Monday, January 31, 2011

Danwell Credit Union

I can not believe we are starting a new week here in Kumasi. For the next three days we will be working with Danwell Credit Union. It has one main branch and two agencies as they are called here, one in Kasaam and one in Boaman both of which we will be visiting tomorrow. We were at the main branch today visiting with the staff and working with the Manageress Mrs. Philomina Sarpong. Danwell has an assets base of $900,000.00 and is home to 2400 active and dormant members. They have 9 staff members and have complimented their lending products with a Micro Finance department as well. Here in Ghana they have savings boxes, which are strong boxes that are given to members to save money in, piggy banks have nothing on these! There is only one set of keys for the box and they are held at the Credit Unions. The members on a daily basis put money in to the boxes and once the money has gone in the members are unable to access the savings again until the Credit Union comes to open the box for them. The funds are then brought to the Credit Union and deposited into the members account. Danwell has 600 of these savings boxes out in the community. It is a great program and seems to work well for both members and the Credit Union. We were treated to lunch today by Mrs. Philomia and her husband Mr. K K Sarpong, we tried a local dish called Red/Red. It was a type of bean stew with chicken and fried bananas on the side. It was very good. The one we had today was very mild however here in Ghana if you order Red/Red you need to ask because apparently it can be very spicy! On our way back from lunch we were able to stop in and see a few Credit Union members at their shops. We had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Seth Koduah. Seth owns a sandal making shop which employs 9 people. When we asked him why he liked dealing at the Credit Union he said that the Credit Union is the best family he has. He told us that his mother was unable to help him with money so he went to the Credit Union to get a loan to help start his shop, and because he paid his loan back quickly he has been able to borrow a few more times to add machines to his shop to help with his business. He said he wouldn't have been able to do it without the Credit Unions help. His business is growing nicely and he is almost ready to expand into a bigger shop and he says he will be back to the Credit Union for another loan. It was wonderful to meet Seth and see first hand what a difference the Credit Union helps make. Seth is the gentleman in the orange shirt in my pictures attached. As the Credit Union cloth here in Ghana says "Join a Credit Union today the happy family". Well that is about all I have to share today as always I hope everyone enjoys the pictures and Good Night from Kumasi. Lennie Hampton

Saturday, January 29, 2011

As the Credit Unions are not open on Saturdays we had the day to ourselves to explore some of Kumasi and the surrounding area. Our Credit Union driver Emmanuel was gracious enough to take his day off, and drive us around to see some sights of Kumasi, we started the day with a trip just out of town to see where they make Kente cloth. Kente cloth or nwentoma as it is known locally is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the Akan people of Ghana. The cloth that was being made was beautiful and was done so on weaving machines that were spread through out the village that we were visiting. The villagers were gracious enough to demonstrate how they use the weaving machines to make the cloth it was absoultely remarkable. We then purchased some cloth to bring home with us. After we watched the cloth being made another couple of village gentlemen took us to visit their Cocoa farm. They pulled a cocoa pod from the tree and broke it open inside there were seeds that were white in color and were very silky feeling. You took the seed from the pod and chewed on it, however you did not eat the seed completely once the white silky coating was gone you spit the seed out. Apprently if you eat the seed it can make you sick. It was very sweet and not at all what I would have expected a cocoa seed to taste like. They were very good. Apparently once they dry them out that is when you get the chocolate taste and you are able to eat the entire seed. Ghana is known for it's cocoa and the wonderful chocolate that is made with it. After going to the farm we headed back into town where we were able to visit Emmanuels home where we met his two sons and some of his neighbours. We watched some of the women make bannok, soup and we met Emmanuels Grandmother. We then headed for some supper and found a place that made pizza and watched Emmanuel eat his first piece of pizza ever. We felt is was only fair as since we have been here he has insisted we try eating grass cutter, drink coconut milk from a fresh coconut, and eat cocoa seeds. He loved the pizza, can't say we felt the same about the grass cutter! Good night again from Kumasi. Lennie Hampton

Friday, January 28, 2011

We had a revisit today with one of the Credit Unions that had coaches visit them last year, Ramseyer Co-operative Credit Union. We went over the recommendations that had been made and just touched base to see if they were able to use any of the recommendations that were made. We were very excited to find out that all but one of the recommendations had be implemented by the Credit Union and the last one they were still working on. It was even more rewarding to hear how much the recommendations made has helped them in their on going success. We wish them all the best with their new building plans. After we finished working with Mr. Kennedy and his staff we headed back to Tek University Credit Union that we had spent the week with as they had asked us to return on Friday so they could take us out to Lake Bosomtwe. Before we headed out to the Lake they took us over to visit the Student Savings Credit Union, it started off as the Pharmacy Student Savings program and they have now opened their membership up to other faculties. They strictly do deposits and withdrawals and spend allot of time working with and educating the students on the importance of saving. It is a very successful program. We really enjoyed visiting with them. We then headed out to the lake. It took about 45 mins to get there, and was worth the drive it was beautiful! We had lunch on the beach with the Teck University Board and staff, we spent sometime sharing stories and walking the shoreline and took some really great pictures. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. As always I really hope you all enjoy the pictures and Good nite from Kumasi. Lennie Hampton

