Tag Archives: Ghana

Sam Connors Gains Field Experience at IOM Ghana

Sam Connors is a MAIR student on track to graduate this semester. His interests are in Africa, migration, aid, and development, which is why he took part in the Survey of Current Issues In African Migration program during the summer of 2016.

Considering this was my first time traveling out of the United States, my summer spent in Ghana was unlike anything I have previously experienced. Interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was not only an opportunity for me to test my professional ability in a new environment, but a chance to explore the dynamics of migration – the focus of my studies.

The IOM program in Ghana was an ideal fit for me due to my interest in migration but also considering my desire to gain field work experience with an IO. I was able to gain a comprehensive understanding of working as an expat in both the field and capital city of another country, splitting my time with a month in the field and a month in the IOM office in Accra. Another Maxwell student, Emily Hoerner, has captured our experience in Accra well in a previous PAIA blog entry, and I suggest learning of that portion from her entry.

My time spent in the field was working with IOM’s counter trafficking department in the Ho West district, 3 hours north of Accra. This time was without a doubt the most interesting and impacting facet of the program for me. Not only was I able to participate with the IOM on one of their projects, I was also given a stipend along with my fellow Syracuse students to design a small aid project of our own in the region.

The IOM counter trafficking project was targeted at preventing the selling and trafficking of children in the Volta region of Ghana. This effort took the five of us to five different rural communities in the surrounding area – though we resided in one community (Dodome Tsikor) for the month. Along with local government officials, we would introduce a program designed to educate these communities concerning the rights of a child and perils of trafficking. This introduction was ceremoniously celebrated with a painting by the whole community – the tree of life – as a symbol of the community’s commitment to protect their children.

Community volunteers, members, and Syracuse University students (starting 2nd from left): Sam Connors, Hatou Camara, Alison Rivera, Francis Morency, Jinpu Wang) in front of the tree of life community painting

Community volunteers, members, and Syracuse University students (starting 2nd from left): Sam Connors, Hatou Camara, Alison Rivera, Francis Morency, Jinpu Wang) in front of the tree of life community painting

It is not possible to fit the sheer volume of information and lessons I gathered during my time in Ghana in one blog post. It is not possible for me to quantify the personal and professional growth I experienced working for an IO in a foreign country. The most important professional lesson I gathered is the simple yet oft underappreciated lesson of –  communicate, communicate, communicate. The most lasting personal lesson I found reinforced in Ghana is of similar characteristics – live with love and understanding will follow.

Syracuse University students L-R: Jinpu Wang, Hatou Camara, Alison Rivera, Sam Connors, and Francis Morency in the field

Syracuse University students L-R: Jinpu Wang, Hatou Camara, Alison Rivera, Sam Connors, and Francis Morency in the field

The pouring of libations ceremony performed by a community Chief and elders

The pouring of libations ceremony performed by a community Chief and elders

The Chief of Dodome Tsikor and SU student Jinpu Wang

The Chief of Dodome Tsikor and SU student Jinpu Wang

Alison Rivera and Francis Morency

Alison Rivera and Francis Morency

Emily Hoerner, Sam Connors, Hatou Camara, Alison Rivera, Francis Morency, and Jinpu Wang at Elmina Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage

Emily Hoerner, Sam Connors, Hatou Camara, Alison Rivera, Francis Morency, and Jinpu Wang at Elmina Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage

Francis Morency, Hatou Camara, community volunteer, Alison Rivera, Sam Connors, & Jinpu Wang

Francis Morency, Hatou Camara, community volunteer, Alison Rivera, Sam Connors, & Jinpu Wang

Alison Rivera, Francis Morency and Sam Connors interview an IOM program beneficiary

Alison Rivera, Francis Morency and Sam Connors interview an IOM program beneficiary

Learn more about Survey of Current Issues In African Migration: A Fieldwork Practicum

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Emily Hoerner Finds Great Rewards Working for IOM Ghana

Emily Hoerner used her previous experience in the non-profit sector to contribute to IOM Ghana’s mission through the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration global program. This program gives students experience doing field work for a UN agency.

As a joint-degree MPA/MAIR, my first year at Maxwell has been a whirlwind. Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my Maxwell experience so far has been the two months I spent interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana this summer.

