Project Overview

Engineers Without Borders' work is capable of widespread impact in Ghana. We started off based in only a few of the nation's 107 regional districts; learning the out-in-the-field realities and building tools to address them.
We are now scaling up proven, effective approaches to infrastructure development from a small number of districts, to a national level. Specifically, we are institutionalizing evidence-based infrastructure planning at the district, regional and national levels. To ensure we have an enduring impact, EWB is building the capacity of district staff to manage and execute these evidence based decisions, teaching these skills to the Ghanains who are best able to implement them from their positions as managers and field experts.

December 14, 2010

A week in the life of Pam:

My Mom combined her donation with a great question – what does a normal day look like? Every day feels wildly non-representative, and I think, oh no, I couldn’t possibly use that day as my ‘normal’ example, so I’ve decided to use a week.

4:30 am. Wake up to the very loud mosques calling for prayer. I decide to catch up on email in the morning while internet is fast.
6:00 am. Water not running, have a bucket bath from a small bucket drawn from our large bucket of ‘spare’ water.
7:00 am: breakfast. The usual Ghanaian breakfast is “egg and bread” , which is fried egg on baguette, and Lipton tea or Nescafe with plenty of milk and sugar. As always, I modify this to two fried eggs and plain tea from Sadia. Sadia has an egg and bread stand with the most delicious eggs in the city. Her secret is adding tomato and onion. Her fire pot and stand are near my house and under the shade of a mango tree.
7:30 am. Take a taxi into town.
8:00 am. Start blood tests at the local medical test clinic.
11:00 am. Head to the local teaching hospital to have the doctor review the results. Yay! I’m certified free of UTI, kidney infection, and typhoid fever.
Chat briefly with the instructing doctor. His MD and PHD are from Europe, but he is back here teaching the next generation of doctors in Northern Ghana because he cares. He can’t even afford a car with his salary here; he could be rich working it in at any number of overseas country’s hospitals.
The instructing MD that I’ve gone to see introduces me to the head of the lab. As a personal project, a couple friends and I are making a private donation to repair the water, electricity, and countertop in the hospital diagnostic lab, as well as a maintenance budget for the next two years until the new lab is ready. Its not really development work because its not a sustainable system, but it felt deeply wrong on a personal level to be treated with so much concern by this doctor and hospital doing their best with very, very limited funding, then be whisked off by plane to a private hospital in the capital, leaving behind Dr. Ziam and his patients. How do I describe leaving behind the cries of people in the night for Jesus to just come and take them, while I look over my shoulder on the way out the door to get well at a clean hospital with all the resources money can buy.
He is teaching the best medicine he can with a desperate lack of resources. One example of this is that the hospital, its learning doctors, and its patients are facing the next two years without a functioning diagnostic lab because it doesn’t have budget for maintenance until a new lab is complete. As a consequence, Doctors will complete their complete practicum without the ability to do tests. 12:00 pm. Chat with Jason briefly on the phone – share the great news that I’m finally clear of the big infections.
Take a taxi to the only high speed internet café in northern Ghana. Ask the manager where/if it is possible to buy a replacement keyboard, someone spilled water on my laptop that I’d leant them at a training last week, and my keyboard is kaput.
Walk to the keyboard store, and buy a keyboard quickly and easily. Amazing. That was much easier than expected
1:00 pm. Meet in an upscale outside garden café with the other three members of the Governance and Rural Infrastructure team. Eat lunch and hash out the details together of an influence paper we are sending to the capital intended to layout the steps needed to create an integrated data management system for the government of Ghana, instead of a tangle of multiple systems that exists now. Mina leaves part way through for a malaria test because he’s feeling really achy; he’s clear of malaria.
6:00pm Head home as night falls and the malarial mosquitoes come out. Rinse off in a much needed bucket bath. Free of sweat for a full thirty blissful seconds after the shower! Cook dinner at my place with the team and my two roommates. Talk EWB and development strategies until 9 pm, which is late here. Fall into bed under my mosquito net.

