Relief International’s Development Director, Mark Dawson, Reflects on his Visit to the Field in Ghana

October 3, 2012


Development Director, Mark Dawson, reflects on his first visit to Relief International’s Ghana programs where he meet some unforgettable locals whose lives have been changed through Relief International’s innovative grassroots based approach to development.

I just returned from a trip to Ghana, where Relief International’s board of directors had their quarterly meeting and several opportunities for field visits.  The Relief International staff, all local with a very few exceptions, are impressive:  smart, devoted, hard-working, collegial, and proud to be a part of Relief International.  It was a privilege to meet them and to see the fruits of their good efforts.  As we traveled around, meeting many beneficiaries of our work, it was wonderful to witness the relationships that Relief International staff have with those whose lives we are working to improve.  Their mutual affection and respect towards each other was always evident.

Above, children excited about Relief International’s visit to their school.

One afternoon we met Peter, who, for nine years, has been assembling and selling the cook stoves that Relief International’s EnterpriseWorks division designed and has so successfully marketed.  His business has grown to one that now employs ten people, each of whom was clearly happy to have a livelihood.  Upon meeting Peter I was immediately a fan, due to his endearing personality and loving management of his team.  His plot of land, where the assembly of dozens of stoves takes place six days a week, is on the edge of a vast landfill.   Acres and acres of refuse and waste surround Peter and his “boys.” 

In the photo above, Peter Atta demonstrates to Development Director, Mark Dawson, and Advisory Board Member, Pamela Ogor, how he assembles the metal parts of a Gyapa cookstove.


Above, Peter and Pamela take a moment to smile for the camera.

Above, a ceramicist shows Relief International board member, Keith Allman, how to craft a ceramic liner for the Gyapa on the pottery wheel.

Along the perimeter of the dump we saw several merchants, each of whom had gathered his or her particular specialty:  rubber, tin, glass, all of which would be sold to a recycler.   As with Peter, I was amazed by how enterprising, industrious, and resourceful these people were, and by how they had transformed a landfill into a center of commerce.

In the photo above, a local Ghanaian school where Relief International hosts its hygiene and sanitation programs.

Above, children part of a hygiene club established by Relief International at their school. These children lead in the enforcement of healthy hygiene habits around their school and at home with their families.

Another lasting impression was the children.  We had the chance to visit more than one school, where Relief International has water and sanitation programs.  The students were articulate, bold, confident, and welcoming, with an insatiable desire to learn.  They peppered with me questions:  about Relief International, life in the United States, English vocabulary, the distance from Accra to Los Angeles, and whether I could visit their school every day.  They introduced me to their “brilliant friend who is going to be president of Ghana one day;” another, who draws and paints beautiful pictures, and aspires to see his work in a museum; a soccer devotee, who quizzed me about my knowledge of famous athletes; and their math teacher, whom they adore.  Their gratitude for Relief International was abundant.  The spirited nature of these children animated my spirit, and even now a broad grin opens across my face as I think of them and remember their winning smiles. 

In the photo below, the ambitious children who peppered Mark with questions about Relief International and life in America.


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