Preparing for Ghana: Shots and Shopping

What started with a decision back in May is almost here!  In two weeks, I’m boarding a flight to Accra, Ghana for four weeks of living, learning and sharing with Ghanaian business owners.  During my trip, I will be checking email periodically at best, so don’t expect prompt responses if you decide to write.  I was told to expect frequent power and water outages, some of which could last days!  My Ghana adventure will be a total departure from everything I know, but I’m positive that it will be in a really good way.

Over the past several months, in preparation for my trip, I have had every immunization I could think of — well, everything the Travel Clinic doctor recommended — yellow fever, which is required for entry; Tdap; polio; an adult booster of MMR; hepatitis A and B; and typhoid.  I decided against rabies, which costs about $2,000 by itself and requires additional shots if you’re scratched or bitten, because I plan to abide by Dr. Fujimoto’s kind advice against playing with foreign animals.  Definitely good to know, though, because there was a minor incident many years ago at the Roman Forum involving an old boyfriend and a one-eyed cat…  But, that’s neither here nor there.  We’re both still alive (the ex and I, that is, I don’t know about the cat). :-)

Dr. Fujimoto also taught me that you should avoid freshwater rivers, lakes and streams while traveling.  Failure to do so risks exposure to schistosomiasis, a nasty parasitic disease.  Good thing my home base, Cape Coast, is on the ocean, and swimming is allowed there an in chlorinated pools.  Although Ghanaians apparently don’t think of the beach as a place to swim, hopefully they’ll take pity on this “obruni” (literally white person but used by Ghanains to describe any foreigner) and allow me an occasional dip to cool off.  I’ve also heard that showers in Ghana are always cold, so there’s another way to stay cool.

I’d like to pretend I’ve started packing, but so far that entails making small piles of necessary items around my house and a list of to-dos.  I have a supply of antimalarials, Deet-filled mosquito repellent  and iodine tablets for water purification.  Still on my to-buy list are sunscreen, hand sanitizers, Kleenex pocket packs (never know what the public “facilities” will be like), and some bubbles.  Yes, bubbles.  A cool Ghana blog (see photo below) suggested that bubbles would be a fun treat for kids and adults alike — who doesn’t love bubbles? — so I added them to the list.
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Truthfully, I’m feeling very calm about my upcoming adventure.  Although I’m a natural planner, I’ve been taking my trip to Ghana in stride, not obsessively researching or planning my itinerary to the day.  I haven’t even purchased a guidebook.  I really have no idea what I’ll see or do while I’m there, other than work on my volunteer assignments and personal photo project, but I’m ok with that.  My goal is to absorb each moment and experience fully, not race from one sightseeing opportunity to the next.

From reading my volunteer packet I’ve learned that Ghanaians are a proud and well-dressed populace.  In fact, Jimmy Carter’s son once went there to present a grant check but he was sent packing for wearing shorts!  Naturally, I needed to give some thought to apparel and knowing someone like Corinne Phipps of Urban Darling came in handy.  I told Corinne a few basic facts: Ghana is hot and humid.  Daily temperatures are expected to range from the mid-70s at night to 90s during the day, but it will likely feel hotter.  I needed light, comfortable clothing that was modest (skirts to the knee at least).  When I arrived at Macy’s to meet Corinne, she already had a dressing room full of dresses, tops and skirts for me to try.  We made quick work of those and then hit the floor to pick up a few more items.  In two hours, I was completely set and didn’t even scratch the bank.  Corinne really is amazing and a godsend for those of us who hate shopping.  Thanks, Corinne!

Stay tuned for more on my travels,
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Kate Watson, Photographer
http://www.katewatsonphotography.com

Lisa - Have a great time!! I spent 5 months in Ghana studying abroad and loved it.

Ghana Bound

ghana-mapFor the last 20 years or so, I’ve wanted to go to Africa. It’s been something I felt I just had to do. And I don’t mean in the photo safari sense, although that would be amazing. In college, I studied international development and economics as part of my business degree, learning about microcredit and the positive impact of small businesses on a nation’s economy.

