Sweat stung my eyes as I trudged down Roylat Castle Road searching in vain for the Amnesty International sign. It was noon and the sun was baking the pavement. I was dressed in my business casual best – dress shirt, black pants and leather shoes – not the greatest outfit in hot weather.
It seemed so simple on Google Maps. You just get off the bus at Ring Road, turn left, and walk up the road a little ways. This was early in my Accra experience and I hadn’t yet learned that finding something is never as simple as it seems on a map.
I needed to get to Amnesty to talk about some story ideas, but it began to look like my meeting wasn’t going to happen. I had no idea where to go and I was already late.
When in doubt, ask the locals. I stopped to get directions from fellow pedestrians but no one could tell me where to find my destination.
I was at the brink of giving up when I heard a voice calling out asking where I was going. A man about my age named Phillip came out of the shade and introduced himself. I told him where I wanted to go and he took me on a hunt for Amnesty International.
Phillip had no idea where to go either but he understood Ghanaian directions much better than I did. At one point he dropped me off at a café while he took off down the road. He came back having found the building.
Amnesty International has a very small sign, and I’m obviously not very observant. But anyway, I wouldn’t have found the place at all if it weren’t for a complete stranger taking the time out of his work day to help me.
That was a month ago. Earlier this week I was walking around in the same part of town when by complete coincidence I ran into Phillip. We talked a bit and he told me about his life. He was from the north, around Tamale, and worked as a cleaner in Accra. He told me he always dreamed of getting a job in radio, but he doesn’t have any training.
I invited him on a tour of CitiFM as a small way to repay one of the many Ghanaians who help me find restaurants, bars, offices, streets, and bus stops every day I live in this country.
Phillip met the news director and they talked about what it takes to get a job at a radio station. Phillip came to the station armed with story ideas and a lot of smart questions, but without a degree or diploma, he won’t get a radio job.
Money determines how far people go in Ghanaian academia. A semester at the Ghana Institute of Journalism costs 600 cedis, which is $435 Canadian, a lot of money for the average Ghanaian.
That’s too much for a manual labourer like Phillip. He plans to make more money by buying a taxi with the help of a money lending company.
As a university grad loaded with student debt, I was a bit skeptical of borrowing to afford school, but I respected his drive to start a career.
Good luck Phillip. I hope you reach your destination in life as sure as I found Amnesty International.