Wow. A development worker. For real. I can’t really believe that this is my new and first full-time job. How the heck did I end up here in Kpandai, rural Ghana?!
I grew up in Toronto and then went to the University of Waterloo to study Systems Design Engineering. I didn’t find engineering education too thrilling and spent my time trying to find different outlets for my knowledge. One such dabbling was into the UW Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter where I spent four years learning about advocacy, poverty, international development and Africa. I spent one of my co-op terms (four months) in Botswana (my blog from Botswana) and honestly loved being there, exploring a completely different culture and environment.
I knew that I was passionate about the development of Africa, but wasn’t sure what role I could or should play in that sector. All I knew is that I wanted to live sometime, somewhere in Africa for some long time and try to get a better understanding of the barriers and opportunities that exist in the developing world.
Me and EWB
I was quite apprehensive about the development sector. I was skeptical about western ‘invasion’, assuming we know best without intimate knowledge of the people, cultures and behaviours of the poor we are trying to help, the influence of donor agendas, the dependency on donor institutions to provide basic services in lieu of local government, the sustainability of western solutions in developing countries… on and on my skepticism went.
However, I am extremely excited and passionate about EWB and its work overseas. I really believe in its approach, making understanding on the ground realities an absolute priority, working extremely hard, embracing humility, being constantly critical and working with partners on the ground. EWB embraces failures more than most I have encountered (yep, there are a lot!) and that is something I am really proud of. It isn’t easy to say ‘yep, we were totally wrong there’ when it might mean less money from donors. I am fortunate to have got a role as an African Programs Staff, working for at least a year with the Governance and Rural Infrastructure team here in Ghana (I promise to write a post later on my team, work, Kpandai and Ghana).
The Change of Name
It seems and feels appropriate that this giantly new beginning in my life is coupled with a change in name. Literally. I have shed ‘Alex’ and left her in Canada and emerged in Ghana as Joyce. Joyce the EWB development worker. It may be completely ridiculous, but I really feel like its been an opportunity to stretch my comfort zones and embrace this new challenging role. There is logic behind this switch. In Ghana, Alex is a strictly male name while Joyce is a common female name; after consulting a few people I decided that it would just reduce much confusion by going by Joyce. So… Herro, my name is Joyce! My mum so aptly asked what my last name would be now… and asked why I didn’t just go by my middle name instead; didn’t quite think that one through obviously.
I’m really excited for the upcoming year, full of extreme challenges, frustrations, innovations, successes (hopefully!), friendships, opportunities and inspirations. I can’t imagine a better way to step into my professional career hopefully slowly making this world a better place.
I hope you enjoy following along with my blog to document all these happenings over the next year. Please (PLEASE!) let me know if there is anything you want me to comment on, if you have any (ANNNNYY) questions or comments or arguments or facts or fun. I’m hoping to have a bit of spread between work, everyday life, pictures and a few Joyce-musings… and not to make them too long, sound okay? Oh ya, and comment! I seriously seriously would love it :), it lets me know that someone out there is reading this.