Fall Retreat

This year the FIDAP was held at Lake Bosumtwe, which is near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region. There were EWBers from all of the ventures in Ghana, and it was a really great chance to see people I hadn’t seen in a long time.  For those of you who don’t know (I mean how could you not? :P)… FIDAP stands for Fall Integrated Dreaming and Planning.  This basically means it’s a retreat where we get together to discuss issues and plan for the future.

Yazan and I decided to go up early to visit Kumasi.  I left Accra with Florian on Thursday afternoon by bus.  We got lunch and then hopped on.  He thought the VIP was super luxurious, and I think anyone from Canada who has taken the greyhound will agree.  We got to Kumasi as it was getting dark, and checked into the Presby guesthouse (which is close to the bus terminal).  I ate some snacks and chilled until Yazan got in at around 10.  We went to bed pretty early so we could get a good night sleep.  Plus he just found out he had typhoid… again!

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In the morning we got up early and had breakfast.  There was some confusion because the hotel is attached to a church and everyone (reception, security guard, restaurant lady) kept leaving for services and we couldn’t find anyone.  Eventually we had breakfast and caught a taxi to the cultural center.  Outside of the center there was, I’m going to guess, about a thousand women in this very animated church service.  There’s was lots of singing and dancing, and our cab driver later told us that this is where all the single ladies go to church, every second Friday. Amidst the women there were all sorts of booths selling different kinds of crafts.

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We were having fun at first.  We banged on drums, tried of traditional clothes, sorted through paintings and looked at everything.  There was some really nice things as well as some really ridiculous things.  We did really good shopping though, and got most of our Christmas presents for home, which was a huge relief!  Eventually we got overwhelmed.  The sales people are pushy and get mad when you won’t go in their shop.  Even when you say no they’re in your face asking and asking until we just had to go.  We were starving so we bought some watermelon (which they are experts in cutting into cubes!) and ground nuts for the journey.

We weren’t sure if we’d get back in time, but thankfully the traffic cleared and our taxi arrived at the hotel with just 5 minutes to spare,  We got our bags, met up with Jon, and took the taxi to the location of the actual retreat by the lake.  Traffic was bad and the roads are bumpy, so it probably took us over an hour to get there, but I’d say we were in the middle of the pack.  We put our bags in our rooms and grabbed lunch.

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That afternoon we sat on some benches by the lake and got to know each other.  Not only was the FIDAP going on for EWB staff, but a simultaneous retreat was going on with the Kumvana fellows, and it was great chance to meet and interact with that.  They’re African leaders in their communities and businesses who have been chosen to come to Canada for the EWB conference and get a chance to work in Canadian businesses for a short period.  They were so full of insight, hope, and excitement – it was contagious, and we all got pumped up about some new topics.  It was nice just being the water, and was a pretty relaxing afternoon overall.  Afterwards we had dinner and then had “story time” where all the venture leads discussed what was going on with their projects.  Unfortunately, only 4 presentations were possible, since the managers for MBC (my venture) and the Young Managers Program were unable to attend. That night was pretty chill, everyone just hung out and went to bed early.  People were tired from travelling…

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On Saturday we got up, went swimming, had breakfast, and prepared for sessions.  The weekend had sessions on many different topics.  Venture specific time, health and safety, planning and creating goals, learning about the organization, etc.  It was also great to get to know each other.

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One session we were put in groups of 3 and asked to act out different roles while creating a statue.  All three of us Professional Fellows happened to end up together, and it was an interesting experience to learn more about how to understand the needs of your employees and coworkers.  We also discussed various health and safety scenarios, which was pretty informative.  Our group was aptly named “the hammock group”.

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After lunch we had some free time.  Most of us got a bit of work done or had a nap.  Soon it started pouring so everyone had to get out of the lake.  It was pretty relaxing, and some good conversations were had.  We also had “learning carousels” where two sessions are run in each of three time slots.  Gordon from Business Development Services (BDS) did a really interesting one in the first time slot of the “missing middle” of medium sized industries that was really interesting.  In the second time slot, Alexis and I each did one about our venture, since our managers weren’t there to discuss during story time.  I think I definitely cleared up what MBC is all about, which was a cool experience.

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Saturday night after dinner was “Inspiration Night” and everyone had to prepare something to present.  I gotta tell you I was not looking forward to it. It reminded me of a forced talent show from camp.  I hate when people tell me “this is going to be fun” or “you’re going to be so inspired”.  It really makes me feel defensive, like “how would you know how I feel?” and makes my expectations high so that any event is bound to fall flat.  I gotta admit it was a fun night, with lots of songs (including one by the VOTO team about the power going out), stories, poems, and even some spoken word (a really amazing one by Gordon and Staecie about their platonic marriage).  I still think I woulda had more fun if there was less hype though.  We also “cheifed” Miriam from Agex, since it was her last hurrah. Chiefing is something EWB does to recognize somebody’s contribution when their time has come to an end.  There are usually nice stories, some kente cloth, and presents – it’s a nice tradition, and of course, usually super embarrassing for the person sitting on the stool in front of everyone! After that people had a few drinks but mostly it was a pretty early night to bed (much to the disappointment of some of the boys).

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Sunday morning we woke up, had breakfast, and even got crepes with ice cream on top of it as a treat from the hotel. We had a bunch of closing sessions, including an interesting one by Florian (Talent Team at National Office) on where the organisation was and it’s future plans. Afterwards we packed up our bags and headed over to lunch. One of the delegates for the Kumvana program was there to show us her work. She organizes women in the poor rural villages in the north to make jewelery for her, which she buys and sells. You can check out her organization, called Beads of Hope. We all bought some for ourselves or as souvenirs for friends back home. Eventually we sat down to lunch but there was a lot of announcements. Two more long term volunteers were being honoured: Caroline (Voto) and Heather (Amplify)… so there were plenty of stories, speeches, and presents going around when they were also “chiefed”.

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Sunday afternoon was supposed to be venture time… but I was my whole venture (Bernard had some church thing and Kombate was being interviewed by CNN). Most people decided to leave early to get back to work by Monday morning anyway. Yazan and I left by taxi around 3 and got back to Kumasi. From there we found the bus station but ended up taking a trotro on out next adventure…

To be continued later this week. See “Chilling by the Coast” for the next part of the story.

P.S. Most of the pictures in this post were not taken by myself.  Thanks Ghana Whatsapp group!

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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