Tag Archives: Cape Coast

Capstone Presentation

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Hello!

 

I made it home on Wednesday after an eight hour layover in London. Now that I have fast Internet, I can upload my capstone presentation about my experience at CRAN. So feel free to check it out by clicking on the link:

CRAN Capstone

 

Wedding Bells

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This weekend I had the opportunity to go to a Ghanaian wedding. One of the ProWorld staffers, Osman, invited us to his sister’s wedding. Attending a wedding or funeral was on my Ghana bucket list, so of course I agreed. Plus, Osman is from the northern part of the country and is Muslim. I’ve never been to a Muslim wedding before, and was interested to see how they were conducted.

Osman told us that the wedding was supposed to begin at 8AM, which I though was incredibly early for a wedding. We weren’t exactly sure of the location, as the only directions we got were the “UCC taxi station” in town. The two new interns, Caleb and KC, and I decided to meet at 7:45AM and call Osman to figure out the exact location. Since this is Ghana, we figured that the wedding wouldn’t actually start until at least 9AM.

Of course the cell phone network was down, and we were unable to call Osman. After waiting around a bit, the network came back online and we were able to get a hold of Osman. We had assumed that the wedding would be in the Mosque in town, but it turns out it was literally at the UCC taxi station. They had set up four tents in the parking lot. When we arrived, Osman greeted us and introduced us to father and brothers. We were then led to the tents and given seats right in the front. The tents surrounded a rectangle area covered in prayer mats and there were three drummers to entertain the waiting guests. As we anticipated, the wedding did not start until close to 10AM.

 

Listening to the drummers before the ceremony

Listening to the drummers before the ceremony

The first thing I noticed was that everyone in attendance was male. KC and I were the only females and I was also a little unsure if I should’ve brought a scarf to cover my hair. Being the token obruni, however, insured that no one would rebuke us. The ceremony began with a large group of older men removing their shoes and sitting down on the prayer mats. As the father of the bride kindly explained, the men were Islamic scholars who would help consecrate the marriage.

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After the men prayed, the bride and groom were processed in and seating on two plastic chairs. Osman’s sister is apparently a graduate of Islamic school, and was therefore required to recite a passage from the Koran. The next session of the wedding consisted of the men showering the bride with money. This was done by literally sticking bills on the bride’s face and collecting them in a trash bag as they fell off. I was a bit horrified by the idea of the bills touching her face due to the fact that small bills are often very dirty and covered in germs. We asked Osman about the practice later, and he informed us that the practice was for good luck.

My favorite part of the ceremony: the money-sticking

My favorite part of the ceremony: the money-sticking

Once the men were satisfied with the bill-sticking section, the bride and the groom left. The Islamic scholars took over and recited parts of the Koran and prayed for the prosperity of the couple. After about twenty minutes of prayer, the ceremony was over and the couple was officially married. A small amount of money and some candy was passed around to the scholars and some food was passed around to all the guests. It was easily the shortest wedding ceremony I had ever attended, and the first in which the ceremony took place without the couple present!

Awkward wedding photo

Awkward wedding photo

After the ceremony and some more drumming, Osman led us to the bride as well as all of the female guests. We awkward took photos with the bride and her attendants. I had no idea where the groom went. Osman took us back to his house where we cooled off and chatted about the significance of different parts of the wedding. We were then invited to next section of the celebration, which mainly consisted of the women dancing. Since we were exhausted from our Impact project from the previous day, we regretfully declined and went home. I wish we had stayed for the dancing, but we would’ve had to wait several hours for it to begin, and we were very hot. I was glad that we went to the ceremony and wish Osman’s sister and her new husband happiness in her marriage.

The gang with Osman

The gang with Osman

Going to Ghana

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Hello!

It still feels surreal to me that I’m leaving for Ghana in three days. Just thinking about it produces wild butterflies in my stomach from either bounding excitement or extreme panic. It’s probably a combination of both.  Regardless, for the next four months I will be living and working in Cape Coast, Ghana.

I’m not exactly known as a big traveller. That would be my sister who boasts of travelling throughout Europe and select destinations in the South West Pacific. My experiences are merely limited to chunks of the United States and Canada, as well as a last minute, but lovely trip to Ireland. My most exotic trip to date was Hawaii when I was six.

