03.03.2004 Feature Article

WARD is making a difference, Will you?

WARD is making a difference, Will you?
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Let me transport you back in time to our modest beginnings in Ghana. It might have been a while ago, but if you are like most people, you still remember a thing or two about your roots.

Many of us arrived here from Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Southern Africa, Nigeria, etc. Others came directly from Ghana. We came with a multitude of disciplines… as students, lecturers/professors, workers, stowaways, visitors, etc. But surely, a good majority of us graduated from the numerous secondary schools on the land.

Secondary school or undergraduate life was fun. Those were the days when the typical secondary school tuition (room and board included) was a modest 50 Cedis per term. Back then, the official dollar-to-cedi exchange rate was 1:1.15 while the "cow lane" hovered around 1:3. Nonetheless, 50 Cedis per term (i.e. less than $45) provided our basic living at our respective secondary schools. For less than $0.50 per day, we enjoyed three square meals every day, contemporary IMPORTED textbooks, weekly entertainment, school transportation (by way of school trucks), basic health care, etc.

Less than $15/month, in my opinion was a very inadequate amount to cover the above listed expenses. For the skeptics among us, please throw in instructors' salaries and I am sure you will agree! For those who attended local universities, life was equally great! Most got "loans" which they NEVER fully repaid!! Those so-called loans would today be referred to as GRANTS in America. After graduation, we did the mandatory "honorable" two-to-three year national service and "left"… US-bound.

Those who came as students quickly learned that a "loan" in America really meant money to be paid back. And so we set about securing those wonderful school/college loans. Then we studied hard for a better life, and once that goal was achieved, we did in fact work hard to repay our American loans in full. What about those early loans that gave us our initial start back in Ghana? Well, that's a different story!

Meanwhile, the typical Ghanaian worker whose blood, sweat, and tears generated the convenient subsidies that nurtured us aged and retired. And because a great many of us glibly evaded our obligation to repay those loans… compounded of course by the numerous other problems that have since beset the country… the Cedi's value plummeted, so that today, those retired patriots whose legacy is our lush harvest of academic achievement and fiscal emancipation, find their needs woefully unmet in their vulnerable golden years. Some "golden years" these are turning out to be for these living saints…they should more aptly be seen what they truly are… agonizing "years of lead!!" Such is the day-to-day "PLIGHT of ORDINARY GHANAIAN FOLKS". Oh sure, a few lucky ones have relatives abroad who sustain them with dollars. But what about the rest…the ones left with nothing to count on but the pittance of monthly retirement remuneration…sporadically remitted at best?

Here's how we can all make a difference. The name is WARD, and WARD stands for West African Relief and Development Corporation. What is WARD? WARD is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization comprising Africans and Americans united in their determination to make a better way of life possible for the West African peoples.

Founded in 1987, the organization is run by a Board of Directors made up of men and women from across the United States. What are WARD's Objectives? 1. Assist West African people, without regard to religious or ethnic background, attain long-term changes to their economic and social conditions.

2. Support processes that will increase the ability of local institutions to begin and successfully carry out their own development projects.

3. Provide relief to improve the quality of life in times of acute disablement or suffering.

4. Attack the root causes of the "cycle of poverty" which affect many West African people today. What does WARD do? In our efforts to improve the quality of West Africans, we are committed to: 1. Stimulate agricultural development in rural areas, including working in cooperation with American agricultural supply and research firms.

2. Work to introduce effective farming technology to increase crop yields.

3. Provide health care and health education in rural areas.

4. Strengthen educational programs (e.g. scholarships) and implement new programs in rural areas. WARD is all of us! We invite you to take a closer look at WARD. And while you're at it, why not consider becoming a member of WARD? To find out more about WARD and how you can become a part of it, please do one of the following: (1) Send email to: [email protected] (2) Or write to: Kwaku Kwakyi WARD Secretary/Treasurer P.O. Box 206 Royal Oak, MI 47068

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