Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thoughts before predeparture training

I’m sitting on the plane to Toronto and I only wish I could describe what I feel. I’ve been waiting for this chance for as long as I can remember; I’m finally going to live out my dream. All of the doubts and fears as to whether or not I will be useful or effective have been washed away by this overwhelming feeling that things will work out in the end and that I’ll make the most of my opportunities.

I’ve spent a couple months answering some simple questions: “How does it feel?” “Are you excited?” I never knew how to truly answer those questions to any degree of depth because the prospects of this entire trip were completely overwhelming. And they’re still overwhelming now. I can’t possibly imagine what my summer will be like because the entire culture, country, and continent are so far removed from the life I’ve known up until now. Every single little thing that I’ve taken for granted may very well change and I have no idea how I’ll react to that. All I can really do at this point is ask questions and have faith in myself and my ability to persevere and/or adapt.

One of my good friends from Manitoba, Apoorva, is also going to Ghana with me, though she’s working on a different project. We’ve been exchanging excited/terrified emails for several weeks leading up until now, but her last one really struck a chord with me; it really conveyed the feelings that seem to go unspoken throughout all of these preparations:

“they say, 'you must be excited'
have you packed?
and i say yes, smilingly, tossing my short hair.
but inside i wonder
how can i tell you, inquiring friend,
how can i tell you that overwhelmingly sometimes
i stop while walking in the street and when i imagine this place
all i can imagine is home. a familiarity that i can't even begin to describe;
an ancestral belonging. i am not going on a vacation
i am going on a pilgrimage to the very places i had hoped in my entire
childhood that i would go
and when i get there, i will be speechless.
because i will be home.”

I think that that’s all for now. In classic Bryn-style, I’m frantically completing readings and modules that need to be ready when I arrive at training in an hour. Thanks for checking in on me and I’ll try to update at least one more time before leaving the continent.

Take care,

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Basic Ghana Facts (from afar)

Located in West Africa, Ghana is an very peaceful country often favoured by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) because of its stability and co-orperative government.

Ghana became the first country in its region where Europeans arrived to trade when Portugal set up a trading settlement in 1482. Several hundred years later, in 1874, Britain declared the costal area of Ghana as a crown colony. Ghana achieved independence in 1957, making it the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from its colonial power. Kwame Nkrumah was made the first prime minister and became its first president when Ghana became a republic in 1960. A series of political and military coups followed in the following 20 years, as Ghana became a one party state.

The most influential coup leader was Jerry Rawlings, whose first coup, in 1979, was short lived. However, he re-took power in 1981 and remained in power until 2000. Rawlings was an interesting ruler who refused to subscribe to any ideology. His social policies and advisors were all extremely leftist, while his economic policies have been described as conservative. When the USSR went under he quickly turned to the West and became very friendly with the IMF and the World Bank, which has been a great source of criticism and praise. In 1992 he set up a referendum to approve a new constitution introducing a multiparty system, wherein he was elected president.

In 1994 a wave of violence broke out in the Northern Region over a land dispute, fostering an eruption of ethnic violence between the Konkomba and the Nanumba as 1000 people are killed and another 150 000 displaced. There have been several other disputes since that time but the country is relatively stable, especially by sub-Saharan Africa’s standards.

In 2000, power was successfully transferred to the new president, John Kufuor, who has been peacefully re-elected since then. I've been trying to read at least one of the Ghanaian newspapers ( regularly for the past couple months. The media in the country, from what I can tell, enjoys a high degree of freedom and can (and does) criticize the government.

And that's it for the boring details. I was going to write about the rich musical and cultural traditions, but I think that's something that I can only write about from the field when I'm fully immersed in them.

One important fact that I can't leave out is that Ghana is in the World Cup this year and that I'll be there when the excitement hits. Go Black Stars!


My name is Bryn Ferris and I just finished my second year here in Fredericton at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). I set up this blog because I will be spending this summer working abroad with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in Ghana! As of right now my placement is with OXFAM's Rural Aid Action Programme (RAAP) where I'll be based around Jirapa in the Upper West region.

This journal is my way of sharing my experiences and keeping in touch with everyone, so please comment often!

Saturday, April 01, 2006


ActionAid – ActionAid is an international NGO that is a huge supporter of RAAP. (

Engineers Without Borders Canada is the organisation who sent me on this placement. The group is comprised of a National Office Team and over 25 university chapters across Canada (I am involved with the UNB chapter).
National: UNB:

LEADEC – LEADEC is a Leadership Centre that RAAP is currently building. The idea is to train RAAP staff, directors, and others local NGOs on leadership techniques and facilitation skills in order to build local capacity. LEADEC is also where I am staying over the summer.

MDGs – The Millennium Development Goals, which the world agreed set in 2000 to achieve by 2015. They are the guiding principles of all development work everywhere in the world. (

MPH – Make Poverty History, the campaign which Engineers Without Borders wholeheartedly supports at that brought major awareness events such as the Live 8 concerts last summer.

NGOs – Non-Governmental Organisations who exist independently of any government and are, ideally, not to be used or manipulated politically. They are not-for-profit charitable organisations who are committed to improving the human condition. RAAP, EWB, and OXFAM are all examples of NGOs.

OXFAM – OXFAM is a major international NGO, whose UK branch is RAAP’s main supporter.

Play Your Part – A campaign that EWB began this year whose goal is similar to that of MPH but that is unique to EWB and focuses on what Canadians can do to help.

PRA/PLA – Participatory Rural Appraisal or, more recently, Participatory Learning and Action. They are the methodology at the core of REFLECT and, consequently, RAAP’s work.

RAAP – The Rural Aid Action Programme is the local NGO that I am working with over the summer. They are based out of Hain and Jirapa, two towns in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Their website, which Jude and I are currently creating, is located at [not done yet]

REFLECT - REFLECT stands for REgenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques and is a community development tool to help communities identify their development opportunities/issues and act on them. There's an entry on it here .

UNB – The University of New Brunswick, where I am currently enrolled in the Renaissance College Interdisciplinary Leadership Program (minors in Math, Mechanical Engineering, and International Development Studies).