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Published: July 17th 2012
Second week in and I am more settled. I’ve stopped waving at people and shouting back ‘yavu’, which apparently is not Ewe for ‘yoohoo’ as I thought, but actually means ‘white person’… whenever the ‘foreigners’ walk down the street people wave and shout ‘yavu’, so I just thought it meant ‘hello’ and would wave back shouting the same….yup, feel pretty stupid.
I’ve learnt that ‘I’m coming’ can mean ‘I’m thinking', or ‘just a moment’, or depending on who you are talking to might also mean ‘just a moment, but in half an hour’, or in Peace’s case it means ‘hold on a second because I’m just about to do a drop squat and pee right in front of you’ (Peace is about 6 years old, so it’s only just excusable).
I’ve also learnt that when David asks me to flash him, it means he wants me to give him a missed call.
I’m now a regular on the back of the motorcycles (moto) which are like taxis here, you just hop on one especially if the roads are muddy - they’re quick and pretty cheap and it’s a bit of a thrill. I have stopped holding the driver around the waist as I realised no one else was getting that intimate with their drivers (I honestly thought that’s how you’re meant to do it!) – The proper way is to just not hold on or hold the back of the moto.
I’ve escaped the waves at Denu Beach - The waves were big and powerful to begin with, but we were playing the usual game of outrunning the waves as they break on the shore. If you fall in the water while running, it is simply terrifying. I honestly thought I was going to die. The undercurrent is so strong you feel like you are being pulled out to sea, and because the next wave has already started to come in, it’s difficult to get back on your feet before you’re knocked back in again trying to claw back the sand as you’re being dragged out – the fact that your friends are laughing at you while you think you are about to die is also not fun. I guess there’s a reason why there were no locals in the sea – just the crazy ‘yavus’.
Dicing with death aside, this week we started the crux of the work on the finances. Operation Bank Reconciliation fell at the first hurdle – we don’t have any bank statements and haven’t found the password to look at them online. Nevermind, there’s plenty to do as Princess and I work on the income cash flow analysis and budget for the primary school, and Davidson and I work on the salaries budget for next year. Working here, I still find it surprising that an organisation has been able to survive without ever truly understanding its finances. When I ask if the budget for salaries looks about right, the response is they’ve never looked at it in that way. They just look at if they can pay it that month or not. Never at the bigger picture or any analysis of it. They normally find the money somewhere – often donations from one of their international volunteers who’ve spent time here in the past.
The lack of monitoring, analysis and planning is difficult for me to deal with sometimes and it can get frustrating. However, talking to David I have to remember to put it into context. David is around 60years old now. He started life as a farmer. As he says he was a ‘man from the bush’. If you see rural Ghana, even now, there are mud huts, no electricity, public hole in the ground toilets, little schooling, little entertainment, limited food types, they are remote and life can be incredibly tough. So if I try to imagine 50 years ago, when David would have started working in the fields, I cannot but be moved by his conviction for his calling and in realising the tangible fruits of it. He has set up a children’s home, 3 schools, farms, and has inspired people in countries over the world to believe in his cause, over the last 30 years. David himself is a strongly believing Christian, and at 30 years old, after attending a school set up by missionaries, he was driven by a sense of purpose and zeal to fix some of the ills he saw. Without any formal training or education he learnt by doing and using every opportunity to draw on expertise where he can. But one thing he is only starting to appreciate is the importance of planning. It seems the norm is to jump into things without thinking if it is really beneficial, feasible and affordable or of any timescales, and then dealing with the consequences as they arise. David explained that’s one reason why there are so many unfinished building projects wherever you go – people start something, run out of money, and then the shell just lays there until some money comes in again. In this way a simple building may take double, triple the time it normally should. In the same way, that has been the approach of the organisation, but it’s only now that the children at the children’s home are getting older and their school expenses are increasing that it is clear that (in the jargon) a medium-term financial strategy needs to be in place so David can feel more secure that his vision and legacy will continue well beyond him.
Well, let’s see where week 3 takes us…
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