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My “exotic” vacation in Hawaii, Age 6 

However, my limited experience is not due to lack of enthusiasm, but rather the constrained resources of money and time. The constraint of money is pretty much expected from a college student who relies on her parents and a retail job for cash (though the co-op program helps quite a bit with this). While my parents are more than willing to help me fund some travelling, I would feel too guilty to take them up on this. Time is trickier. Drexel students get very limited vacation, particularly those on the Fall/Winter co-op cycle. Since we don’t get summers off, any trips including ABs or service trips have to happen during the one or two week breaks between terms.  Unlike tons of the Drexel population, I’m not from the tri-state area and don’t get to come home that often. Thus, I need to decide whether to spend my vacations travelling or seeing my family.  So far, I’ve always gone home. I miss my family too much.

So, how did a girl who’s barely left the U.S. manage to get the opportunity to go live in Ghana? Drexel’s Co-op Program (Feel free to skip this paragraph if you’re familiar with co-op). Drexel is one of a dozen or so schools to focus on cooperative education. The program was launched in 1919 and is one of the largest in the country. According to Drexel’s website, the point of co-op is for students to get “paid employment in practical, major-related positions consistent with the interests and abilities of participating students.”[i] In layman’s terms, the co-op program consists of six-month (often paid) internships. Drexel students can either choose a three co-op program taking five years, a one co-op program for four years or a regular ol’ four-year program. Students are then split up into two cycles: Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. Spring/Summer is most like a traditional school experience. However instead of getting summers off, students have a full time internship. Fall/Winter students, however, intern during normal school months and take classes during the summer. There’s always a debate on which cycle is better, and I firmly believe that Fall/Winter students get the short end of the stick, especially if they aren’t from around Philly. In the summer, the class selection is smaller, facilities all close down earlier, there more adjuncts, and there are fewer activities such as Welcome Back Week. Despite the inequality in cycles, Drexel’s co-op program is a practical solution to hedging against the high unemployment for college grads and I consider it a good investment for my future.

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Class of 2016 🙂

I am in the three co-op, five year program and happen to have the Fall/Winter cycle.  Currently, I am in my third or “pre-junior” year and am an accounting and finance major with a minor in history. For my first co-op, I worked at the law firm Chimicles & Tikellis, which handles class actions. While I discovered that I am not interested in a law career, I enjoyed the autonomy of the position and variety of assignments. For my second co-op, I knew very early that I wanted to go abroad. At first, my search was extremely broad, as I didn’t quite know what type of position I was looking for or in what country. After a bit of thought, the answer was obvious: microfinance.

During the winter term of my freshman year, I took a two-credit class called Social Responsibility in Business. It was a business elective taught by the wonderful Juli LaRosa in which we discussed ways businesses can enrich society and examined successful models of social entrepreneurship. The class that most stood out to me was Professor LaRosa’s lecture on microfinance. The simple definition of microfinance is “banking service that is provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who would otherwise have no other means of gaining financial services.”[ii] Generally, microfinance is considered a means to combat poverty and promote entrepreneurship and fiscal responsibility in developing countries. (See my next post for more information on microfinance).

That brings me to ProWorld. ProWorld is a subsidy of Intrax, which is one of the largest providers of global educational, employment, and volunteer programs in the world. Most importantly, Intrax is one of the few organizations designated as a sponsor by the U.S Department of State.[iii] ProWorld’s first student group was in Peru in 2000 and has expanded to include several other countries. Currently there are programs in Belize, Thailand, Peru, and Ghana that cover many areas such as education, journalism, health, environmental management, and microfinance. I had first heard about ProWorld through my friend Nora, who participated in a program in Mexico. After doing my own research, I came to the conclusion that ProWorld would be a terrific program to be a part of.

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From October through January, I will be interning at a NGO in Cape Coast, Ghana. I will be living with a host family and taking biweekly language lessons to learn Fante. In the next few posts, I’ll give more details, about microfinance, Ghana, and my specific project. Hopefully I’ll be able to add some interesting pictures soon.