Meet the Local is a series designed to uncover the differences (and similarities) in how we think and live in different parts of the world. Over the upcoming months, I’ll ask locals from places all over the world the same set of getting-to-know-you questions. This week, we travel to Ghana, where it's typical to have both a Christian name and a local name---so meet Jane, or Nana Ama Nyamekye. She was born in Kumasi, and now lives in Accra, Ghana's capital, where she works at The Hunger Project, a NGO that focuses on empowering people to end their own hunger.
What do you like about the place you live?
The people around are quite warm. They show their communal spirits, and I communicate well with them.
What don’t you like so much?
The roads. They are untarred, they are dusty. When it rains, it becomes quite difficult to get anywhere, to even walk, because it’s muddy, and there are a lot of potholes so if someone is driving and someone passes by, you can get quite wet if the driver doesn’t avoid it.
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
I like local porridge, it’s made from millet and ginger and a little chili pepper. We call it koose---it’s made from black eyed peas. You can eat bread with it, but I feel like the bread is too heavy, so I mix it with the porridge. Sometimes I have hot chocolate with it.
What do you do for a living? How important is your job to your sense of self?
I’m into small scale banking, so to speak---I’m in micro finance. I work with a NGO whose goals I really admire. My job makes me feel fulfilled in that I grew up in an environment where people could be very intelligent but because they lacked the financial ability, they couldn’t reach whatever targets or goals they set for themselves. My job looks at ensuring that people are economically self sufficient. It aligns with myself, my personal feeling and hope for the world. I expect people to be okay, I expect people to be looking out for a world that embraces people, that people will be given opportunities to make ends meet. I believe that everybody has potential, and that, given the opportunity, they can meet the goals they set for themselves. This job allows people to be uplifted.
What do you do for fun?
I like to be with kids---they’re adorable. I like to admire their innocence. But mostly, I unwind my day with a movie, or sometimes I end my day by listening to gospel preaching.
How often do you see your family? Tell me what you did the last time you saw them.
The last time I saw my family was in the end of May, a little while ago, but I will see them this weekend. With my cousins, they are a little older than me, but they are all involved in corporate institutions, so first I try to talk about how we can help women, and women in the workplace. But sometimes we just talk about family. Last time we met, they asked me to help plan my auntie’s birthday.
What’s your biggest dream for your life?
My dream is to be able to get a PhD, something that will be beneficial to other people. I want to do research, and maybe to lecture as time goes on, so that the experience that I’ve gathered can be combined with the academic world so that I can be efficient and effect change.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I always want to be in Ghana, because the people are warm, and because I have the chance to improve upon the systems. I want to make it so most people can go to school, and then most people can give back to society, especially in the rural areas. So yeah, I would want to be in Ghana.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of being a change agent. In my line of work, I work with people who want to take a step forward in their economic adventures. I get so happy and proud when people tell me how their lives have changed from nothing to economic self-sufficiency. I have more than a hundred women who had nothing, no savings, but have saved now amounting to more than 500 Ghana cedis (approximately $250 USD). They’ve been able to send their children to school, some to the tertiary levels. I get so happy when I realize that people are not always just sitting down folding their arms but they are always trying to work, to change their lives.
How happy would you say you are? Why?
I would say I’m happy, I’m fulfilled, even though I haven’t gotten to my limit yet. There is always room for improvement. I know that I’m working in a good team, and my team members are all working together to achieve the same goals. In my home, there is peace---with my husband, everything is okay. When I go to the field, I meet my women who embrace me with huge smiles because of the changes they’re seeing in their lives.