By Devlin Smith
Next week, African Well Fund board members Angela Martens and Diane Yoder will be travelling through Ghana with Africare representatives. The group will be visiting sites covered by the first two phases of the Water for Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers project, which is serving 12,000 people. More information about Phases I, II and III can be found in the AWF volunteer forum.
This is the second Africa trip taken by AWF board members. In Sept. 2006 Martens and Rob Trigalet visited Uganda to see various project sites and to film a short documentary. Read more about the Uganda trip here.
Martens and Yoder answered a few questions as they prepared to leave for Ghana, sharing why they wanted to go and what they expect from the trip.
When did planning for the trip begin?
AM: We started talking about making another trip to Africa over a year ago. The original time frame for the trip got pushed back a couple of times. Then, last fall, during a meeting with Africare, it was suggested [we] join Africare staff on a trip to West Africa. That was when planning really started.
DY: We started talking about a trip to Africa last year, but planning began in earnest after last year’s Bishop Walker dinner in DC. At that time, we spoke to Africare staff about their upcoming travel plans and the possibility of African Well Fund members joining a scheduled trip.
How was Ghana chosen as the locale?
AM: AWF has couple of projects in Ghana. Right now in Ghana we will be able to see our projects in different stages of completion.
DY: Ghana was one of the trips being planned at the time. AWF has funded three different phases of the Water for Cocoa Farmers project in Ghana. Africare Region Director Ruth Mufute invited AWF board members to accompany her on the trip she was making to the region.
What are some of the things you’re going to be doing on this trip?
AM: We will be meeting with Africare field staff for the first couple of days. Then we will spend a couple of days visiting the well sites before returning home.
DY: We will be spending a couple of days in Accra, meeting with Africare staff and other stakeholders in the project. AWF is funding the water portion of the comprehensive project IMPACT which is supported by Mars Inc. Then we will travel to the project impact communities where we will have the opportunity see completed projects, an in-progress phase and also the site of the most recently approved proposal.
What are you expecting from this trip?
AM: We hope to bring back to our donors photos of the projects and be able to share with donors personal stories of how these clean water projects have impacted lives in Ghana
DY: I am hoping to get a feel for the impact the projects have on the life of a community. I intend to listen and observe to try to understand what the challenges are that these communities face and how they can best be assisted. I just want to soak up as much knowledge as I can while I am there.
Why do you feel it’s important for you, as an AWF board member, to visit Ghana?
AM: I think it’s important for us to make the trip to see firsthand the impact our projects are making in people’s lives, and to relay our experience there to our donors who have made these projects possible.
DY: I think that when you are asking people to donate money, especially in tough economic times, that you have a responsibility to ensure that the money is spent wisely. We are very fortunate to be working with a partner like Africare, the accountability is incredible. We receive detailed budgets and reports for all of our projects that we are then able to pass on to our donors so that they may see how their money is being spent, but to able to pass on a firsthand account of the impact their donation has adds a deeper level of understanding and assurance.
I also think that it is important to just go and listen to someone’s story, to not assume that we have all the answers or that we know what a community is experiencing just because we have read and researched from afar. I hope that a personal visit relays a message of care and concern beyond that of just writing a check.
What impact do you think this trip will have on you as a board member and as a person?
AM: I think it will reinforce for me the importance of the work AWF does and the effect our projects do have on people’s lives.
DY: I think it will reenergize my commitment to AWF. A lot of what I do for AWF involves sitting at my computer and typing. Since we are a virtual organization, we don’t have many opportunities to interact with each other, so I am looking forward to traveling and collaborating with Angela and the Africare staff on the trip. I only wish that more of my AWF colleagues were coming along.
I have never been to Africa before but I have traveled to areas of extreme poverty and it always serves to drive home the realization that we are so extremely lucky to live where we do. I always tell my children that we already won the global lottery by virtue of being born in the United States. I believe this trip will confirm and strengthen my commitment to fulfilling the obligation we have to help those not as lucky as we are.
Diane, with this being your first trip to Africa, what’s going through your head as you prepare to fly out?
DY: My head is always on overdrive and now even more so. Mainly, right now I am focused on packing and making sure I have what I need.
Angela, you went on the first board member trip to Africa in 2006, how is the preparation for this trip differing from that one?
AM: During this trip, we will be tagging along with Africare staff already travelling through the country. On my previous trip, it was just AWF reps, so there is a lot less preparation for the trip this time. All of our hotel and travel arrangements have been organized already.
Anything else you would like to share with AWF supporters about this trip?
DY: That no donation dollars were used to fund this trip, that AWF board members cover all of their own expenses. Also that upon our return, we are willing to speak to any supporters or donors who have questions or would like more information about the projects we visited.