Kimalee Phillip, Equity Officer with CUPE 1281 left for Ghana in January 2015 for a five-week stay to work as a Program Development Innovator with Youth Challenge International – a Toronto-based non-profit organization that sends youth volunteers to various parts of the world to undertake and support educational, organizational development and health and wellness initiatives.
Ghana is located in West Africa and prior to European colonization, was previously known as the Gold Coast. Phillip was excited about returning to the land of her ancestors. As a Program Development innovator, Philip was tasked to create a fundraising strategy for an organization called Enactus, and also served as a programming/skills development trainer for the YMCA in Accra.
For Philip this was an important learning experience. Philip is clear that “Our presence is always political.” Working with an international charity in a poor country was an opportunity for her to reflect on the impact development aid from rich countries has on a society.
“The use of language for example can be political. While in Ghana, I realized that some people were called immigrants, whereas others were called expats. An expatriate (expat) is anyone who lives outside of their native country or who settled overseas, but that term was largely applied to white people. This criteria is used to differentiate who belongs in the country based on the colour of one’s skin or one’s class and social status,” said Phillip.
There is an ongoing electricity and fuel crisis that often leaves many Ghanaians without electricity for sometimes 12-24 hours daily. For Phillip her presence in Ghana also challenged her to consider whether her presence and that of many international charities is actually helping to improve social and economic disparities.
“Ghana will always welcome me,” said Phillip. “The kind and open spirit of the Ghanaian people is welcoming to everyone. It is important to understand that predatory and exploitative economic and political global systems under the guise of benevolent development programs and goodwill, unwillingly contribute to ongoing patterns of global inequities. Development paradigms in Ghana is no exception to this practice,” said Phillip.