When I first arrived in Accra, the first person that I met was a 30 year old Male, who picked me up from the airport and he turned out to be my co-worker. I’ve worked very closely with him and I’ve learned a lot about his past. I felt that he was a hidden Ghanian hero. Besides working in my office he is very involved in the church, the community, other NGOs, and is a lead member in a political party that has views that are similar to the Green Party of Canada.
I realized that he was a very special when I asked him one day how he deals with all of the corruption? and what motivates him? He told me a story about when he was working for another NGO and how he planned a huge rescue of children from a child labour factory in the South of Ghana. He said that he spent months planning and making contacts with the inside and when the day came he has successful removed over 30 children from child labour factories. He said seeing the smiles on the children’s faces that day still motivates him to this day. He said that he would never forget that feeling, and thats what pushes him to do good and give to people everyday. I was very impressed because he said since then he has done many rescues in different areas of the country.
Overtime we became very good friends, we would go out for a drink after work and I learned more about how he got into working with NGOs. He told me that he grew up in a small down West of Accra, he said when his parents gave him his first bike, and that was when he started really helping people. He said that when we was about 13 years old he would ride his bike to surrounding villages and he saw that they have a lot more problems then his village. He would see a major problem go home and come back the next week with a program to try to improve the situation.
The turning moment for him was when he found a town that was worse off then any other town that he has seen. They could not grow any food because the land was too salty, they had no schools and no water access. This town was invisible to the outside world, people did not know that this town existed. It was located in-between two hills and the one hill belonged to one municipality and the other hill belonged to the other municipality. No one was responsible for this town. So he decided to write a newspaper article and named it the lost town. This article ended up being published in several major newspapers. Shortly after this was published one of the municipalities took responsibility for this town and a school and water access were shortly brought in. This made him realize that he does have a voice that he can create change.
Over the month that I have been here I had really grown to respect him and I loved hearing stories about what work he has done previously. However just last week me and one of the other Canadian’s attended a wedding with him. During this wedding he introduced me to his girlfriend. I was a little taken aback because I knew that we had a wife and a son, although I have never met her, he talked about them frequently. I wanted to bring it up because I had a couple more questions but he asked us not to tell the other Canadians in the office about this. I was flattered that he trusted me with this information because he thought that I would not judge him for it but I was also very much judging him for it. When we were driving back he told me that it was very normal for men to have a wife and girlfriend (maybe 2). I knew that this was part of the culture but I thought that he was so progressive, I just assumed that he would be progressive in this area as well. I asked if women could have multiple husbands or boyfriends. He told me that it would be very frowned upon in the community. I asked if his wife knows about his girlfriend and he said that they don’t talk about it but he assumes that she knows.
Through this conversation I learned more about myself then him. Was the fact that he was in multiple committed relationships going to affect how I thought about him? Since it is a society norm doesn’t that mean that it is okay? and I should not place judgement? This has probably been the biggest culture shock that I’ve had. In the end I think that he could tell that I was a little rattled and told me that I could ask him questions whenever his last words as he dropped me home were “remember to not judge a Ghanaian based on “American” views”.