Hi! My name is Delana Lensgraf, and I am a Kiva Fellow in Ghana working with the fabulous Kraban Support Foundation for the next ten weeks. Please check this blog regularly to learn more about Ghana and the entrepreneurs you support!
I arrived very late last Monday night. Nana, the director of Kraban Support Foundation, and Jacki, another Kiva fellow in Ghana, picked me up at the airport. As we drove through Accra, my eyes scanned the scenery, looking for hints of what the next ten weeks of my life would hold. Dark shadows stood on the street corners. Cars jetted across lanes in total chaos. Clutching the door handle a bit too tightly, I realized that I couldn’t see a single thing. The entire city was dark, but this shed a little light on what was to come.
Since October 2006, a severe power crisis has left most Ghanaians without power. Unless you can afford a generator, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, the power crisis has been very democratic; the power is off in the entire city about 70% of the time. Two hours before my flight to Ghana, I picked up a handy flashlight that doesn’t require batteries. I simply wind it up. Problem solved, right?
A little perplexed, I made it safely to my homestay. After six short hours of sleep, I was thrust into a tro-tro, ready to meet the entrepreneurs of Ghana. Tro-tros are rusty minivans that serve as the dominate form of transportation in the capital city, Accra. What was taking so long to get there? I sat smooshed and sweating for 3 ½ hours in a line of traffic. No one else in the tro-tro seemed the least bit worried. Some were amused by my obvious state of confusion. What on earth is taking so long? My wind up flashlight wasn’t going to solve this one. I was starting to connect the dots; no power means no traffic lights in a city of almost two million.
Two tro-tro rides, one taxi ride, and a short hike down a dirt road brought me to my first group meeting to meet the people whose pictures I had tucked away in my notebook. About 100 yards away, the women wait underneath a huge Banyan tree. Millicent, a Kraban Support Foundation employee, said to me, “The greeting for this group is Yonkodo (unity) and the response is Biakoye (strength). I nod. Wait…am I supposed to answer? What language is that?
Dressed in vibrant, traditional African dresses, twenty Ghanaian women look at me inquisitively. Beautiful green, yellow, and red fabrics wrap around their waists, holding tiny sleeping toddlers. At first it came out softly, more like a question: “Yonkodo.” The women look at each other, smiling. Smiles broke into laughs as they answered my greeting, “Biakoye!”
Millicent, Jacki, and I locked eyes. Unity is strength.