Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hi friends!

Well, it's been awhile since I've dusted this 'ole thing off!  I could barely remember how to sign in.

Anyways, after my dear and talented friend Mo completely revamped this blog for me (thank you Mo!) I thought I should test it out.  And what better way to pay it forward than to raise some money for charities - that you pick!

A lot of good things have been happening to me in the first 19 days of this year.  To keep the good karma going, Dust & I thought we'd donate some moola to Medecins Sans Frontieres as they try to get into Konna, Mali, to help fix up those who need it during this very intense and stressful time in that part of the world.   

So... to stretch our donation further, I thought I'd propose this:  if you donate $40 or more to a charity of your choice (so long as they're doing awesome things!), then I will make you something.  Since I have a lot of yarn, access to yarn and excessive time spent in carpools to and from Ottawa, this will be my contribution.  And if I don't have the colour that you want, then I will buy it!  Again, the money I would donate will be used for supplies and postage and hopefully my small donation will stretch into a few hundred!  This also goes for all the folks who have asked to buy a cowl/scarf/knitwear from me in the past few months.  You can pay me if you want instead, but know that I'll send the donations somewhere where they're needed.  

Alright.  The goods.  I can either make you a loose knit, but cozy scarf that buttons in the front comme ca:

or a short circle cowl comme ca:

Donate $100 bones (feeling generous?!) and I can make you an extra long circle scarf that you can double wrap - I don't know about the rest of Canada, but you have to have one of these to play with the cool kids in Montreal.

Deal?  Deal.  

I should say that this deal/arrangement/con to seek donations can't last forever.  
a) Remember I said we were making a smallish donation?  It may get used up rather quick!  
b) My workload is bananas at the moment - so I will have to limit my knitting to awkward bench sharing on public transit and of course, Sunday morning knitting at the market with my hens.
c) It's going to warm up soon and you won't need a scarf and I won't want a pile of wool in my lap.  

So hop to it!  Let me know if you're feeling generous and I will send you some cozy goods!

- Tasha

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

be kind

As some of you know and others probably don’t, my motto for the past few years has been “be kind”.  I’ve adopted it as my mantra and it is what I try to practice each day.  Simple kindness, in my mind, could solve so many things...

Here in Ghana we’ve experienced nothing short of unconditional kindness.  Seriously, one day off the plane and even the coldest heart will be warmed.  People here go out of their way to make us feel at home, ask us how we are and help us in any way possible.  Just when you think someone is calling you over to their market stand to harass you into buying something, it turns out they just want to welcome you to Ghana, to ask about you and your family and to laugh with you as you stumble through the dance of greetings in Fanti. 

On our weekends off, it seems like we have more than a few Guardian Angels looking out for us.  Despite language/accent barriers, someone will always tell us when we should get off the bus and where to go when we do.  More than a few times, total strangers will come over to ensure that we are being charged the correct amount in a taxi or walk with us to a bus station blocks away just to make sure we made it there safe and sound.  On a particularly rough day here when I was visibly upset on the side of the road, many strangers stood near me for as long as it took to convince them I was okay.  If I had asked, I’m sure they would have sat with me for as long as needed.  I can honestly say I’ve never shaken so many hands, had so many conversations, received so many prayers or smiled at as many people in one day as I have here in Ghana. 

If people can show this amount of kindness to complete strangers – and foreigners at that! - I am sure we can show just a little more to the people in our lives we know and love the most.  I know that I leave inspired to do better, to be better and to share just a wee bit more kindness to everyone I meet. 

Be kind.  Yes, that is what I will aim to do.

last week of workshops

March 3

Here it is - our last week of workshops... can’t believe it!  This week our focus shifted to HIV/AIDS education – encompassing a variety topics, and for me it meant starting a much needed discussion on healthy relationships, consent and domestic violence.  What we ended up also doing was spending a lot of answering the most obscure questions about sexual health you can imagine.  BUT – extremely important questions and ones that these students never talk about with their elders or teachers.  So... it was an entertaining week filled with lots of giggles, but also a lot of important information.  I can honestly say these discussions were my favourite and the ones where I felt we were really creating a non-judgemental space that would not exist in our absence.

Here I am at the school giving a workshop to one of the classes.

And here are Jean and I doing a condom demonstration on a wooden penis.  Sorry mom.

a huge success!

