that I was all alone in the house. I was actually alone in Calgary for the weekend. My mom was in the  mountains, out of cell phone range, and my dad was biking in Utah. My sister, thank goodness she was in cell phone range, was in Toronto. She was the first one I texted. I felt a little sad that I couldn’t run upstairs and express my joy to my parents, so I opted for a phone call with my sister. She was so excited for me, and as was I. I mean I will be participating in this once in a lifetime opportunity, I should be happy. And trust me I was, I just found it so anticlimactic to celebrate all alone. I’ve gotten over it.

Fast forward more than 3 months and we reach the day I get my mandate. Once again reading the title of the email gave me a little anxiety. I didn’t really want to open it because what if popped into my head again, so I opened the couple other emails I had received first. After a little procrastination, I opened the email, skimmed through it and read:

Supervised by the staff of SFLIG:

Organizational Development and Communications Officer

  • The volunteer will aid in the development of new projects within the organisation. This will include working alongside their counterparts to research and develop new projects that align with the mission and vision statements of the organisation. As part of this, the volunteer will develop training materials that detail the processes involved in developing new projects and the criteria by which future projects should be judged.
  • Secondly, the volunteer will use communication and media techniques to raise the profile of the organisation on a local, national and international level. This will involve reviewing the current communication practices of the organisation and providing training for staff on new strategies to promote the organisation.
  •  Thirdly, the volunteer is to work as a fundraising officer for the organisation. This will be achieved through working with counterparts to review the current fundraising practices and identify areas where this can be improved. Included within this will be conducting training for staff members on the grant writing process – developing their ability to research government, international development agencies, foundation and corporate grants, facilitate, write, review and edit grant applications and gather budget materials.

I have yet to share this mandate with others, other than my parents because I’m not too sure what my skills are in social media and grant writing. The first point sounds amazing and I am excited to tackle that, but I don’t want to let the organization down in the skills I’m not sure I possess. My email to my parents was one word, “ummm…” because I was so stuck on the aspects that I didn’t feel confident in. Twenty minutes later my mom emailed me back and broke it down for me. She is really good at getting both my sister and I to see the positive. She told me what I needed to focus on and how she could help me gain skills in areas I wasn’t too sure of. I will be back in Calgary for a month before I leave so she will be able to teach me a little something.

I am so excited at the opportunity to be working with Solutions for Life Initiative, I think I will be able to learn a lot from them, rather than me trying to teach them something. I know a lot of my fellow classmates have also received mandates very closely related to social media and communications, and it was what the last cohort of INDEV kids had too. Many were given the same responsibilities, and most of them came back with great experiences reinforcing that it’s about the people you meet.

I hope that the month I have at home will ease the stress I am feeling over placement with all the documents we have to fill out, the ever dwindling number in my bank account and this mandate. In the coming days we are to schedule a meeting with our placement coordinator, and hopefully she will be able to ease my mind with every emotion I am feeling right now.

I know I will come to peace with this before I get on a plane to Ghana. But what brings me the most calmness is that I will have a better understanding of my role within the organization once I am on the ground and working in Kumasi. Every time I write that phrase or think that thought a smile comes to my face because I know I am doing the right thing. Whatever my job ends up being in Kumasi, it’s something I know I will never regret doing.

Andrea

 

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Stampede 2014 and Beyond

This year I have spent my summer in Waterloo as I am required to complete a spring term before I leave for 8 months on my international placement. Iv’e been in school since May and I will be done in a couple weeks. While I am sitting at my desk writing blogs, papers and studying most of my friends and spending their days at the Coke Stage, at Nashville North or on carnival rides at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth: The Calgary Stampede. 

I have many mixed emotions about missing the Calgary Stampede. I’ve gone every year since I was 5. Even if I only went for a day – I still went to Stampede. When stampede rolls around the cowboy boots come out and cowboy hats are a fixture you can’t go without. And trust me, I have spent my fair share of time in cowboy boots and hats. I have so many memories of Stampede and most of them revolve around my friends. A great sense of community is established during stampede, everyone is there to have fun and enjoy what the city has to offer. I am genuinely sad that I don’t get to experience that this year.

This being said I am in Waterloo so that I can go on placement. I will be going to Ghana starting in September to work with an organization for 8 months. Not many people can say that. As the spring term draws to a close, more information about our placement is available to us. This is exciting yet nerve racking. I want my time in Ghana to be fun and exciting and new. As I long to be at Stampede with my friends, I look forward to the festivals I will be able to experience in Ghana with the people I meet there. I look forward to the culture I will live for 8 months, I know it is going to be a heck of a lot different than what I am living right now. I am excited to learn and to grow.

