Archive for the ‘Ghana’ Category

Day Two: A Ghana Field Officer’s Story

November 12, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Williams Kwarah, 32, comes from Navrongo, Ghana. He joined Grameen Foundation in June 2010 as the Technical Field Officer on our MOTECH (Mobile Technology for Community Health) project, and is now a Field Lead/Coordinator.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate that there are simple ways of addressing the causes of most of the health problems that rural communities encounter. In addition to the vicious circle of poverty, some of the true causes are lack of access to information and services. I have always had the passion to help bridge this gap, to make health information more accessible to our rural folks – my people!

Williams (left) helps a pregnant woman register for our Mobile Midwife service so that she’ll receive regular messages on her mobile phone about how to have a healthy pregnancy.

Mobile technology is evolving in my part of the African continent, and it is a promising way of addressing most of our public health issues. The best part of my work is listening to our clients talk about how the Mobile Midwife messages have improved their lives, because they can now access quality health information and services readily at their homes on their mobile phones. Our health workers also tell us how the system helps them easily track their patients and give better care, helping them manage client health data efficiently.

The flip side of this is lack of funds to implement other activities that will enhance our services. Because MOTECH is a single project and budgets are limited, it becomes quite difficult to incorporate auxiliary programs that also help rural families. For example, phone ownership among pregnant women in rural communities is relatively low. But we can expand our reach by equipping a trusted community agent with a mobile phone to help women without phones listen to helpful messages regarding good health practices. In addition, providing portable solar charging devices for charging mobile phones in those communities off the national grid power would help many more women access this life-saving information.

Overall, when I lie down at the close of the working day, and I am able to say I have successfully trained 50 nurses on the use of a phone application, helped register 50 clients into Mobile Midwife, and installed two agents to assist clients get the messages – it’s a wonderful feeling.

We hope that our supporters share this “wonderful feeling,” knowing that you are truly making a difference in the lives of poor women. Please consider helping us reach more poor women in rural Ghana and around the world by supporting Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 Days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Day One: A Ghanaian Mother’s Story

November 11, 2012

For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.

Mariatu Manafo, of Ofaakor, Ghana, is thankful for Grameen Foundation’s donors and their support for our Mobile Health initiative in Ghana, known as MOTECH. Through its “Mobile Midwife” service, poor pregnant women and new mothers receive vital care information to help them have a healthier pregnancy and to better care for their baby during the first year of the child’s life. Here’s her story, as told to Grameen Foundation staff in Ghana.

I registered for the Mobile Midwife service when I was in my first trimester. Before the introduction of the messages in Ofaakor, I had lost two previous pregnancies. This was partly because I had to rely on recommendations from some friends and extended family members about the use of herbal medication that they felt was helpful. I hardly ate any fruits or drank enough water during my earlier pregnancies.

Mariatu listens to messages on her mobile phone about how to have a healthy pregnancy and raise a healthy baby.

Listening to Mobile Midwife messages every week of my third pregnancy really made a big difference, and now I have my beautiful daughter Salamatu. A message that was really helpful was on nutrition. My husband Nuru took interest in the messages and most often listened to the content with me, perhaps because of the previous miscarriages. With both of us listening to the messages, he realized the importance of eating more fruits during pregnancy, and he often brought home fruits for me.

I am a living testimony to how Mobile Midwife has really helped. Previously, I was more susceptible to the complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. I did not have the necessary information to make decisions regarding my unborn child – I simply did not know the right kinds of food to eat, or how I should care for myself. I did not know when – or if! – to go for medical checkups. Before, I took certain symptoms during pregnancy lightly, but Mobile Midwife empowered me with the right information about pregnancy and childbirth.

Mariatu credits our Mobile Midwife service for helping her stay healthy during her pregnancy, and now she has her beautiful baby daughter Salamatu.

Her husband, Nuru Manafo, added:

As a family, we are now able to save some money – we do not have to visit the health center because of malaria and other common childhood diseases. Some of the messages advised us to always use insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria. My wife always insisted that we use the nets and she regularly visited the clinic for her malaria drugs when she was pregnant. I am always thankful for Mobile Midwife in our community, especially because, before, my family knew very little about pregnancy and child care.. The messages encouraged my wife to go to the health facility for delivery and now I am a proud father of a beautiful daughter whom I have christened the MOTECH baby!

Thanks to the support of our donors, Mariatu and  Nuru were connected to vital information that helped them theirr healthy baby daughter, Salamatu. You can help more families like theirs by supporting Grameen Foundation today.

Our 12 Days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.