March 2

The moment we were waiting for arrived!  We held our event... now titled “Building Responsible Leaders:  A Day of Youth Empowerment” on March 2.  What an incredible day! 
The day started with a formal registration with hopes of the students feeling like they were attending a professional conference.  Once the welcoming address and opening prayer wrapped up, we had three breakout sessions for the students to attend on a rotating basis:  microfinance, financial planning and entrepreneurship.   Students scribbled notes and asked so many questions – I know that being connected to these key figures in the community will help them once they graduate.

After lunch the focus switched from business to Women’s Day with some very awesome key note speakers.  Lyddia and Patricia from Women in Law and Development in Africa came to give the students an inspiring and empowering talk on domestic violence.  Though I couldn’t understand most of it (it was in Fanti), I was still moved to the brink of tears hearing the passion in their voices.  Following the ladies from WilDAF came a Legal Aid lawyer named Sweetie Sowa to address women’s legal rights.  She also touched on the need for women to come in solidarity and treat each other with respect if we are to demand it from others.  Powerfully thought-provoking and empowering all rolled into one.

The day wrapped up with some music and dancing – something these students are well versed in.  All in all, an amazing event.  I am so proud of our team for pulling it off with such style in such a short amount of time.  I know these students have never been to this type of event before and that they left feeling important, recognized and inspired... what else could we possibly ask for?!  Woo!!

unsolved mysteries

Alright... I need your help.  I have two mysteries that I need some input on....
 Who is this guy?  He is on bumpers all over the place, but can’t seem to get any concrete info on who the heck he is and why this photo from 1987 is still kickin’ around.

2    What is this dance move?  How on earth did I get into this position, why are my hands in “rocking out” mode and what am I looking at?  The only possibility I can think of is a faux-gymnast landing... but to high-life music on a Friday night, that just doesn’t seem to fit.

If anyone has the answers to these following questions there will be a reward.  In the form of me being able to sleep at night.  Thank you in advance.

moksha in Ghana

To prep for the trip here, I started up Moksha yoga in Montreal, sweating bullets through 40+ heat in a crowded room to try to “acclimatize” to the humidity I might experience here.  Coincidentally enough, Jean also does Moksha in Toronto so we were quick to try to get some yoga poses in now and again. Did I mention that Moksha’s going to be a breeze when I’m back in Montreal?  That heated room has NOTHING on this weather here!

Here are some of the pictures of us busting out our moves.  On Fridays we lead a PE session for the YMCA students, so we did a standing sequence as a warm-up. 

Out in a small town called Beyin, we found this completely empty beach.  If you think it’s well-groomed... think again... it’s not groomed, it’s just untouched.  Beautiful.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

the wisdom club

February 25

One of our projects here has been to support some students from one of the schools to start an Environmental Club and the big day for our environmental clean-up with “The Wisdom Club” arrived today!  The last group of YCI volunteers presented on the UN Millennium Development Goals and from that presentation the students were inspired to create an Environmental Club to look at environmental issues in Takoradi.  This week we purchased tools and jerseys for them to have to do clean-ups around town – they were SO excited and I know those items will be well taken care of and put to good use.

Arriving in Ghana I was immediately struck by the amount of plastic waste that you see pretty much everywhere.  But in a country where you have no choice but bottled/sachet water and with limited waste management services let alone recycling facilities, there aren’t too many options.  Even though garbage is often more visible in Ghana than most Canadian cities, I know the amount of waste produced by Ghanaians is only a drop in the bucket compared to their North American counterparts.  Upon arrival it is easy to be angered by all the litter-bugs and a whole lot harder to turn the microscope onto your own country to really measure your carbon footprint in an effort to understand the impact of your daily decisions on communities worldwide.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, but unloading all our trash in one spot and out of sight certainly doesn’t make us saints and certainly doesn’t give us ground to criticize waste in areas where burning piles of plastic bottles is the only viable option.  We’ve still got a long way to go in every corner of the globe. 

But back to the students.  We decided to work first to clean their own environment, the school, before venturing out into the community.  The dozens of members of “The Wisdom Club” (the not-so-obvious name the students chose for their environmental club) worked tirelessly to get the gutters unclogged and the school grounds neat and tidy.  It was great to be out there working with them and getting green!  We hope that these students will set an example to the rest of the community to think twice about using plastic and to make efforts to dispose of it appropriately when they do.  

Here are all the members of the club.  In the centre is Anastasia, the lovely school counsellor who is supporting the students (and us!) on this venture.  I am so thankful for the enthusiasm and compassion she has shown not only the students but to us volunteers.  These kids were so dedicated, so excited and so happy to get out there and get dirty that we all left confident we set them up with the tools, resources and community support needed to be self-sufficient and successful.  I can’t wait to hear about what they plan next!