July 17, 2003 - Amesbury News: Amesbury residents visit Peace Corps Michael Hildt in Ghana

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: July 17, 2003 - Amesbury News: Amesbury residents visit Peace Corps Michael Hildt in Ghana

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 20, 2003 - 9:41 am: Edit Post

Amesbury residents visit Peace Corps Michael Hildt in Ghana

Amesbury residents visit Peace Corps Michael Hildt in Ghana

Amesbury goes to Africa

By Carol Feingold / Correspondent
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Mayor says trip gives 'new perspective'

How many readers know that Accra is the capital of Ghana, or better still, where Ghana actually is?

Amesbury, Masachusetts - Amesbury for Africa members recently returned from the 12th annual Sister Cities International Conference, which was held this year in Accra, Ghana. They included Amesbury residents Mark Bean, M.D., founder of Amesbury for Africa and vice president of U.S./Africa Sister Cities; Gay Main, Amesbury for Africa board member, and Mayor David Hildt, Amesbury for Africa member.

Also on board for the trip were Haverhill High School sophomore Aimee Croston, who is the daughter of Main's co-worker; teacher Colleen Cox, member of the Newburyport-Bura Alliance, and teacher Benjamin Feingold Thayer, who tagged along to visit Hildt's son Michael, 25, who is serving in the Peace Corps in Ghana.

All paid their own way.

"We go to support the U.S./Africa Sister Cities, see a new city, see a new country and to find out what other groups are doing," said Main, who has attended all 12 conferences. Nine were held in the U.S., and the other three were held in Dakar, Senegal; Nairobi, Kenya, and this year in Accra, Ghana.

"I love traveling and I love experiencing new things," Main said. "I get to do things I would never do, like meet presidents of countries. We're treated as ambassadors of our country."

This year's theme was "Strengthening Sister Cities in Africa, a Focus on HIV/AIDS Crisis, Business, Trade, Investment and Democratic Conference." The first day the group attended a workshop on HIV/AIDS, learning that Ghana has the lowest rate of AIDS of any African country.

The next day they participated in a six-mile AIDS Walk that served both as a fund raiser and an awareness walk. Main was sponsored by members of Amesbury's Main Street Congregational Church.

As Amesbury mayor, Hildt presented the mayor of Accra with a pair of candlesticks donated by Olde Newbury Crafters of Amesbury.

"The next day we went to the president's castle," Main said, "and he greeted us."

That same morning, Hildt, his son Michael, and Feingold Thayer left Accra for Tamale, the site of the regional Peace Corps headquarters. They brought along with them five suitcases filled with medical and dental supplies, school supplies donated by Amesbury Elementary School teacher Deb Welch, clothing, backpacks and duffelbags. The donations will be distributed through the Peace Corps sites in Sirigu, where Michael lives, and Tengzug village.

The trio then journeyed to Bolgatanga, near the Burkina Faso border, where they visited the Sirigu Women's Organization of Pottery and the Arts (SWOPA). Michael's job is to help SWOPA raise funds to buy bricks to build a real kiln. Currently they fire pots in an open fire. He also will help them start a tree lot to provide fuel for their kiln.

"We had dinner with Mike's African mother," Hildt said, "and we toured the other Peace Corps sites. We went to Paga, the sacred crocodile pond, and from the border I took a 16 1/2-hour bus trip back to Accra. I was the only non-Ghanaian on the bus."

Feingold Thayer remained with Michael Hildt to spend a month exploring Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Meanwhile back in Accra, the Amesbury for Africa contingent celebrated the Fourth of July at the Aburi Botanical Gardens and then took a field trip to the Kakum Rainforest National Park.

"It was like 'Fear Factor,'" Bean said. "We crossed seven rope suspension bridges going from treetop to treetop like Tarzan."

"I am so afraid of heights," said Main, who crossed the bridges nonetheless. "Fourteen-year old Aimee had a ball. She saw everything."

The group then toured Elmina, a Portuguese castle first used for mining gold and then as a slave depot.

Following a formal farewell dinner, it was time for the group to head home.

"For me, experiencing Ghana, especially Accra, helped me put things in a different perspective," Hildt said. "Amesbury has a $42 million budget for 16,400 people. Accra has a $4 million budget for over two million people, and yet there is great industry and hope and pride. It was a wonderful experience for us all."

"It's always a two-way street," Bean said. "We always bring back more than we bring there. The friendships are really amazing."

"There was not an unfriendly person in Ghana," Hildt added.

The conference was attended by over 100 Americans and hundreds of Africans, Main said. Next year's conference will be held in Richmond, Virginia, and the next African conference will be held in South Africa.

"In 2008," Main said, "we're thinking of hosting this conference in Amesbury."

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Story Source: Amesbury News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ghana; Sister Cities



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