You can read the rest of our series here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Things Move More Slowly in Africa

June 27, 2012

Shannon Maynard is Director of Bankers without Borders® (BwB), Grameen Foundation’s skilled-volunteer initiative. Maynard has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and volunteer mobilization. Before joining Grameen Foundation, she served as Executive Director of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, and managed strategic initiatives for the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. This post is the third in a four-part series; you can read her first post here, and her second post here.

“Things move more slowly in Africa” – this is a common refrain for many of us at Grameen Foundation when we find ourselves experiencing hurdles with our work in places like Nigeria and Ethiopia. In fact, African countries and the organizations we work with do often lack the infrastructure – particularly the Internet connectivity – that contributes to the fast-paced, rapid-response world that those of us based in the United States have grown so accustomed to. Slower is also a word I’d use to describe Bankers without Borders’ own presence in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Joining Grameen Foundation after primarily working with US-based NGOs, I remember my own first experiences arranging a call with a microfinance institution (MFI) leader in Sub-Saharan Africa – fumbling around with Skype to enter the correct phone number, then getting a voicemail message in a language I couldn’t understand. It might take a few weeks of trying to connect at a time convenient for us both. In those early days, Grameen Foundation did not have local offices or staff in places like Nairobi, Accra or Kampala. Cultivating relationships and managing projects is difficult to do from a different continent, which is why I am amazed we were actually able to do any work in places like Ghana and Nigeria in those first few years of BwB.

Over the past year, however, BwB has been able to gain some traction in the region, thanks to the regional leadership of Erin Conner and Steve Wardle, and BwB Regional Program Officer Martin Gitari, all based in Nairobi.

David Washer (right) spent a week meeting clients and lending his skills in finance to Eshet, an Ethiopian microfinance institution, as part of Bankers without Borders' FiDavid Washer (right) spent a week meeting clients and lending his skills in finance to Eshet, an Ethiopian microfinance institution, as part of BwB's Financial Modeling Reserve Corps.nancial Modeling Reserve Corps.

David Washer (right) spent a week meeting clients and lending his skills in finance to Eshet, an Ethiopian microfinance institution, as part of BwB’s Financial Modeling Reserve Corps.

Grameen Foundation’s own programs, particularly our MOTECH work in Ghana and Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) program in Uganda, are BwB’s biggest clients. In our early days, we had a hard time convincing Grameen Foundation’s own technology teams of the services we could provide, because Grameen Foundation’s own employees assumed BwB was only focused on connecting bankers with microfinance institutions (a fair assumption, given our name). Thanks to some education on our part and the willingness of these programs’ leaders to give us a try, we’ve been able to place volunteers such as Chris Smith and Gillian Evans (a husband-and-wife team) with CKW and Roche employee Lynda Barton with MOTECH, in year-long placements. We’ve worked with CKW to establish a local collaboration with Makere University to provide interns to our Uganda office each semester. And we’ve just finalized arrangements to engage a Glaxo Smith Kline employee with the CKW team on a six-month assignment, starting this month.

(more…)

Experiencing Microfinance in Ghana, Part II

July 19, 2011

Kim Kerry-Tyerman is a volunteer for Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders® initiative, based in Ghana and Kenya for eight weeks to help the BwB team develop relationships with local organizations (companies, associations, microfinance clubs and institutions of higher education) there. She recently posted a blog about her experience working with another BwB volunteer on behalf of Grameen Ghana, helping to implement a financial-modeling approach by Grameen Foundation that we hope to replicate at microfinance institutions (MFIs) throughout the world; an excerpt from that post is below, with a link to the full post.  If you’d like to read her first posting about her BwB experience in Ghana, you can find it here.

I’ve been counting down the days to this.  Not that thunderstorms, tigernut cocktails and weekend stays at oceanside eco lodges haven’t kept me busy – my stay in Ghana has been a fascinating combination of experiences both new (opening a coconut with a machete) and surprisingly normal (watching too many episodes of “The New Adventures of Old Christine” while dogsitting for a friend).  But I’m not here just to drive around with locals to chop bars with dancehall music blaring out the open windows to join in the cacophony of Accra streets.  Certainly part of the fun, but not the goal.

I’ve been talking up the Bankers without Borders program to MFIs across Accra, and this is finally my chance to watch it in action.  Grameen Foundation asked me to shadow a BwB project for a partner MFI called Grameen Ghana in the northern city of Tamale (surprisingly no affiliation despite the shared namesake).  A volunteer from an investment bank in NYC, Noah, is delivering training on a new financial model over a 4-day assignment.  This is only the second time this Grameen Foundation model has been passed on to another MFI, but BwB hopes this will eventually lead to a standard for financial projections across the industry.

On the Road to Tamale, Ghana.

On the road to Tamale, Ghana.