The festival I have read about the most that happens in the region I will be living in is called Akwasiade. It is a festival that happens every 6 weeks to honor the ancestor and kings of Ashanti. Pictures I have seen look incredible and I excited to learn and potentially take part in the festivities. Other festivals include Papa FestivalKente FestivalYaa Asantewaa FestivalMmoa Nni Nko FestivalNkyidwo Festival Nkyidwo Festival. Many of these festivals will happen while I am in Ghana and they will be festivals I most likely will never be able to attend again.

I will be able to attend Stampede again for many more years to come, but I think I will be able to learn more from the festivals in Ghana. Learning a new culture can be a daunting task but I am up for the challenge. Attending these festivals with locals will be even more amazing and an experience I will never forget.

As sad as I am about being away from Calgary during Stampede, I know it is for the right reasons and I know the 8 months I spend in Ghana will be a lot better than a day at the Stampede.

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The Many Faces of Poverty

I am from Calgary. I live a comfortable life in my two story home. I live in a safe community.

I am from Calgary. I live downtown in my 12th story apartment. I live in a safe building.

These stories sound pretty similar. And they are, they have been my life for about 15 years. But what was different was the surroundings I found myself in. The picture I saw outside my window was different. A 5 minute car ride was different. My life was the same, but what I saw around me wasn’t.

The life I saw outside my safe homes was scary to me the first time, learning that at age 10 people don’t have jobs, people don’t have food to eat, people don’t have homes to go to at night. I saw these people every other week while I walked with my dad to the YMCA for swimming lessons. In that park, we shared the same space – but that was it. We didn’t have the same story. Learning that at 10 was scary, because it took me to a realization that I i had never had before. I went to a private school, I went on vacation. I did all these things that I thought everyone did because that what I had known since I was 4.

For a very long time downtown Calgary was a scary place for me. I have seen things that I will never forget, both amazing experiences and horrendous ones. I didn’t really understand, how these experiences would later shape how I see the world and how I interact with people.

What I did see was the many faces of poverty. I saw young and old, I saw trash pickers and squeegee boys, I saw every race. In our world today no one is immune to poverty, however there are still racial divides that persist in our society. Referencing an opinion piece in today’s CNN, the truth is shocking.

The first thing that had my mind turning was the fact that the face of poverty is usually stereotyped to be a black man. This stereotype is missing a large part of those living in poverty: whites. (In Calgary I would also include Native Americans and Asians). The world has changed but we still only categorize one race to be the face of poverty. I was interested, and kind of surprised to read that little study has been done on whites in urban poverty settings. The times have changed, unfortunately more people are living under the poverty line, but we cannot afford to exclude whites, Native Americans or Asians from the discussion. If they are not in the discussion they are ignored and cannot be helped.

The second thing that had my mind thinking was that it is not only the men and women who are categorized as urban poor. Their children must also be recognized.

“[…] hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college” 

I am taking two Social Development classes this semester, both centered around children and the idea of childhood. I’ve come to learn that too many times children are left out of the picture. This cannot be the way we proceed. We cannot have an idea of poverty centered around only one race, but most importantly we cannot have an idea of poverty that doesn’t go beyond the single person who is suffering. Policies that are created need to include everyone. If the information that has been collected is skewed, more needs to be collected. And I know data collection is not the answer to poverty, but it is a start. With more information about the causes for all races it will be another way to look at who is affected and why they are affected.

Programs need to be put in place to help those who are the most disadvantaged, including children. Everyone deserves a fair shot at life in this world, no matter their background.

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Global Gala

Global Gala

Hey guys, don’t forget to get your tickets to the INDEVOURS annual Global Gala! There will be a silent and live auction along with entertainment and guest speakers. Click on the poster to purchase your tickets!

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My Tuesday (it was really a Thursday) with Morrie

I’ve had Tuesdays With Morrie sitting on my book shelf since first year. I had made my dad buy it for me because I had heard it was really good, and what father denies their daughter a book? And it was only $10.

Fast forward 3 years later I have finally read the book, and it only took me an afternoon. I’m very happy that I read it, I’m not happy that it took me 3 years to do it. But maybe things work in mysterious ways, my last post talked about a loss in our family. Had I read the book 3 years ago, I may not have felt the same about it, I may not have cried at the sad parts or laughed at the best parts. Tuesdays With Morrie taught me to care about the people I surround myself with, it’s not about the possessions you have, it is about the memories and the relationships.

I think we have all been caught up in our own lives, I know I certainly have. Appointments, deadlines, papers, exams, readings, jobs they all get piled on top of each other we get overwhelmed and days get harder. We are wrapped up in ourselves and what we have been told, that we forget the little things. The little things that are really the important things.

