Monday, February 7, 2011

On my way!

Well here I am in Halifax airport after my long journey from ghana, Africa. Arriving to an airport surrounded by snow was a welcoming site. I find at this time I am flooded with a huge mixed bag of emotions. First I find it hard to accept that such a trip would create such questions and observations that I am experiencing. Although we spent the full day in London, getting training on how to adapt to the shift in coming back, it still is hard to describe.
I am happy that I am almost home, and although I am in Halifax, I can feel the atmosphere that maritime people express. The warm smiles, the casual conversations with their friends and their relaxing type of attitude. It is a welcoming feeling!
Reality also now presents itself in numerous ways. Although I was working for the credit unions of Ghana in the last few weeks, my own work with the credit union was left behind. I am blessed with great staff that certainly held down the fort, however the feeling of knowing my return to work is near brings about anxiety. Of course then there is my personal life in my hometown that was paused in my absence. The anxiety is building on returning to driveways that need plowing, and to seeing my family again. 
I cannot discount however the void I feel by leaving behind my co- workers in Africa. The bonds I have formed with these people in the last little while h been such a rewarding experience. I know that the advise myself and my colleague from Ireland provided to the credit unions were very useful and will impact them in many ways. Its the personal connections that I will miss, as we certainly formed great relationships. My good friend Abraham, a new manager of Wa Community Credit Union, reminds me of myself when I first started with the credit union. He is facing the same challenges as I faced back in 1999. The system in Ghana is about 20 years back from where the credit union system is in Canada, so as a coach we have to remember this when making recommendations. When he advised me that he liked the recommendation I made that the board consider having Internet in the office so he can communicate with other managers, partners and continue assistance from me, it reminded me that our recommendations seem trivial but have huge impacts. This is a guy that has to bring in his cell phone to charge at the office because there is no electricity where he stays. They have very unique challenges such as delinquency levels of 20 percent. In an environment where it should be less than 5 percent, they lack the training, policies and procedures to manage this portfolio. I am confident that the material we left behind, the training we suggested will help him tremendously. 
My good friend Calistus, who was our driver for two weeks. The traffic in Ghana is unbelievable and you need to be highly skilled to drive there if you want to be safe and protect your passengers. Imagine being on a four lane highway bumpers to bumper, the cars next to you are not road worthy, people are standing in the medians tying to sell everything from booster cables to water, and mopeds and bikes are flying up the medians, and the sides of the roads. Throw in a few goats, chickens, and pigs and huge speed bumps that nearly take out the bottom of your car and you got complete madness. In the month of January there were over 250 people killed in traffic accidents, so now you can see why having a good driver is so important. He took us to the northern part of Ghana which is about a 14 hour ride from the airport. We did this in two days as it is not recommended to drive at night as again most of the vehicles on the road are not road worthy. Calistus, who makes a meager living as a driver, still offered what he could to us. He purchased bananas for us, provided us one of his prized guinea fowls in which he raises. It was admirable that he would do without to make his guests feel comfortable. He has an aspiration to take pictures as he can make some extra money taking pictures of funerals, weddings, and other events. When I told him that I would like to help him pursue that dream he was delighted. I told him I would find him a camera, thinking digital of course. However he asked where the film would go. This is another example of how I perceived things would be here in Canada, not realizing that a digital camera is no good to him, as printing pictures is too expensive. So now I'm on the hunt for a 35 mm camera, lol. He said he will learn on how to develop his own pictures. He expects to collect about $1.20 a picture which is great money over there where an unskilled worker earns about $50 Canadian a month. It was a pleasure meeting his family and I look forward to continuing a relationship with him. 
On our visit to the oldest credit union in Africa, we meet the manager Humphrey. He is a great guy that was so happy to meet us and quiz on business improvements. Over the course of two days we prepared a detailed report to assist him and his board strengthen their credit union. It was very rewarding to learn that the board before we were leaving started to put the report in motion. 
It was very interesting having a board meeting outside in the shade. In one case we even had a goat walk through our meeting, ha. The boards of all the credit unions however were engaging and were very serious about our recommendations. They truly have the people who bank with the credit union in their mind as they try new innovative things to strengthen their operations. They do a wonderful job in providing the poorest of people an opportunity to save and borrow for micro financing loans. Loans as small as $50 for seeds, were granted providing people with a small start to lift them from poverty. They spent huge amounts of time educating their members on money management, business, and other training. It was quite amazing to be a part of this. 

So many stories will be told over the next week, as now I have my Internet back. Once I get into work I will upload some pictures. Right now, I am pleased to be on my last leg home, and look forward to seeing everyone and doing numerous presentations on this experience and how it ties to leadership, development, and social responsibility.



Unknown said...

Hey Cory

Nice words and very fitting description of your first experience as a coach.... glad to hear you are nearly home take care my friend. I hope we will meet again someday.

Your second favourite Irishman.


marina scott said...

This a very nice story. Life is a road you may not know the bumps are there. Just go over it and give it a try. Your like is in you hands.Lets see what a smile can do when you just show you care. So glad you had a great trip.