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We finised meeting with the staff of our 1st Credit Union today, as their Board was not able to meet with us until 3:00 we took sometime to visit one of the local community schools. It was an amazing expereience we had some pencils and books that we left with the Head teacher that they were very grateful to receive. The childern were so thrilled to see us that their teachers where almost unable to keep them in their seats. Emmanuel our Credit Union driver also took us to see his community and his home. It was wonderful to experience both. We then meet with the Board of Directors and Management at Tek University Credit Union and provided them with our report. They were very happy with the report and the suggestions and recommendations that we made. Once we finished presenting the report the Board and Management presented myself and Kristin with traditional Africian dresses and head covers they are beautiful. We put the dresses on and had pictures taken with the Board and Management. Here in Ghana they have what they call Credit Union cloth that they make skirts and shirts and pants out of and one of the messages on the cloth is "one happy family" today this was very apparent as even though we live on the other side of the world today we stood together with other Credit Union employees and shared ideas and had our pictures taken. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures. From Kumasi Good night. Lennie Hampton

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sorry I had not been able to up date the blog in the last day or two we made our journey to Kumasi and the hotel we were staying at was having internet issues, but it was all fixed today so here I am. After meeting with the Ghana Credit Union Association in Accra we started our journey to Kumasi. It was a 5 hour drive of which 2 hours was on roads that I couldn't even describe how bad they were, but we made it. We started working with our 1st Credit Union yesterday, Teck University Credit Union here in Kumasi. This Credit Union is somewhat more advanced than some of the other Credit Union's here in Kumasi largely due to their closed bond association with the University. Due to this relationship the University has designed a Banking System for the Credit Union which they also provide on going techincal support for, so life has been made a bit easier for the staff and Management. The Credit Union has asked us to provide them with support in regards to deliquency and some savings product ideas. We have been working with the staff members Evelyn, Charllote, Johnson, Alex and the Manager Mr Audasi as well as the Board of Directors and Committe members. It has been wonderful sharing ideas and learning about their issues, it has been really interesting to see that our issues really do not differ that much from theirs, so we are all learning alot during this time we have together. We had the opportunity to stop in at a few other Credit Unions this afternoon just to say hello and received very warm welcomes, and were asked alot of questions. I have included some of the pictures I was able to take today I hope everyone enjoys them. From the African city of Kumasi, Medase (thank you) and Good night. Lennie Hampton

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Greetings from Accra

We spent the day today taking a trip up to Cape Coast were we spent the morning with the local people on the beach. We played soccer with a group and watched as the elders of that group pulled in the fishing nets. They managed to catch a small shark in their nets and seemed to be very pleased about it. We took a tour of the slave castle which was very interesting, and sad at the same time. We then took a walk in the rainforest or more specifically should I say a walk ABOVE the rainforest. It was a canopy walk they called it and we walked across what you could decribe as a very narrow suspesion bridge 40 meters above the rainforest. I am happy to be able to say I did it and honest enough to say I was shaking so bad I could barely stand after we finished crossing the 8th bridge! Africa is amazig and we have been enjoying the sights and sounds, but we are all looking forward to getting to our Credit Unions where the work will begin. We have a meeting tomorrow morning with the Ghana Credit Union Association and from there will be heading out to Kumasi where we will be stationed and will attend the Credit Unions from there. I will sign off for now good nite from Africa!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Here at last

Well after several days of intense training and two very long flights and some turbulance like I have never experienced before I made it to Accra. We landed last night at 9:00. When we stepped off the plane you walked into a wall of heat and humidity. We really couldn't see much as it was dark so we are looking forward to doing some exploring tommorow. Untill then Good nite from Africa. Lennie

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning the Malawian Way.....

Scott Kennedy (2'nd from left), Superior Credit Union and Brad Schulta (far right), Horizon Credit Union, Saskatchewan spent several hours with Mathias Mbendela (left) and Stella Kasambara learning what life will be like when they travel to Rumphi, Malawi later this week.  Mathias and Stella are native Malawians who provide assistance to volunteer coaches like Scott & Brad in understanding the intricacies of life in Malawi.  Scott & Brad will be two of six Canadian Coaches travelling to Malawi to assist local credit unions in understanding options available to them for improving their credit union operations.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lennie and Scott aren't shy when it comes to talking about their travels. Follow the link below to watch their Thunder Bay Television interview, which aired January 5, 2011!!

Check it out