My Mid Placement Report Card

25 Oct

DSC02091 MAH02099(1)

This week I completed my mid placement retreat, and then returned to Kpandai sporting a new $1 haircut.  It is the shortest I have ever had it in my life and it feels great in the sweaty heat of Northern Ghana! 

The mid placement retreat was an opportunity to reconnect with my fellow Pro Junior Fellow volunteers and check-in with everyone regarding our progress towards our personal goals.

Thankfully I am fairing a bit better than the block farmers in Lonto who’s flooded fields I visited yesterday with my Director.  After driving for 4 hours to get to Lonto, we had to travel about 1km by canoe to reach the fields.  The farmer who leads the Block Farm group had to go for a swim in order to show us some of the spoiled rice.  There’s more about this in my above audio post…

So what were my original goals for my time here and how do I feel I’m doing with respect to them? 


• Stay connected to close friends & family (B+) – as a result to my daily emails to my sponsors and my frequent blog posts, my parents know much more about my life over here than they’ve ever known about my life back home!  Despite all of my communication, however, it has been a challenge keeping a close bond with friends and family with the distance between us and because I  have been experiencing so much personal change. 

• Regular exercise (B) – I was doing quite well running most mornings, but I fell off the wagon over the past couple of weeks with all of my travel.  I did manage to get back out this morning and I’m going to try to work in some more farm work so I don’t lose all of the muscle from my upper body.

• Develop a couple of close friendships (B+) – I’ve been pretty lucky on this front with many friendships at various stages of development.  My strongest relationships are with my Director and with Nhial, my Sudanese-American Peace Corp volunteer neighbor.

• Keep a daily personal journal (B+) – check, although some days are more thorough than others and it sometimes deteriorates into a list of activities without much of a personal narrative.

• Stay Healthy and Well (A) – no malaria, typhoid or even culture shock so far – knock on wood.  I would have given myself an A+ if not for a small bout of lower intestinal issues during and right after my village stay. 


• Office relationships (B+) – There are 15 people in my office and many of them work in the field and are rarely in the office.  Despite these challenges, I feel like I’ve managed to establish at least a bit of a relationship with all of them and I’ve gotten to know a few of them on a personal level.

• Learn and share my knowledge (A) – as per usual, I’ve been asking a lot of questions and answering a lot in return.  

• Help ensure the sustainability of AAB (C) – this has been a week area so far because I’ve been focusing on the next bullet first, as I agree with the hypothesis that led to the next bullet, namely that improved management and leadership is required before EWB’s Agriculture As A Business (AAB) program (or indeed any program that isn’t driven hard from the national level) can become sustainable within the Ministry of Food & Agriculture (MoFA).

• Help develop Management/Leadership skills in my MoFA district office (A-) – I’m feeling good about my progress on this point so far, but I’m also recognizing that the process of working through the people dynamics to get to a place where the office team is ready to really rock and roll on new initiatives is a gradual process.  Fortunately my Director is very strong and I am fairly confident that momentum will continue after I leave.


• Maintain good communication with the EWB Ghana team (A) – my coach Erin and I targeted weekly check-ins and we’ve managed to keep it up.  I started sending a simple weekly email update before our calls, which has been working quite well not only with respect to communication, but also for keeping me focused.  As it turns out, Erin and I have complementary skills, and her input has really been of huge benefit to me.

• Explore scalable management initiatives (C+) – the hard bit of this for me is the scalable part.  I’ve been taking a pretty people focused approached in my office and I’m not sure how to make this scalable other than perhaps having our team focus for longer periods on a few positive deviant districts to serve as examples for others.

• Help to find strategies for making AAB more sustainable (C) – I’ve been kind of swinging for the fences with this one by focusing on underlying management and leadership challenges, but my Director has just made AAB mandatory for all Extension Agents and I plan to increase my focus on  AAB and challenge my assumption that it cannot be made sustainable through direct focus on the program.

• General Contribution to the Team (C+) – I’ve definitely been vocal when I’ve attended our Country and MoFA EWB team meetings, but perhaps a bit too vocal and opinionated.  It’s challenging for me to strike a good balance between learning and contributing opinions when discussing strategy issues, especially because the short duration of my placement is always in the back of my mind.


• Always be exploring the area (B+) – the challenges from my sponsors and the curious nature of my Peace Corp friend Nhial have been great motivators in this area and I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job.

• Meet and get to know a broad range of people (C-) – I’ve met a lot of people, but I haven’t got to know many Kpandai natives well.  I think this is mostly due to my decision not to stay with a host family, but rather to keep staying at the District Coordinators compound.  I view this as a trade off because the decision has allowed me more personal time for work and communicating to home, but this comes at the loss of personal relationships and deeper cultural integration.  Finally, I dropped myself a whole grade in this category as a result of my pathetic language skills.  In my defense, there are so many languages here that it’s really confusing!

• Become actively involved in some extra-curricular local initiatives (B) – the inaugural Projecting Change film festival evening really stands out in this category.  I’m hoping to run another one before I leave and also see if we can make some progress towards a library initiative in town…


• Audio & text blog once a week (A+) – check!  My blog has been getting good traffic and I’ve been getting some great feedback, which makes me really happy!

• Tweet on a daily basis (B-) – I started out strong, then tailed off a bit, and then had trouble with the cell phone tweet application, so my performance has flagged.  However, the application is now working again and I’m hoping to get back up to once every two days.

• Write personal emails to each of my sponsors (A) – so far so good.  It’s been a pretty major time commitment, but it’s also really forced me to properly reflect on my day-to-day activities, which has been good for me.

• Schedule a couple of conference calls with Van Pro (B-) – we’ve had one so far, but I feel like I wasn’t prepared enough.  I find it challenging to relate my experience over a speaker phone, but I’m looking forward to taking another crack at it! 

As of tomorrow, I have exactly seven more weeks in my District.  In that time, I am going to endeavor to be much more disciplined with respect to focusing on an achievable group of objectives that strike a balance with respect to my above goals.  In order to achieve this, I will seek to avoid adding new ideas to my list.  Last but not least, I plan to have a ton of fun along the way too! 🙂

2 Responses to “My Mid Placement Report Card”

  1. Gary October 26, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    Good to here that the daily journal started in Europe continues!

  2. doris November 1, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    Hey there Mark!

    “General Contribution to the Team (C+)” – I laughed when I read this because it reminded me a bit of when you first got involved with EWB! But I also realize that it must be a bit frustrating for you. It just goes to show your passion and energy, and you wouldn’t fit the EWB archetype (at least in the early times) if you weren’t a bit controversial! Compared to your EWB peers, are you among the few with the most ‘real’ work experience?

    No culture shock, eh? That’s awesome. Hopefully that’s also true when you return…? Thanks for all the updates and for sharing 🙂

    Saludos desde Buenos Aires…
    – doris

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