In October, five CommonBond members and three employees visited Ghana for our Second Annual CommonBond Impact in Action trip. Read on to learn more about each of the participants' experience seeing the impact of CommonBond's Social Promise first hand.
It is truly amazing how a genuine smile can make you feel. On my trip to Ghana with CommonBond, touring the communities that Pencils of Promise impacts, we were met with waves of sincere gratitude, overwhelming excitement, and bright, beautiful, hopeful smiles. The people of Ghana proved to be among the most welcoming and embracing that I have ever met. Even in the most impoverished areas, where opportunity is fleeting, the communities showed such energy and enthusiasm in everything they did. Perhaps the basic agrarian lifestyle allows them to see, without the blinders that we often wear as a result of our modern American society, the beauty in life's most simple pleasures.
Their happiness, however, is not a reflection of being content. Instead, the Ghanaian people are eager to learn, prosper and enrich the lives of their communities. They crave education and opportunity, and CommonBond's support of Pencils of Promise has positioned it well to help provide both.
To be candid, I'm skeptical of the lasting impact of charitable gifts, which is why I was so impressed by the 80/20 model that Pencils of Promise uses. Each community that Pencils of Promise builds a school structure in must contribute a minimum of 20% of the cost of construction. In many cases, the community meets this commitment by providing raw materials and unskilled labor. This shared responsibility helps foster ownership and community ties to the school structure and, more importantly, to the educational environment that it provides. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to lend our strength to ongoing construction in Agorhome where we made bricks and hauled aggregate for the foundation of a brand new six-unit school building. The community workers were patient with us as we came up to speed on the proper techniques, encouraged us along the way, and we laughed together at jokes in languages that we couldn't understand. How could a group of stand-out Americans be wholly accepted into a community so quickly? It's the Ghanaian way, it would seem.
I'm fortunate enough to speak a universal language that transcends words: football. One memory that will last with me for a lifetime is when I had a chance to kick a ball around with the children. The football's leather panels had long since broken away and all that was left was the bladder. Yet while the ball was in tatters, the happiness that it brought to the children, and admittedly to me, was so pure.
During a brief break between our community engagements, we hopped through several local artisan shops. Adorning the shop walls, above the many stunning paintings and embroideries, were wooden masks. I picked up on an interesting pattern – each mask featured one of two symbolic carvings. The first, universally identifiable as the symbol of love, was the heart. The other was one that I hadn't seen before and one of the artisans gladly enlightened me. The carving, as shown here, is an Adinkran symbol called Nyame Biribi Wo Soro and it symbolizes hope. How fitting that the two symbols most prominently embraced by artisan after artisan represented love and hope – the two most omnipresent emotions that we constantly felt from the Ghanaian people we met.
I return now to the U.S. with a new appreciation for CommonBond's support of the work that Pencils of Promise is doing, a reinforced view that profit and social impact are each enhanced by the other, a newfound love for Ghana, and hope for its people.