We were a circle of strangers who talked and laughed, ate and drank, as if we had known each other for a lifetime. It was the perfect way to end a special Rotary day.
In the morning Anne and I gathered with about 100 Rotarians and medical professionals to dedicate a new cold storage facility where polio and other vaccines can be safely kept to serve the Greater Accra Region. Having this storage unit to serve the 4 million people living around Accra means that space can be freed up in the only other such facility to serve the rest of Ghana.
On the second floor of the building housing the cold storage are classrooms and meeting rooms. The building was a cooperative effort of Rotary and the Ghana Health Service. Rotary funded the cold storage (at a cost of which $123,000) and the health service funded the classrooms so that it can offer education classes for nurses and others.
Both Anne and Past Rotary Director and past Foundation trustee Sam Okudzeto of Accra had been on the Foundation’s board of trustees when the money for the cold storage unit was approved in 2012.
Doctors and Rotarians were a part of the ceremony to commission the facility. Anne was the primary speaker, and reminded the gathering that The Rotary Foundation contributed $7 million to Ghana to help in the eradication of polio.
At lunch time we were the honored guests at a joint meeting of 20 Rotary clubs in the Greater Accra area. About 200 Rotarians were present, including a delegation of 15 from Nigeria who had come just for the event.
Anne again was the primary speaker. She talked about all we had seen during our time in Ghana and encouraged the clubs present to work together on projects and global grants to make an even greater impact on the people of Ghana.
I was seated at the head table and was presented with a wood carving representing Ghana. Being at the front of the room made it possible for me to show off the beautiful dress that Anne’s aide Teresa had had made for me just for this day. Teresa had brought two samples of cloth for me to choose from on Sunday night. By Monday night, she had delivered the dress! I borrowed some shoes that matched and had the perfect African outfit.
All of the Rotarians, of course, wanted to speak to Anne, shake her hand, and have their photos taken with her. Having the Vice President of Rotary International visit them and tour their country as Anne had is something they say they will remember for a long time.
As our Rotary public image coordinator in Zone 33, I was happy at the media coverage we received at both events today. We had radio, TV, and print media present. We have gotten coverage of some kind at almost every place we have been. This brings more awareness to the people of Ghana as to how much Rotary is doing here.
In the evening, we got what I think might have been our best look at what a Rotary club should be. Teresa asked us to join us at her house for supper with a few of her fellow club members. Cara, an accountant, picked us up at our hotel at 6:30. Driving through rush hour traffic, we arrived more than an hour later at Teresa’s. But this gave us a chance to ask Cara lots of questions about Ghana, from the tax system to the school system. He was able to help us understand more about this country.
At Teresa’s house, there were nine of us in all, and it didn’t take but a moment to realize that the Ghanaians were not just fellow club members but friends. And they welcomed Anne and me into their circle as if we had known each other for years.
We learned about their RATs competition (Rotary Aptitude Test), where they quiz each other on Rotary facts. We learned about the groups they have formed in the club to organize activities (one group might work on a budget for a project, for example, and another might work on the logistics).
We learned that Daniel, an engineer, is the brother of the owner of the Eusbett Hotel, where we had stayed two nights in Sunyani, and is a member of the Rotary Club of Sunyani East with which we had met.
We learned from club president Oboshie, a banker, that the club has met its project goals for this year, and her main goal for the rest of the Rotary year is to get club members to contribute more to the Rotary Foundation.
We learned from Abena, also a banker, that she had spent a few months in Atlanta, and what she remembers most are the trees.
It was a casual, easy-going evening with friends that underlined the power of Rotary to bring understanding through sitting around a table, laughing and talking about life.
The whole of Tuesday brought to my mind a part of our Four-Way Test. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? When you take time to listen, to see, to experience–even if briefly–the life of another, the answer will always be yes.