I put down the book and was so happy to have read it, I had tears in my eyes, but it was because the book meant something to me. The tag line of the book is: an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson. I think Morrie gives us more than one lesson

“the most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love and let it in” p.52

“love is how you stay alive, even after you’re gone” p.113

“be compassionate and take responsibility for each other, if we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place” p.163

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” p. 174

I find it fitting that my dad was the one who bought me this book. He is always finding ways and opportunities to teach us lessons about being a person, about being compassionate and about putting everything into it. I used to never really listen to him, I think its because I didn’t understand the true meaning of what he was telling us. As I am older and have lived away from home for three years I understand what being a friend means, I understand what being compassionate means and what being caring means.

Thinking about what my father has taught me and what this book has reinforced makes me believe that I am doing something that is greater than just for myself. I want placement to be new and exciting and eye opening but I don’t want it to be one sided. Anyways I hope it isn’t. From everything I’ve heard placement is about the people you meet and the relationships you build that last longer than 8 months. I am excited to start in a new place and understand new customs and cultures and I hope to bring something to the table as well.

For the last few months I have  in Canada, other than school work, I will be spending with my family and friends. With the people who have taught me the greatest lessons in life and those who have stood by my side no matter what I’ve done.

I hope these few quotes from an amazing book have brightened your day, as they have mine 🙂

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Life

I thought last Wednesday was pretty busy, I had to shower, get lunch, pack and then set off to Toronto for an evening dinner with my sister. I was very excited, I hadn’t seen her in a month and rarely talked to her on the phone. I had not checked my email or Facebook. I was too “busy”.

The drive to Toronto was a little hectic, I had to use the GPS on my phone to figure out what exit we needed to take, and what street we needed to take once downtown. We shopped around, spent some time in a wonderful place called Indigo and then went our separate ways. The girls I went down with went to a concert and I set of to find my sister.

We met at this great Italian place near her office, I had the chicken, she had the salmon. I had a glass of white, she had a glass of red. If you know my sister and I, you know how typical of us that is. We had a great conversation, talked for hours about placement, about jobs, about school. We discussed every facet of life. And I mean every facet.

At a certain point in our conversation we started talking about summer plans, and I informed her that our mom would be coming up to Waterloo to help me pack and ship all my stuff back home. That is when she stopped the conversation and asked me if I knew what happened to mom’s friend. I said no, and kinda wondered why she asked me. So I said why? And at that point life just seemed to stand still. My mom’s best friend had died Wednesday morning of a pulmonary embolism. She was only 50.

I picked up my phone and texted my mom. I know they were such good friends and this was so sudden and unexpected. She got back to me pretty soon wanted to call me but we were in a busy restaurant and it was raining outside so I told her I would call her the day after. I asked my sister how she knew, my mom would usually have told the both of us at the same time. My sister learned through Facebook. I was still in shock, I didn’t really know what to say, I had met my mom’s friend once or twice at work but never knew her personally. Even though I didn’t know her well, I knew the friend she had been to my mom and how she had helped our entire family when we needed it the most. She had made an impact in my mother’s life and therefore mine.

The next couple of minutes revolved around my mom and her friend, how they had gone wine tasting and cherry picking in Kelowna. My mom had brought a crate home, and those really were some of the best cherries I had tasted in my life. We talked about how she gave my mom a job in a tight situation and how they would always speak french to each other in meetings. Those small things we forget about, but really mean the most.

My worries about phone data and my so called “busy” day had disappeared and I really paid attention to my sister. I was in the moment with her, our conversation meant more because she was there – in front of me. We left the restaurant and made our way home where her boyfriend and his friend were hanging out. We teased my sister about her squat challenge and her inability to do 50 in a row. We laughed hard that night, and I cherished it, but my mom’s loss was still on my mind.

I called my mom the day after. It was not until she said “hello” that it really hit me. I had never heard such sadness in her voice before, something that will stay with me forever. We talked for a little about small stuff, dinner, school… I didn’t know how to approach the situation. My grandmother passed away when I was 5, I had never been able to fully comprehend the magnitude of the situation. She broke the ice and told me she was going to Kelowna on Friday and had been asked to speak at the service. Our conversation was short, I told her I loved her and to have a safe journey. My sister and I live across the country from out parents, so I knew she would appreciate the call, hearing her voice reassured me.

Looking back at my “busy” day, a day I though was chaotic, I think: really? That is what I was preoccupied with. The things that should be most important to me, friendships, my sister, my parents I had waived off and I was more worried about my schedule. I took for granted the car ride, I took for granted the conversations I had with those who are important in my life.

Going into placement, I know it is the relationships I build with the people who I meet that are going to mean the most. Not the travels, not the things I buy, the relationships. I know that life can be taken in an instant so I want to take the most out of it that I can, and that starts with taking less for granted and being more appreciative of the people in my life.

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