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Wonde N.

“My community has taught me that quality is much more important than quantity. Focus on those who are dedicated, and their work will inspire others to get involved.”

Wonde N headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

I was drawn to the Peace Corps because I saw it as an opportunity to live in another country and experience life from a new perspective. I was also drawn to the Peace Corps because I wanted to gain work experience in international development. Breaking into this sector is quite difficult, so I hope my time in Ghana will equip me with the right set of skills to pursue a career in international development or in the Foreign Service for the State Department.

2. What projects are you working on?

I am working on a number of projects, including sweet potato production, village savings and loans (a microfinancing initiative), and beekeeping. These projects are important to my community, as they help improve household nutrition, provide financial services, and have the potential to boost household incomes through honey sales. To date, one of the two village savings and loans groups I am working has provided 56 loans totaling around ₵22,400 or $1,667. The success of this group has been crucial, as my community previously had groups like these that collapsed due to mistrust and non-adherence to group rules. The current groups have demonstrated how beneficial these groups can be when the rules are followed.

Wonde walking with a group of kids through foliage.
Wonde serves as an Agriculture Volunteer in Ghana.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

In Ghana, it is important to greet everyone you see throughout the day, no matter what. Not only are greetings a cultural mandate, but they are also an important step toward building a relationship with people. In the initial stages of integration into my host community, I also made sure to visit as many people as I could on their farms. This allowed me to better understand the layout of my community but even more, it showed farmers that I was willing to put in the effort to get to know them and learn from them.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

I really enjoyed our Volunteer in-service training because each Peace Corps Volunteer came to the training with dedicated farmers from their community. I attended with my counterpart and four other farmers from my community, along with the district agriculture extension officer. Together, we participated in the weeklong training that covered a variety of technical topics and included hands-on sessions. It was great to see the farmers from my community passionately engaging in the topics. It also served as a nice mini trip/vacation for them since we traveled to a different city and stayed in a nice hotel.

The training was very successful, and to this day, the farmers and I practice some of the techniques we learned. For example, we’ve implemented rapid vine multiplication for potatoes. This technique allows us to quickly multiply our potatoes by correctly cutting the vines at the appropriate time and replanting them. This will enable us to distribute orange-fleshed sweet potato vines to many farmers who were not part of the training and hopefully support our community’s nutrition.

Sweet potatoes in Ghana
Wonde and local farmers have implemented new propagation techniques for sweet potatoes in Ghana.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

There are a few farmers who are really dedicated to the work we do together. I’ve built nice relationships with them and spend almost every day with them on the farm working and enjoying a meal together.

There are three particular farmers I’ve engaged with. The first is the hardest working farmer I know. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the nutritional and medicinal benefits of a wide array of herbs and plants. I’ve also seen his impressive herbalist skills put to good use when he treats sick people. The second farmer is Pastor Samuel who has taught me a great deal about persistence even during the most trying times. He is a gentle and kind man who is passionate about bringing development to his people. He often uses stories from the Bible as a way of guiding me when I am navigating difficult group dynamics. Last but not least is a man I work closely with on beehive management and mushroom production. He is very open-minded and eager to apply new information. Since we started working together, he has started producing mushrooms on his own and expanded his apiary from one hive to four.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

My community has taught me that quality is much more important than quantity. Focus on those who are dedicated, and their work will inspire others to get involved.

Also, nothing is more important than a greeting. Take the time to slow down and show that respect.

Another important lesson that I’ve learned is to take the time to laugh. Here in Ghana, life is very difficult and your circumstances can change drastically overnight. Therefore, you should take the time to laugh together.

A local farmer irrigating a field in Ghana.
A local farmer irrigates a field in Ghana.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

I’m always engaged in my work at site during the week, but on Saturdays and Sundays, I stay home to do laundry, rest, catch up with family and friends via WhatsApp, and read. Since work on the farm is hard manual labor under the scorching sun and in high humidity, the weekends are my time to recover. Once a month, on a Saturday, my partner and I get together with nearby Volunteers in our market town to hang out and eat pizza. These meetups are a great way to catch up and exchange stories about our community.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

I’m looking forward to our next honey harvest and to sampling the different varieties of sweet potatoes we’ve planted. I am also really looking forward to conducting the beekeeping project, which will train 25 farmers on proper hive management and provide the necessary safety equipment for them.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

Honestly, I am still trying to find the answer to that question, but I’ve learned a lot here in Ghana and I know I will carry these lessons and memories with me wherever I go next.