Struggles. That’s what came to mind during my first days in Ghana. The struggle to find my way around to light a candle when the electricity had failed again. The struggle to keep my body hydrated in the heat and humidity. But, much more, it was the heart wrenching struggles of those around me. The crippled man trying to navigate the cratered streets and bloodthirsty taxidrivers. The mother balancing what amounts to a small woodshed of goods on her head while carrying a baby on her back and trying to contain a curious, energetic boy. Around us all, the sun was struggling to make its way through the clouds thick with dust blown in from the Saharan desert.
While the sun struggled to show itself, the heat did not. The heat had figured out a way to overcome in Ghana. But, the heat was not the only thing overcoming adversity, as I soon learned when I looked in the right places and with the right perspective.
There were the ambitious streetside hawkers who sprinted alongside the bus attempting to close a sale. Or the vacant lot with a crumbling foundation, but an optimistic owner who had posted on a wall, “This land is not for sale.” Or there was something so simple as a cool tile floor that brought an instant sense of relief to tired bare feet. But, it was not until today, when I first met clients of Sinapi Aba Trust that I saw firsthand hope in its most human form.
Today, I travelled along with two loan officers of Sinapi to visit some perspective clients in the suburbs of Kumasi. Before Sinapi finalizes a loan with new clients, loan officers visit the clients at their businesses to get a sense of their assets, their customers, their surroundings or even their neighbor’s perspective on their business.
As we walked around patiently trying to locate our first client, we knew we had arrived when a woman looked up from her pot of roasting palm nuts and a large ear-to-ear grin appeared on her face. Before long, I would know more about her business than I could have imagined. And while we were interviewing her, other women began to appear from nowhere. They also had smiles and warm handshakes. “Current clients,” the loan officers remarked. The gratitude was overwhelming. This was seeing microfinance at its best. As I paused to take this in, I looked around and then I realized that we were next to a dump. All of this hope and ambition next to a dump! And this was only the first week.
Now, when I look back after more than a week in Ghana, I think about struggles but I also see the power of hard work and perseverance. It could not be better explained than the passing van I saw earlier this week. On its back window a slogan was painted, it read, “No Food for Lazy Man.”