I was drawn to IOM’s Ghana program because it offered me the opportunity to work on the ground with a respected international organization. I wasn’t disappointed. After a week of cultural and professional orientation to Ghana and IOM, I spent four weeks working with IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return & Reintegration (AVRR) team. The AVRR program aims to help migrants who have left Ghana and wish to return, providing them with reintegration assistance like accommodation or support if they wish to start micro-businesses.

My time with the AVRR team was spent primarily working on their reintegration database. I looked at trends and best practices from other IOM missions’ AVRR databases, and suggested improvements to the system the Ghanaian AVRR team was currently using. I then worked with a member of the AVRR team to re-build their database from the ground up, in the hope that this new framework would allow them to capture, input, and report out on migration and reintegration data more effectively and efficiently. When the database was complete, I also performed some trend analysis for the team on their migration data from the past five years, creating charts and graphs from the data that the team could use for informational one-pagers about the AVRR program.

Me with Reintegration Assistant Emmanual Oppong, working on the AVRR database.

Me with Reintegration Assistant Emmanual Oppong, working on the AVRR database.

The final two weeks of my internship were spent doing a bit more fieldwork: traveling in and around the greater Accra region to speak with beneficiaries of the AVRR program. This was, by far, my favorite part of the internship. Though I knew the database work I completed was important, having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with AVRR beneficiaries put a truly human face on the program. Some of the beneficiaries I spoke with were quieter or more reserved than others, but I loved having the chance to speak with these people and hear their stories of hardship, perseverance, and sometimes triumph.

Overall, my internship with IOM Ghana’s AVRR team was a fantastic introduction into the world of international development, and what it is like to work in a country office of a complex international organization. My time with IOM was replete with frustrations, challenges, and opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Above all, my internship solidified my desire to work in the complicated, frustrating, and rewarding field of international development.

SU students (from L-R) Francis Morency, Hatou Camara, Sam Conners, and Alison Rivera at Black Star Gate, in downtown Accra. This picture was taken on a weekend when we explored landmarks around the city.

SU students (from L-R) Francis Morency, Hatou Camara, Sam Conners, and Alison Rivera at Black Star Gate, in downtown Accra. This picture was taken on a weekend when we explored landmarks around the city.

During a long weekend, I had the chance to visit Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, both of which played a pivotal role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This is me in front of Elmina after a tour of the castle, including the horrifying slave dungeons and the haunting ‘door of no return.’

During a long weekend, I had the chance to visit Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, both of which played a pivotal role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This is me in front of Elmina after a tour of the castle, including the horrifying slave dungeons and the haunting ‘door of no return.’

Me with AVRR beneficiary Marvin Aidoo, who currently runs an agricultural NGO meant to employ Ghanaian youth. Having the chance to speak with AVRR beneficiaries like Mr. Aidoo was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship with IOM.

Me with AVRR beneficiary Marvin Aidoo, who currently runs an agricultural NGO meant to employ Ghanaian youth. Having the chance to speak with AVRR beneficiaries like Mr. Aidoo was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship with IOM.

Me with IOM Ghana’s AVRR team (from left to right, Doris Ohene-Kankam, Emmanuel Oppong, and Nuria Vidal-Fernandez).

Me with IOM Ghana’s AVRR team (from left to right, Doris Ohene-Kankam, Emmanuel Oppong, and Nuria Vidal-Fernandez).

SU students (from L-R) Francis Morency, Jinpu Wang, Sam Connors, Hatou Camara, Emily Hoerner, and Alison Rivera with EMPA alum Erika at her home near the University of Ghana.

SU students (from L-R) Francis Morency, Jinpu Wang, Sam Connors, Hatou Camara, Emily Hoerner, and Alison Rivera with EMPA alum Erika at her home near the University of Ghana.

SU students (from L-R) Francis Morency, Hatou Camara, and Emily Hoerner with IOM Reintegration Assistant Doris Ohene-Kankam and IOM AVRR (Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration) beneficiary Nelson Amtwi. This photo was taken after an interview with Amtwi at his convenience store in Spintex, just outside Accra.

SU students (from L-R) Francis Morency, Hatou Camara, and Emily Hoerner with IOM Reintegration Assistant Doris Ohene-Kankam and IOM AVRR (Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration) beneficiary Nelson Amtwi. This photo was taken after an interview with Amtwi at his convenience store in Spintex, just outside Accra.

Learn more about Survey of Current Issues In African Migration: A Fieldwork Practicum

More Global Programs

Maxwell African Scholars Union