Category: Ghana, 2012

Cast of Characters

August 23, 2012

Not sure whether blogging ethicists would condone this pre-trip post, but I have my reasons for doing it, and I should at least get a few points for being up front.

I’m taking off for Ghana in two days, my third trip in as many years. Some of you may have followed one or both of the prior trips. If you haven’t, and would like some further background, you can find links to the blogs for the past two years in the margin of this blog. Even without that background, though, this blog should stand on its own, like the third novel in a series.

And, though this is no novel–the characters are real and unaltered–the story that unfolds has something of the feel of a novel or, put differently, the reality of the Ghana life experience gives to the lives we lead in the West a sense of the fictional. If that does not make sense now, perhaps it will by the end of this trip. Or, perhaps not.

I want to introduce some of the cast of characters now, so that you can begin to get to know them. From time to time, you may want to refer back to this post to refresh your recollection of the people I refer to in the blog.

This trip will differ in a couple of important respects from the two prior trips.

First, the trip has a different and more focused purpose. To date, the Kipharts’ (of which, more soon) work in Ghana has evolved from the digging of wells in selected rural communities to the additions of wings to schools and aid to medical clinics and last year, to the creation of a commercial pineapple-growing venture. The growth of their work has been somewhat topsy-like, expanding as additional needs and opportunities have been identified. In the six months prior to this trip, though, the Kipharts’ thinking has shifted to a more focused, organized and holistic attempt to create sustainable communities that combine economic growth with clean water, health and education in largely-forgotten, small, rural areas in Ghana. This trip will be an attempt to shape and start one or more “circles of sustainability” (as Susie Kiphart refers to them) in these rural areas.

Second, the cast of characters has changed somewhat. One important member of the two prior trips, my wife Carol, will not be along, because the trip is too close to the prospective birth of our fifth grandchild in Atlanta (who is due October 4) for her comfort. Of course we all, especially me, will miss Carol’s presence, though we know that she will be with us in spirit.

Joining the trip, will be Funmi and Sola Olopade, two Nigerian doctors who run the Global Health Initiative at the University of Chicago. The Olopades have become good friends of the Kipharts and have been influential in shaping their new thinking. Carol and I have been privileged to get to know the Olopades over three or four meetings with the Kipharts. (The Olopades just returned from a family trip to Tanzania, where they climbed Kilimanjaro.). Funmi has been to Ghana with another friend of the Kipharts, Marta Segu, whose foundation in Spain has provided financial support to the Kumasi Clinic, run by Dr. Annie. Sola (pronounced “Shola”) is making his first trip to Ghana with us. Marta will not be with us, though she’s been an active contributor to the robust email communication that has preceded the trip. (As part of their more focused thinking, the Kipharts are approaching some others to help fund and leverage their work. In addition to Grifols, the Spanish Foundation, they have applied to the Ronald McDonald Foundation in the U.S. for support.)

Much of the cast of characters in Ghana, is unchanged. The Kipharts, Dick and Susie, have been our close friends for some forty years. Dick is a very successful investment banker and investor and Susie is a graduate of the Erikson Institute for early childhood development in Chicago. They have been traveling to Ghana for nine years, and have established close, caring, respectful relationships with tribal chiefs over that period, through the shepherding of the point person for all of their Ghana operations, Peter Eduful, who they met when Peter was studying at the University of Chicago. Peter is a former Ghanaian government official in the department of education who now works full time with the Kipharts , attending to all of the details and logistics of the work they do in Ghana and guiding them expertly through potential cultural, governmental and economic minefields.

Dr Annie, who is from Madagascar and received her medical training in the Ukraine, is the irrepressible leader of the Kumasi Clinic that provides medical treatment to mothers and babies in and around Kumasi. If her energy could be harnessed and converted to electricity, it could power the entire country.

Working with Peter is the construction head, Alex, whose smile radiates warmth and love to all who see it. Peter’s nephews, Freedom and Jonathan, oversee maintenance of the wells, provide liaisons to the villages and drive the trucks we ride in when we visit Ghana. They help wherever needed and are constantly upbeat and smiling.

Joe Kwarteng, dean of the school of agriculture at Cape Coast University, is Dick’s partner in the pineapple business. Joe’s wife, Ida, runs an NGO with Joe that puts school farms in rural schools and works closely with a school for the deaf, some of whose graduates are employed in the pineapple business. Joe is Ghanaian; Ida grew up half in Lebanon and half in the US. So, of course, Joe and Ida met as students at The Ohio State University.

There are other “players” as well, but I’ll wait to introduce them as we go along, so as not to overwhelm you at the outset.

Look forward to sharing what I’m certain will be an unforgettable trip with you.

As I want to test adding a photo and, of course, have none from a trip that has not yet begun, I’ll shamelessly share two photos of grandchildren, the first (from left to right) of Phoebe, Riley and Zoe and the second of Jasper, with his grandpa, brandishing the rewards they’ve received for both being good boys for their joint haircut.



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