Tuesday: a National Muslim holiday celebrating Mohammed’s proffered sacrifice of his son.
4:30am – decide to go back to sleep after morning prayers.
6:30 am – wake up, still no water, not even enough for a bucket bath. Work on documents a little, check my email.
8:30 am – Meet the Governance and Rural Infrastructure team at Sadia’s egg and bread. Go over briefing paper again, updating Mina on what he missed while doing his malaria test. Start to plan next briefing paper.
About 9:00 am – head back to my place for a coaching session with Luisa. Break out my laptops, and get down to the business of what I will contribute to the team in the next four weeks. Discuss how to leverage my strengths, specific plans to work on my weaknesses. I’m lucky to have and experienced manager and a great friend in Luisa.
12:00 pm. –still no water. I go over to a friend’s place for a shower. Wow, much better. Sweaty again a minute later. Mina’s had another malaria test from a better lab, and he does have malaria.
12:15 pm – meet the Governance and Rural Infrastructure team again for lunch at a nearby lunch spot.
1:00 pm – buy water for drinking and head home to work on documents for the afternoon.
7:00 pm - done with documents, time to eat!
9:00 pm – Bed time, tucking in under the mosquito net.
Wednesday: The actual holiday celebrating Mohammed’s proffered sacrifice of his son
1:00 am or thereabouts: prayers have started at the nearby mosque. Suprisingly loud prayers.
8:00 Our friend Razak comes over to say happy Sala and bring some rice, noodles, and meat pieces from the Sala sacrificial lamb. I feel lucky and included.
I spend the rest of the morning greeting friends in a ring shaped building of small apartments that I used to live in, greeting people at the shops I frequent, and deciding that I like the theory of eating all of an animal more than I like watching the application of the theory. I also feel lucky that as a vegetarian I don’t have to face the dilemma of accepting or turning down the intestines I’ve just watched cleaned out then wrapped on a stick and roasted. There is plenty of rice for me. Plenty.
1:00 -Oh god, its not actually a holiday today – better get on in to the office!
1:01 – there is one person at the office. She stays about half an hour, then its just me.
5:00 – head home – too much feasting today to be able to eat supper.
Evening: Engineers Without Borders agriculture team has taken over my living room with a strategy session. Interesting to listen to.
Morning: Finish writing some presentations in the morning at home. The internet is not nearly fast enough today to send these presentations out, so I go downtown to the high speed internet café. Buy some veggies and lunch while I’m there.
Afternoon: Spend the afternoon at the office, and have some really quality conversation with Tamale’s Finance Officer regarding what it is that will need to change in the office culture for people to share information freely.
Evening: Make rice and veggies from the market for dinner, the give a powerpoint lunch and learn to BC Hydro over the phone. Mina’s malaria drugs work so well he’s out having a couple beers tonight.
Morning: Sit in my office with local government planners and work with them on proposals that they are putting out for funding. We review data supporting why they are requesting, but don’t manage to get it included in the document. Baby steps.
Afternoon: Meet with the city health service information officer Abdul, and am absolutely blown away by all the graphs on his wall, and his departments handle on using data to make decisions. Could this department lead all the other departments? Abdul has requested some small training in excel on a few easy things that are frustrating him. We can provide that easily with his director’s permission.
Evening: Dinner out with the team goes from a detailed strategy discussion to an apple cider fueled. Mina found apple cider from South Africa, which we’ve never have before and it goes down all too easily.

Daytime: Spend the day with one of EWBs co-directors of overseas programs, showing her the Governance and Rural Infrastructure work, and engage in some really useful reflection on our strategy. Finally meet the city director of health service. He starts the conversation by questioning if donors (including EWB) should even be in Ghana, and making it clear that we can offer suggestions but not make changes without his permission. I am really, really impressed. People will usually do whatever a donor requests without much questioning at all. I like this guy a lot. I like that it feels like if I put forward a bad idea he will throw me out of his office. What will it take to get this leader to connect with the other, really silo-ed departments and lead by example?

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