The Women of Medie

I know that I have spent a lot of time blogging about my new life here in Ghana, but there is a major part of it that I have yet to explain. It is actually the reason why I am here. There are approximately 300 women in the villages around where I am staying that are clients of Joy2theWorld, the organization that I am here working for.

Kathleen Gibbs, a former insurance agent from Houston, Texas, started Joy2theWorld after learning about how micro-loans were impacting women in the villages of Ghana and other countries world wide. That was six years ago, and now she has funded hundreds of loans, enabling women to start and grow their own businesses. Schools, bakeries, food spots, dress shops, and many more businesses have been started because of Joy2theWorld.

And last month Kathleen packed up and moved around the world to make Ghana her new home (and brought me with her.) Oh, and she also brought her cat, Isabelle. Anyway, the main reason I am here is to empower and further the efforts of Joy2theWorld through public relations efforts, teaching at the school where many of our clients children attend, and developing new funds for our clients loans.

Getting to know the women here has been an incredible experience. I would like for you to get to know them as well.


Three years ago Rebecca took out a loan to start a school. She had three students and a small classroom borrowed from a church. Today she has over 400 students and a seven classroom school, where I teach P2, which is the equivalent of the third grade.

The picture above is of Rebecca and I at our annual party when I first arrived.  The first thing I noticed about her was how strong and fit she was for being in her seventies. And of course, like many Ghanaians, she was warm and friendly.

Although I have been at times perplexed with how the school is run, I am very much in awe of what Rebecca has been able to accomplish in three short years. Not only are her children taught the basics of math, English, science, French, technology, and Religious and Moral Education, but they also are served breakfast and lunch every school day.

Mary Hoagli:

Moments before I met Mary, I was warned that she was a “hugger.” That doesn’t quite describe her. As I got out of the cab to meet her for the first time, she grabbed me around the waist and practically lifted me off the ground, then hugged and squeezed me like I was the daughter she never thought she’d see again. The whole time she repeats, “Oh, I love you, god bless, you are welcome, Oh, I love you…”

She grabbed my hands and ran us to the back patio of her small store when she sells mainly water and other goods. She pulled out plastic chairs and physically placed each of us in a chair. See below:

Mary has a warmth and charisma about her that is hard to describe. It’s like she is everyone’s mother, and you can tell just by looking at her, she is the kind of woman who has an old soul and has lived more lives than she can remember.

Mary is a group leader. With Joy2theWorld, if a woman wants to take out a loan, she must be part of a group of five women. It helps create accountability among the women.  If one woman in the group doesn’t pay back her loan, then the other women can not apply for another loan until the amount is paid. It works pretty well and often prevents more serious measures from being taken. Mary told us when I met her that if it wasn’t for Joy2theWorld, she would just be an old lady sitting on her porch with nothing to do. Now she has an entire store of goods and has reached out to other women so they, too can have their own business.


Janet was one of the first women to receive a loan from Joy2theWorld.  She has her own pineapple farm, but more than that, she has a distillery where she makes alcohol from pineapples. I tried it, and the best way I could describe it, is that it is stronger than vodka or gin, maybe more like moon shine. :) Kathleen told me that when she first met Janet, she was so shy that she couldn’t even look you in the eye, and when Kathleen asked if she could take her picture, she cowered at the question.

I took these pictures a few weeks ago. When I asked Janet to pose, she started to primp herself and arrange her clothing so that she would look good for the camera. Kathleen observed her change and it reminded me of the underlying reason why we have Joy2theWorld: to empower women.

The picture above is of the barrels where she stores her pineapple “wine” as we call it. If you asked me to drink something that came out of those dirty looking barrels, I would say no way. But of course, I saw them after I had drank it! Plus the alcohol percentage is so high, I am sure whatever bacteria that touches it dies instantly.

The picture below is of Janet at the still where the alcohol is processed. She recently purchased a truck to transport her barrels. She sells her alcohol to  bars, or “spots” as they are called here, all over the region.

The picture below accurately displays who these women are. It was taken at our Welcome Party, where all the women who are top clients come to welcome the J2W staff to Ghana again. The Obruni below is Jenn Garrison, who came to volunteer for a few days before traveling north. She had literally just met the women moments before the picture was taken. She sat trying to get her corn rows out of her hair, and one woman noticed. Before she had a chance to protest, all three women were gathered around her, picking at the small braids in her hair.

Mary is on the left in the red dress, Doris is standing in the blue. She owns her own “spot” with the loans from J2W. And Rose is in the yellow. She  has her own bakery, and with her loans she bought a new oven and expanded her production.

It was been such a wonderful experience to see such small donations from back home go so far here in Ghana.



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  1. Manu says:

    This is awesome Sy. I’m so happy you are able to soak all of this in : )

  2. Craig says:

    Great work. And no way is Rebecca in her 70s. Are you sure you didn’t mean 40s or 50s?

    1. admin says:

      Ya I think she might be in her 60′s. BUT– Mary Hoagli IS in her 70′s and she looks younger than Rebecca!

  3. Maz says:

    This is amazing stuff here. Thank you so much for sharing! My girlfriend and I are addicted to your blog now. What a wonderful cause and incredible adventure for you. I also have to say that both your writing and photography are fantastic. Looking forward to seeing and learning more.
    Thanks again, and have fun!


    1. admin says:

      Thanks, Maz!!!!

      I am glad we connected before I left! I wil def keep them coming!


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