Volunteer Report:  Amanda Marie Oakes (Microfinance)

Post date: Aug 11, 2013 8:50:37 PM

1. Your background

I am a graduate student at the American University in Cairo studying Development Economics. I am a Research Fellow at AUC and have also worked for a non-

profit development organization in Cairo performing researching and drafting publications to promote business and investment in Egypt. I wanted to gain an "on the ground" perspective in development and also travel to West Africa. 2. About the programs you worked on while with VPWA

I volunteered with the Microfinance project with VPWA. VPWA was extremely flexible with my school and work schedule and it was one of the highest rated NGOs in Ghana. I volunteered for 2 weeks during my spring break from April to May 2013.

3. Any specific tasks you worked on while on the program(s).- Any major accomplishments while with VPWA? Did you play any leadership role (Snr Volunteer, Program Leader? Task Leader?

I specifically worked with Comfort and another volunteer in the Microfinance office to help design a detailed questionnaire to be completed and tracked monthly to help determine viability of borrower's business. I also performed field visits to assist in the collection of microloan payments, as well as assess the current state of affairs of borrowers.

4. Describe living arrangement in your own words

The living arrangements are simple and safe, and close to the towns we worked in. There is a convenience store with refrigerated drinks (a treat!) and a couple fruit and water stalls along the main road where you can stock up on simple things. Dinner was provided every night and was very good. Extremely light clothing is necessary (and maybe even a spray bottle to carry with you) if you are not good with extreme heat and humidity.

5. What will you remember about Ghana

How friendly everyone is. Our neighbors were so kind and genuinely cared that we were enjoying our stay, and it is hard to pass someone on the road without receiving a "good morning, how are you" and a smile.

6. What makes VPWA different from other organizations if any, in your own words

VPWA is not a commercialized organization. It is not a "volunteer vacation" where you go on organized tours and have great amenities. But you will do real work. You will deal with the real day-to-day challenges of operating an NGO in rural Accra. Things move slower, and unexpected events will come up. But everyone at VPWA is solely focused on the organization's goals. And Hayford, the founder, has real passion for his country and his projects, and this shows in the success of VPWA and the reputation it has in the development sector.

7. Advice for future volunteers on the program, living, traveling and working in Ghana.

Remember - things move much slower! Don't get frustrated. Try to acclimate to the culture and just go with the flow.