Buddha in Ghana: Creating Enlightened Society

Seattle Shambhalian Sala Sweet is creating enlightened society in Ghana. Her many amazing projects include delivering used clothes to villagers, supporting schools, and co-founding an organization called the Grow Foundation for Ghana. Following are some “in the moment” excerpts from Sala’s Journal.

Visit to Afuaman
by Sala Sweet

On a mid-summer Saturday in Ghana, eight members of the Accra North Rotary Club and visiting Rotarian and Shambhalian Sala Sweet, from Ballard/Seattle USA, set off to visit the village of Afuaman and take boxes of used clothing to its residents.

Sala Sweet (second from left) takes road trips with the Accra North Rotary Club, in Ghana.

Sala Sweet (second from left) takes road trips with the Accra North Rotary Club, in Ghana.

Roads were flooded in places due to rain the previous days. As we neared the village the truck driven by Rotarian Adam was steered into deep water and the front was submerged. On trying to back up the back tires dug into the mud. People gathered around to offer much advice. Eventually, a larger truck, attached to Adam‘s truck by a chain, pulled it out.

Overcoming obstacles on the path.

Overcoming obstacles on the path.

Since the road that would have allowed us to avoid this adventure was clearly visible and we could have easily been directed to it, there was some suspicion that we were set up. Fees were extracted from us for renting the chain and the labor of those who helped extricate the truck. On we traveled over roads that jarred our bones and muscles. We moved around so much as we bounced in our vehicles that we decided we had accomplished our exercise for the day.

Once in Afuaman we were directed to the Chief’s Palace. However, there was an all night festival the night before and the Chief had left. Elders were assembled to accept the gifts we brought.

After giving the clothes we took a tour of the village and the land that surrounds it. There is much sugar cane – cultivated and wild, as well as ground nuts (peanuts). We were taken to the site of an apeteche distillery. Having been raised in the foothills of the Appalachians it looked to me just like a moonshine still. The final product also resembles moonshine. It is used to toast/pour libations to the ancestors and to have a generally good time, if you are strong enough to imbibe it. Nevertheless, it is a money making venture for the village.

We also had a chance to see a water distillation plant, sponsored by a company that provides the distilling equipment. The water is drawn from a nearby stream and put through a 5 or 6 step distillation process that yields potable, safe water. It is then sold to villagers at a much discounted price. The profits are used to pay back the supplier of the equipment and over time, the community will own the distillation plant. It is very well run with distinct procedures. I asked if having safe water had produced an effect on the health of those in the village. I was told that guinea worm and bilharzias (aka schistosmiasis) had decreased and almost disappeared.

Joy 2 The World
Kathleen Gibbs is someone I have talked to at almost every Accra West Rotary meeting and many times we have discussed the school she founded in Medie (pronounced media), a village about 25 KM north of Accra. The school, Joy 2 The World International School, currently serves Nursery 1 &2 (3& 4 years old); K1, K2 (5&6 years old); and this fall Primary 1. It opened in September, 2013. I attended the graduation of 9 students from K2 to Primary 1 and the PTA meeting that preceded it. Although it is a Christian School, 1/3 of its students are Muslim and the curriculum is such that it serves all children. At the PTA meeting parents were informed that there would be a summer school with limited classroom teaching, art and sports. This allows mothers to work and have a place where their children can be cared for. They were also advised that though the value of the national currency, the cedi, is declining daily and the economy is struggling, there would be no increase in fees for the coming year. Cheers of joy and relief greeted that announcement.

What a room full of shining eyes and future possibilities. Sala's Graduates
The children are taught self confidence and they show it. The parents participate in the school in a way they don’t in most public schools. . The space is alive.

Kathleen plans to expand the school, adding a grade or more of available instruction each year. She has begun fundraising to create a nursery through equivalent of grade 12 in this system. This requires a new building and campus. If you would like to keep up with Joy 2 the World, see the shining faces of her students and donate or sponsor a child go to www.joy2theworld.org.

Grow Foundation for Ghana
Last year, while working for the College of Integrative Medical Sciences (CIMS) near Kumasi I came across an organization on the internet. Moving Worlds originated in Seattle last year and recruits “experteers” – highly skilled volunteers. I submitted a request for experteers to work with CIMS. And in January of this year Michael Robinson responded. We communicated by email and weekly phone calls about helping CIMS. Soon Michael founded Grow Foundation for Ghana to help CIMS and other projects in Ghana. Michael, an accountant and videographer, traveled to Ghana in May to visit CIMS and other potential projects. I traveled with him part of that time.

A couple of weeks ago Michael said “Sala, there wouldn’t be a GFFG without your guidance, you have worked hard to bring it along and you are a good connection in Ghana, traveling there part of each year. Don’t you think you might be a co-founder? I guess I might. So I have accepted that honor. GFFG has 3 Board members in the US, in North Carolina, where Michael resides, 3 in Ghana and one (me) who travels back and forth. We are looking at about 10 potential projects for the next year to 18 months. We will focus on 2 or 3 and begin fundraising. You will definitely be hearing about our organization and the projects with which we will begin our efforts.

College of Integrative Medical Sciences (CIMS)
Negotiations are still ongoing for a campus for the college. The main focus now is an unfinished building in Kwamu, a village between the current location and the center of Kumasi. The first rent payments would be waived in lieu of CIMS finishing the building – electrical work, plumbing, floors and so on. This building is appropriate to begin the accreditation process. If negotiations are completed and funding is located, the improvements would be finished over the first semester of the next school year and classes would be held at the current location until then.

CIMS is offering programs in Nurses Assistant /General Medicine; Medical Imaging (x-ray) Technician and Medical Laboratory Assistant. Curricula are being created for Massage/Physiological Therapist Assistant; Herbal Laboratory Technician (no current curriculum in Ghana) and Emergency Medical Technician (no current curriculum n Ghana).

GFFG continues to work with CIMS. Michael has been working with Dr. Addae to update the business plan and financial projections and negotiate with the owner of an additional property which may become a more permanent campus. Loans will need to come from outside of Ghana. The lowest interest rate, at regular banks, is 30% and non-bank financial institutions charge 50-80% interest. Unbelievable!

The general accreditation process has begun and each program will need to apply for accreditation separately with fees for all. These will be competency-based certificate programs. Further in the future work will begin on degree programs.

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