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Traveling with Students of the World (SOW): Seeing the Impact of Microfinance on Opportunity Clients in Ghana

By Ian Haisley

The Students of the World (SOW) Boston team is in Ghana all this month visiting Opportunity Ghana‘s microfinance operations and documenting their experiences in a diverse array of photos, posts and more on their blog. You can see all their updates and content on their site, and stay tuned to the Opportunity Blog and our Facebook page as we repost their updates in the coming days and weeks. This week, one of our own team members joins SOW in Ghana. Ian Haisley, our online communications manager, is documenting his Ghanaian travels and experiences in photos and blogs. Read the following excerpt from one of his posts:

Meet Nana Owusu Acheampong of Bonsaaso, Ghana.Wow. What a day! We left the hotel and started what would be a two-hour BUMPY ride. Actually, let me spend a minute explaining what I mean by bumpy. The road started out as paved, but that luxury only lasted about 15 minutes. Eventually it felt more like an obstacle course for our driver than an actual road.

In the village of Bonsaaso, we were greeted by community leaders. We were welcomed and we explained who we were. We went through a short question-and-answer session with the leaders and then began to focus our questions on Nana Owusu Acheampong. He is the secretary of the “Blessed” Trust Group. All of the other members of the group refer to him as “Boss.” Nana is a man of about 60. He was born and raised in Bonsaaso, as was his wife and their children. He is a farmer by trade, but a philosopher at heart.

The building where we were meeting is his property and serves as a meeting ground for the community and visitors. A few years ago Nana installed a stereo so that people could have entertainment while they visited and played checkers. He quickly realized that it was costing him too much to power the stereo out of his own pocket. He came up with an idea. In addition to the stereo, he added 10 or so surge protectors. As people sat and met they could pay a small fee to charge their cell phones. This would pay for the generator, not only to charge the phones, but also to run the stereo. When we visited, there were roughly 40 phones and batteries being charged.

This is how your chocolate starts out. (A Ghanaian cocoa farmer processes his crop).As a part of his training through Opportunity International Nana has begun to use fertilizer to increase his crop yields. Nana and his employees showed us how they harvest cocoa, take the seeds from the shell and set them to ferment. After our interview, a small group of us walked back with Nana to the village where he showed us the churches, the schoolhouse, as well as introducing us to other business men and women in the community. As Nana spoke, you could see the joy and excitement in his eyes that these things were happening in his community.

Riding back to the hotel on that BUMPY road, all I could think about was the pride that Nana had. He was proud of the work his community was doing and of their partnership with organizations like the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) and Opportunity Ghana. He is proud of the businesses he has built and that he was able to provide for his family. It’s a pride that the more economically privileged often take for granted. I know that when I wake up in the morning and walk down the hall to my air-conditioned office, I’ll think of Nana and his employees who woke up hours before me and trekked to the fields, before I complain about the the number of emails in my inbox. I’ll just say thank you for the emails and remind myself how lucky I am to have met a man named Nana from Bonsaaso.

To read Ian’s blog click here and see the SOW team’s full blog coverage here.

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