Warriors of the Light…in Ghana
Takoradi, Western Region, Ghana
Waking up to the refreshing cool air and the morning cockerels crowing around 4:30…is Africa’s “alarm clock”…..not mine!
This is when most Ghanaians start to move around. It makes sense….it is the coolest part of the day. Similarly they are in bed around 9 p.m., having had dinner around 6 p.m. We are yet to get on this schedule…and love it when we do!
We are in Western Africa…..it takes getting used to.
We normally go into the field 2-4 days per week. Millicent, one of Kraban’s many outstanding staff members meets us at Sakoman Square for our field trips into the Greater Accra district. Three hours later, three tro tros, a communal taxi, followed by a hefty hike up a red dirt road, we arrive at the first of our four Tuesday group meetings scheduled for that day. The heat was in full force.
The field work is so exciting and uplifting. It is inspiring to walk into a group who are excited to see you…..and that they are deeply thankful for giving them a chance. The majority of Kraban’s loans are the “village banking” based on the Grameen Model. Many of the women’s groups in Greater Accra have been meeting for 2-7 years and you can feel the “bonds” that have evolved over time.
The regional Community development program is a critical partner in the successful delivery model for micro credit in Ghana. They go into the villages and educate the women on the value of the women’s groups. Many groups “pick up the gauntlet” and initiate themselves with officers, and savings book deposits are recorded at their weekly meetings. Once the group achieves a certain consistency and credibility, they can recommend themselves for loan applications through the micro credit network.
Kraban is one of the most popular micro credit NGO’s in Ghana. They have a slightly lower interest rate with an attractive, initial grace period on the first month’s repayment on the loan. Lastly, and more importantly, they have an outstanding business and life skills training program called T.E.A.C.H. that is experiential in nature. It provides women with the “missing” educational and business skills that many of them did not have access to when they were younger. I have been impressed with the significant impact this program is having on the lives of the women I have spoken to so far.
The field work in Greater Accra is challenging. None of the Kraban field workers own a car. Private cars are a rare private commodity, reserved for the most affluent in Ghana. The work is physically and emotionally demanding. It takes commitment to sustain the rigors and demands of field work in Accra. The Kraban staff, Nana, Kwame (alias “K”), Millicent, Mariam are exceptional. Each member I met have a profound, intuitive capacity to listen and honor their clients; the client’s “voices” were felt and heard. They are genuine. This deeper inner “connecting” is what really touched me. It is the ability to deeply connect with another….what I call the “common touch”……what Kipling in the poem “IF” wrote ……”never to loose the common touch.” This makes Kraban an extraordinary organization.
Despite the challenges of the field work in Greater Accra, I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to feel the “belly” of Kiva’s work. This is where the “rubber meets the road.” It is organizations like Kraban Support Foundation and Kiva’s other micro finance partners who actualize Kiva’s vision…they are the true “Warriors of the Light.”