About five years ago, I discovered Women in Progress (WIP). WIP is a nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty by providing support to small women-owned businesses. It wasn’t the right time for me to volunteer then, but earlier this year, I decided that I would not let another year pass by without having the experience.

I’m thrilled to announce that in late October, I am headed to Ghana, West Africa for four weeks! Can you tell I’m excited? As a volunteer, I will be working side-by-side with women business owners, providing hands-on assistance implementing practical business and technology strategies in their day-to-day business operations. I’m sure this will be a challenging experience and one that will shape me in ways I can’t even imagine right now. As Renae Adam, founder and executive director of Women in Progress, says, “Volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience that triggers most volunteers to begin a life-long journey to promote cultural diversity, foster understanding, and thrive in a multicultural society. The only requirements to becoming a volunteer with Women in Progress are a sense of humor, flexibility, spirit of adventure, and the desire to help others.”

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great, Kate. How is this relevant to your photography business? Well, as a woman business owner, I feel a kinship for the women working with WIP. I’m looking forward to helping them pursue their goals and dreams in whatever way I can, and to learning from them in return.

Current economic-development thought emphasizes the role (or lack thereof) of women in a society. A recent New York Times article, for example, said, “In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy. With education and with help starting businesses, impoverished women can earn money and support their countries as well as their families. They represent perhaps the best hope for fighting global poverty.”

“Focusing on the growth of women-owned businesses produces broad results within African communities since women play the central role in ensuring the social and economic well-being of their families,” adds Adam. One of the key advantages to supporting women-owned businesses — beyond ensuring that day-to-day household needs are met — is to help ensure the opportunity for education of girls. When resources are scarce, boys may be sent to school while girls stay home, propagating the cycle of illiterate and subjugated women.

As you can imagine, financial support is extremely important to the continued operation of a nonprofit organization like Women in Progress. Donations provide direct assistance to women who are struggling to grow their micro and small businesses. They also enable WIP to provide women entrepreneurs access to resources such as computers in order to improve efficiencies within their organizations. If you would like to contribute to the work of Women in Progress, you can make a donation through my First Giving website, check out their list of requested in-kind donations or visit Global Mamas, the online store where they sell the wonderful products of the women entrepreneurs.

Thanks so much for reading about my upcoming adventure! I look forward to keeping you updated as my journey unfolds.
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Art Aligned™ » Blog Archive » Help a girl, change the world - […] In case you were wondering, this is more than a blog topic to me. In fall 2009, I spent a month volunteering in Ghana to help empower women business owners through Women in Progress. Here are just a few of […]

OMG! I’m on NBC Bay Area

My friend, Urban Darling founder Corinne Phipps, recently asked if I’d be her model for an article she was writing about her work as a wardrobe stylist.  I said, “Sure,” so she visited my house last week and rooted through my closet, performing a closet audit.  We also went shopping for some cute warm-weather dresses and skirts that I’ll wear during my trip to Ghana this fall (more about that coming very soon!).
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Here are a couple of the outfits she put together:
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On Monday her article, complete with pictures, appeared on the home page of the Around Town section of NBC Bay Area.  So exciting!

To read the article and see the photos with appropriate commentary, click the link below:
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/around-town/fashion/Nothing-to-Wear-Audit-Your-Closet-56364417.html

Of course it was fun to be on the local NBC page, but I’m also very happy that the nonprofit organization I’ll be working with in Ghana — Women in Progress — also got some attention.  If you haven’t checked out their Global Mamas store yet, please do so to see what these women artisans are working on.

Happy Thursday,
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Kate Watson, Photographer
http://www.katewatsonphotography.com

denise olson - oh Kate….congrats!!! You look wonderful!! Have fun and be safe on your upcoming trip.

-denise:)