Pre-Village Stay

6 Oct

One of the coolest aspects of an Engineers Without Borders (EWB) placement is the Village Stay.  We are challenged to find a village family to stay with for 4 or 5 days somewhere near the town we are posted in so that we can gain a deeper understanding of Dorothy’s challenges and opportunities.

For those of you who are new to  EWB, Dorothy is the name we give to symbolize the typical rural African farmer who we view as our client in our work.  We challenge ourselves to always think about whether Dorothy would approve of our actions and whether they will ultimately lead to a sustainable improvement for her family’s livelihood.

So I’m about to go off the grid for 4 or 5 days for my Village Stay – starting tomorrow morning (October 7th) and getting back to Kpandai town late on Monday the 11th.  I’d love to go for longer, but there’s just too much work to do at the office.

When I leave town for the village, I will be saying good by to electricity, the albeit limited toilet/outhouse facilities, cell phone coverage, piped water , and cushy office work (I hope to find out how well I can hack a bit of serious farm work).

I am going to limit what I take to clothing, my camera, a few minor toiletries, emergency items, a role of toilet paper, my mosquito net and some water purification tablets.

Minus these few items, life in the village I am going to should be not that different than the way people lived centuries ago.

Can’t wait! 🙂

DSC01588 DSC01633


Today we stopped off at the village I will be staying at to confirm everything.  It is about a 1/2 hour motorcycle ride from Kpandai.  On the left are some of the family members I will be staying with.  When we arrived they were busy preparing Gari (processed cassava).  On the right are some children who were attending school under a mango tree nearby the village.  As you can see, they were quite excited to hear I’d be moving to the neighborhood for a few days.

3 Responses to “Pre-Village Stay”

  1. Monica October 7, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Have a great time Mark – back to the basics and experiencing life as most know it in rural Ghana. You sound enthusiastic and ready for the challenge – Dorothy would be encouraged and hopeful! Don’t forget the mosquito net.

  2. dbgiacobbi October 7, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Hey Mark, have fun on the stay! This may sound crazy, but I actually brought my laptop on my village stay (with the 14-hour battery life, it lasted up until day 5!) The reason for me was this:

    I had a few specific research objectives, but also wanted to retain as much information as possible in general. However, I didn’t want to be bringing around a notebook when I would talk to people both because of the inconvenience (notebook on the field?) and because of the way it’d be perceived (when I first arrived, a few people actually asked me things like “here to talk about fertilizers?” or “aren’t you going to go get your notebook?”). I also just really don’t like taking notes when people talk, even at meetings. Instead, when I would get a few minutes alone in my room, I would just type down everything I could possibly remember from the previous couple of hours – and I could do this in a quarter of the time and effort on a laptop then I could with pen and paper. (Probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise)

    The village stay is a great experience in of itself to immerse yourself and really walk next to Dorothy. But I also see it as an important opportunity to concretely learn a lot more about how your presence and your work fits in to her picture. So I’d say there’s value in fixing yourself some specific learning objectives, while still remaining as open as possible to the interesting and the unexpected. With that in mind, I know that, for me, writing things down allowed me to go a lot further in my reflections than I would have otherwise, by digging deeper based on what I had learned up till then.

    Knowing you, you’ve already considered all this ahead of time, but just thought I’d share a few thoughts!

    Have a great time and make sure you get dirty!


  3. Jeff October 8, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    Don’t forget to bring a book.

    Not a lot to do in situations like these, especially at night. I read the Bible cover to cover when I was in Ghana.

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