My role on the project varies depending on who you talk to.  BwB would like me to evaluate the project from both volunteer and client perspectives with an objective third eye.  Not having a chance to introduce myself during the kick-off meeting with the MFI, however, gave the director the opportunity to task me with a different role.  “And Noah has brought this pretty woman,” he announced to the team, “so everything we do will be prettier.”  Challenge accepted.

Read the rest of Kim’s blog post >>

Experiencing Microfinance in Ghana

June 30, 2011

Kim Kerry-Tyerman is a volunteer for Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders® initiative, based in Ghana and Kenya for eight weeks to help the BwB team develop relationships with local organizations (companies, associations, microfinance clubs and institutions of higher education) there.  A graduate student in public policy at Mills College in Oakland, CA, Kim is a former AmeriCorps VISTA fellow, where she researched strategic volunteerism at the Taproot Foundation. She has dual citizenship in the US and the UK, and has volunteered on several community development projects throughout England, Eastern Europe and Africa. She says her hobbies include daydreaming, playing tennis and drinking beer.

Readers of this blog might enjoy the most recent post on her own blog, Akua Yevu, in which she describes her experiences meeting with staff and clients of a microfinance institution in Ghana:

Ghana moves slowly.  Meals at restaurants can take an hour to arrive and the mud sidewalks are crowded with ambling pedestrians who stop to chat frequently.  Last night a friend told me about checking in on an item he had ordered from a vendor; when he asked when it would be ready, the response was, “for sure maybe tomorrow.”  This is at once the most wonderful and most frustrating characteristic of Ghanaian life.  Something I really wanted to do on this trip was meet at least one microfinance client to see for myself if a small loan really made a tangible difference.  Recognizing the sluggish speed of life and acknowledging my short time here, I wasn’t too optimistic that I’d get the opportunity.  But as those who have come to know Ghana understand, things have a way of working out in ways you can’t anticipate.

The view from Hillburi, Aburi, Ghana.

The view from Hillburi, Aburi, Ghana.

The first MFI I met with last week was impressive from the moment I entered the office.  I did not expect them to be in a five-story office building with glass walls and cubicles, nor did I think that my flip flops and sundress would render me embarrassingly underdressed.  A team of three men in sharp suits, including the CEO, ran me through a well-prepared Powerpoint on their background and operations.  They base their banking on mobility; that is, their loan officers each have a mobile phone and a mobile printer through which they can serve hundreds of customers in remote villages throughout their target regions.  Customers receive a printed receipt while their information is sent from the phone back to an impressive information management system (that the company developed internally) so that the head offices can keep track of individual balances, outstanding loans, and agent collections.  This model is limitless, especially in terms of reaching customers in remote areas who lack access to financial services the most.  After an hour or so I thanked them for their time, and left the meeting more than satisfied.

>> Continue reading Kim’s blog

Lessons Learned from Mobile Technology for Community Health in Ghana

June 15, 2011

Sandra Fernandez is a Social Media Intern for Grameen Foundation.

Over nearly the last year, we’ve been piloting our Mobile Technology for Community Health, or MOTECH, initiative in the remote Upper East Region of Ghana.  MOTECH’s two key services – Mobile Midwife and Nurse Application – provide maternal health information via mobile phones to both pregnant parents and their community nurses in rural areas. The system was launched in July 2010, and we’ve experienced many successes ever since. As is expected with any new projects, it’s also been an intensive learning process. Here’s a short overview of some of the lessons we’ve learned.

Creating the content for the Mobile Midwife service was a fascinating process. We convened focus groups to test whether our messages were clear, effective and helpful – where, among other things, we learned that we needed to be sensitive about the accent and speed of the messages, as well as the “depth.”  Mobile Midwife users strongly preferred to hear messages from a voice that sounded like an experienced “auntie”– meaning a voice that wasn’t too formal or too casual, but wise and familiar. Using voices that users felt were trustworthy was a vital step in ensuring the effectiveness of our messages.

MOTECH’s Nurse Application – designed to help community health workers track patients’ needs and care – was originally meant to utilize the nurses’ personal phones. Yet we learned that over the long term, it was cheaper and more effective to provide participating nurses with low-cost, durable handsets that were pre-programmed with MOTECH forms for data entry. As such, we could avoid the considerably high text-messaging costs associated with personal mobiles, while experiencing an easier, more cohesive training process.

These are just a couple of the findings. We’ve learned a lot since July of last year, and expect to continue doing so in the coming months. We’ve recorded more than 150 MOTECH messages (even some in song!), and we’re currently working on a replication project in the Awutu Senya district of Ghana’s central region, to assess opportunities of expanding the MOTECH initiative nationally.

If you’d like to read more about our findings, we’ve recently prepared a report of lessons learned available for download.