Greetings, or as we say in Twi, Ago! Actually there are many different greetings in Twi, that is just one of the most basic ones. As you can probably tell from the subject line my name is Matt. My Ghanaian name is Akwesi Mattew. To tell you a bit about whom I am, I will start from the very beginning. I was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free… Okay maybe that’s not true, but I do have a raccoon skinned cap. I really was born in Delaware, where most of my extended family still resides. My nuclear family moved to California before I turned one. I grew up in Southern California in a nice suburb until I graduated from High School. I played baseball from 8th grade to 11th grade. Making the high school team was the first big challenge I faced in my life and it turned out to be the foundation of so much to come.
I went to college in Northern California at Sonoma State University, in yet another fairly nice suburb. There seems to be a pattern here that doesn’t make much sense to lead to Ghana. Calm down I’ll get there. I started studying Business and soon after got bored, so I switched my major to Environmental Studies and Planning and picked an Energy Management and Design concentration. My decision was calculated to fit my life perfectly. I met with my advisor and after she read off the choices, I told her that I knew a lot about energy after my dad shocked himself across the room fixing a plug. It’s an understatement to say that I made a lucky choice. I really enjoyed my major, but I knew deep down it isn’t what I want to spend my life doing. I took a class that focused on access to energy and how that affects societies across the world. We had a heavy focus on the developing nations. My professor actually lived what he was teaching and I hung on his every word. Outside of classes, I went on a few Alternative Break trips with my school program and with the mother organization, Break Away. The first trip that really changed my perception was a poverty trip to Portland, Oregon. Then that led to an Environmental Justice trip to Tennessee, a literacy trip to Managua, Nicaragua, and finally a community development trip to Atlanta, Georgia. That class, combined with my experience with Alternative Breaks and especially Break Away, set my intentions for my future career. After I took time to absorb those trips, I knew my calling was international community development. Or at least to try it. I’m sure there still is a possibility that I get this experience “out of my system” and end up doing some other job back in the states. I suppose only time will tell.
Slightly before my graduation I was on a determined job search to find something that would give me work experience, while allowing me to travel and experience other cultures. Because of my experiences at SSU, I was focused on finding a job that would enable me to work with populations in developing countries. That lead me to a website called idealist.org, where they post diverse jobs all around the world. No, I wasn’t paid by them to name drop. I found that they were my best resource to find what I was looking for. After many hours of looking, I found a job teaching English in Honduras for one year. I applied and interviewed with the Co-Founder and a Board of Directors member. The next month flashed by, without any real progress being made. They were taking too long to make a final decision, so I used most of my spare time to start looking again. Then, I found this position in Ghana and reached out. Before long they got back to me and wanted to set up an interview. I met on Skype first with the Operational Director, then with the Executive Director. After my second interview I received an offer to join their team. Since the Honduras company seemed to fall off the face of the Earth, I immediately accepted. Even if I had both to choose from, I would have chosen Exponential Education. They presented me with much more freedom to be creative and put my abilities to the test. I was also attracted by the sustainable Asset-Based Community Development model that they took to address the issues in Ghana. That means that they took the assets that already exist, or the SHS students, and used them to address the issue of the low passing rate of the JHS students. Not only that, but the model is powerful because it pays the high school students weekly and gives some of them a scholarship at the end. Addressing all three levels of an education system was probably what sold the position for me.
My responsibilities for Exponential Education include organizing two programs in two separate towns called Antoa and Wonoo. I will be living in Antoa and managing the programs from there. I will also be assisting with the SAT center that we will be running in Kumasi.
I hope you continue to follow our blog and visit our Facebook page and website. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information on anything I have mentioned so far. You can reach me at email@example.com.