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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Meeting with the Queen Mothers

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Yesterday marked the first work day that Ben and I faced on the airfield while Pat and Jonathan are in Europe and I have to say…I’m pretty pleased with us at the moment =) I realize this well-oiled machine is the product of much TLC and the infrastructure put in place by those two…but it’s hard not to pat yourself on the back a little bit when you reach the end of what felt like a really long, busy, crazy but productive day and realize “Wow…I didn’t fall on my tush as hard as I was scared I might! I could do this again tomorrow…and maybe even the next day”

The highlight of the day was the visit to Manye Esther’s office to both pick her brain about some of our proposed health education topics and to introduce the concept of Fly Me Day to 20 or so local Queen Mothers. She had some great insights, not only on some of the topics that we should include, but also the presentation methods (i.e. a combination of posters, small flyers, booklets, balloons, etc). We had already identified health topics (i.e. water and sanitation), but she was particularly helpful in breaking the categories down and providing culturally relevant advice about specific areas (i.e. parents should be active role models and involve the children in the community in maintaining trash awareness and proper disposal)..

Although we had talked with Manye Esther about inviting the Queen Mothers and some of the children in their communities, this was the first opportunity I’ve had to address them directly. I’m not going to lie, my knees were knockin’ a bit under my kaba and slit (remember, traditional skirt/top outfit) as I’m seated in front of all these rather regal looking women. It’s a humbling experience but also an exciting one when one realizes that you are actually addressing royalty in the local sense. These women hold great respect in their communities and the effects of their support are irreplaceable.

They were very kind, both in their willingness to allow me to speak with them during an official meeting and in their patience with me as I bumbled my way through greetings in both Krobo and Twi. All meetings with the group are rather formal affairs in the sense that there is protocol to be observed and maintained, such as who to address when speaking (don’t address an aide instead of one of the Queen Mothers) and not to cross your legs while sitting with them (you cross your ankles, as it is considered highly rude and disrespectful to do otherwise). I was officially introduced to the group by Manye Esther before speaking to introduce myself and my purpose again. One of the Queen Mothers (Manye Makutsu: pronounced “Mah-KOO-choo”) was kind enough to translate for me as I introduced the concept of Fly Me Day and the purpose behind it. They were thrilled to be invited and promptly began planning group t-shirts and head scarves for the occasion (Here in Ghana, many events, regardless of whether it is a festival or funeral, are celebrated by ordering specialized T-shirts to commemorate the event. As I understand it, it’s almost about a sense of solidarity, of coming together as a group…and you show you are a part of it with a T-shirt or other specialized item such as a cap or scarf.) By the time I left, Ghana time true to form, what was supposed to be an hour’s meeting had become almost 4 times that. It makes me smile and I enjoy the fact that no day is ever alike.

We have a few challenges ahead of us as some of the communities are rather far, particularly those that we are hoping to target for project ETCHE, but we will put our thinking caps on!


  1. Michaela,
    What a good job… I've traveled a lot and had learn to adhere to local customs. I'd be lost there, but you did your homework. I'm very impressed! You did such a good job!!!
    You and Ben please continue to do good... be productive, learn things to make your future bright and most of all be safe!
    Love Dad (Sholes)

  2. Wonderful! Manye Esther and Manye Makutsu have taken a keen interest for nearly six years now... It will be wonderful to see them at the airfield with their children. Relationship building takes years, and these wonderful women have clearly adopted you into their family.... sadly, you did not post a picture of you in your attire!