In life there are two kinds of people; those who complain and watch things happen, and those who jump in and make good things happen. In this blog I'll share with you the stories of people in and from Ghana who are changemakers and I hope to inspire you to leave the complainers on the sidelines who cannot see any good thing in Ghana and jump right into the fun and action!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Resilience on the Streets of Accra

So I decided to revive this blog partly because I want to begin to contribute more to making things work better in Ghana outside my work at Reach for Change. At Reach for Change we invest in social entrepreneur who are moving the needle on solving social problems in Ghana and around the world. Its great to support these people to make change happen but I also want to be in the trenches publicly talking about and being part of making our beautiful country truly great and strong. So here we go with my first post in a looooooong while. This morning on the way to work, I met a beggar at the traffic lights. That's not particularly remarkable, as in Accra there are beggars at many major traffic lights. They approach cars when the lights are red to ask for money. Many of them are people living with physical or mental disabilities. Sometimes I give them some money and sometimes I don't, but even when I do its usually with this sense of judging them for refusing to work and being on the street. Firstly because I believe if someone refuses to work when they can, then they should not sponge of others and probably also because I've also been influenced by the stories in popular urban culture of beggars who make a fortune off the street and own shops and mansions or those who when offered jobs have opted to return to the street because they make more money there. But today as I prayed in my car on my commute and saw this guy in wheelchair coming towards me. It struck me that he was a human being with a story just like me, with issues just like the ones I was praying and thinking about and I wondered who he was and got curious. So I gave him a one cedi note and then asked him "What is your name and why are you in the street begging". To my surprise he responded in excellent English and told me his name was Alhassan and his story was that he can struggled through Senior Secondary School, he was a science student, but had not done well enough in some subjects (Biology and another one) to go to a tertiary institution. He wanted to rewrite his exams but he hasn't been able to get a job and doesn't have someone to support him so he's on the street for a while to save some money to be able to pay for a class. And he ended by saying "we are all are on the street for different reasons". Immediately the way I saw him changed from "lazy beggar" to "young enterprising young man going through a rough patch" and I began to think what I could say and do to encourage him. For me the learning and good news was this. Human beings are resilient. God has put in each one of us the ability to learn, grow, deal with adversity and recover. Here was this young man living with a disability struggling to do just that learn and grow, and somehow part of his journey included a stint on the street. We may not agree with the choices that brought him there but his story in its basic essence is not so different from any of our stories (We the non-street dwellers of Accra). So today instead of assuming you know someone's story and labeling them "poor beggar", "selfish taxi-driver" take a minute, be curious and learn what you don't know - another person's story from their point of view. Make a human connection, listen to another and affirm someone else's basic humanity by treating them with dignity and be part of the Good News happening in Ghana.

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