Our first stop on Saturday was the Village Exchange. Christiane Milev founded VEG in 2002 to focus on women's reproductive health issues. After working in development for more than 20 years, she had a checklist of criteria she was looking for in finding a location to start an organization that could have the impact she hoped for, and Ghana met all her requirements.
*Thanks to Dami's hat, he always makes for good pictures.
Though the organization initially focused on women;s heath, it quickly moved into other areas understanding that issues cannot be addressed in isolation, but must be approached holistically. Their most recent efforts include a social entrepreneurship program. In partnership with an Italian economist, they are providing workshops in innovation and creativity as well as business development to two groups of entrepreneurs. One group is also being provided smart phones with an app aimed at developing the entrepreneurs networks and ability to communicate with each other. They'll be looking to see what impact this has on the work these entrepreneurs do.
They have also started a electrical and solar training program. It is their goal to develop a common degree with the national technical school. However, currently, there is no recognized exam for solar in country.
*The solar panels are made from scrap solar cells.
I was interested to hear they are in the process of ending their micro finance project. The program required a great deal of capital, which means they were always out after money and Christiane said they were losing credibility this way.
After a lunch that included peacocks (not to eat, but to be fascinated by and attempt selfies with), we were off to see a kente weaving operation. Unfortunately, the weavers are typically outside and that is when the downpour started. However, there was a small amount of activity going on in a covered area. Nii explained a little about the background and students got to try their hands at the complicated process.
*Can you tell I am taking a page from the Kelley play book, getting my shots with the backs of students wearing McCombs gear.
After the weaving facility, we trekked into a more rural area to see what we were oh so diplomatically calling a rum distillery, but what was clearly a moonshine set up. This distilled palm wine is called akpeteshie. The students were able to see how it is harvested and taste the palm wine (which is really more like palm water or sap since it is not fermented and comes straight from the palm tree).
Then we returned to the still to see the distillation process. Palm wine first sits in drums for various periods of time before it is put into the still, in this case, an oil drum over an open flame. It is then pumped through tubing that runs through a large concrete pool to cool and out a cotton filtered tap at the end.
Students were also able to taste the finished product and take a little home with them.
That night was Sam's birthday and Nii arranged for a cake to be made. While most of the group went out on the town, I took advantage of the time to catch up on some much needed sleep.