Posted by: Christian Association | February 8, 2010

Reflections on the Yonso Project

This is a guest post by Eddie Faustin, a graduate student in the Penn School of Design and a 2009 recipient of our Open Mind for Africa grant.

Last summer, I was selected to serve as a graduate intern with The Yonso Project, a Non- Government Organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the rural communities of Yonso, Apaah and Kyechewere, Ghana through ecotourism, microfinance and education scholarships. I spent seven months working on fundraising and strategic planning with the organization’s Ecotourism Program Director domestically, and spent two and a half weeks in Ghana overseeing the implementation of the plans. I worked with the director on the organization’s formal petition with the Ghanaian Forestry Commission to have the land in the Yonso Region formally protected from hunting and poaching and restricted from housing development. It was refreshing and reassuring to see that we made progress with our project, including garnering genuine interests from poachers interested in seeking alternatives to hunting as a means of monetary income.

Currently, I am assisting the organization with the budget to create wilderness trails and camping sites, as well as advising the group on the early stages of its housing rehabilitation and building restoration initiatives and developing a bamboo bicycle manufacturing enterprise to promote sustainable small business development. I am also in the process of serving as a liaison between the Penn Engineers Without Borders and the Yonso Project for a water infrastructure project requiring site research of the feasibility of linking the local villages under the Yonso Project umbrella to the regional district’s main water source. In addition, I have also formally proposed a home-stay program to provide an additional source of income for families within the communities of Yonso, Apaah and Kyechewere, as well as the General Fund for the Yonso Project through hosting individuals or groups for an extended period of time for a cultural exchange of ideas, beliefs and service. The initiative would provide visitors with an opportunity to work with farmers, merchants, musicians, seamstresses, healthcare workers, clergymen and others from the aforementioned participating Yonso communities during the day, as well as help families with other activities around the house.

I cannot begin to tell you how fulfilling the experience of working with the Yonso Project and how appreciative I was of receiving an Open Mind for Africa Travel Grant to aid me in my travel to Ghana. Although we made progress within the last year, there is still much work to be done and I look forward to continuing to assist the organization in its efforts.

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Responses

  1. Eddie, I am particularly impressed by your willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with the poachers and your acknowledgement (at least implicitly) with them that the success of your work for community improvement would negatively impact them. This is a wonderful skill to have in an increasingly polarized world. It is, I think what Jesus meant when he said to love our enemies. We can’t love them unless we engage with them in an open fashion. Best wishes with your continued good work… and your continuing dialogues.


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