Type of Project: Service/International
For my STEP project, I travelled to Achiase Children’s Home in Ghana with the NGO, The Akumanyi Foundation. It was the first service learning trip of this organization, and we spent our time staying at the orphanage and school in the village of Achiase. We mostly helped take care of children at the orphanage, taught some extra classes and tutoring, and helped with general tasks in the orphanage. The overall goal each trip was to introduce sustainable projects to our site so the home could generate its own income and thrive independently. We funded a bakery and a new classroom building thus far.
Travelling to Ghana was such a different cultural experience from anything I had done in my life, it was amazing. I have never been somewhere with traditions and everyday life so different from my own, and yet after a few days, Achiase felt like home. Our group leaders were really helpful throughout the trip, and one thing I especially appreciated was that they emphasized openly learning from other cultures rather than judging something because it is different from our background. It is with this mindset that I learned so much from the kids and people in Achiase. So many inspirational people showed me the importance of perseverance and hard work, all with smiles on their faces. This experience really reminded me to be grateful, and renewed my focus of what is important to work for in life.
My relationship with the kids at the orphanage was the key part of my experience. I met so many kids, but there were a few I particularly grew close to by the end of the trip. There was one kid, Ema, who was enrolled in a special school for the deaf. He was the star of the soccer team, and whenever you saw him running around he would have the biggest smile on his face. All of the kids learned sign language so that they could communicate with Ema, and the sense of community they provided really transformed Ema from a shy child to someone who is realizing his full potential. I had so much fun with him, and seeing this situation was incredible because it really showed me how important community support can be for kids. It made me want to keep working with the foundation because every child should have a safe, loving environment to grow in, like Achiase Children’s Home.
One of my favorite things to do during the day was to help our cook, Rabi. We would go to the bigger village’s street market, which was this massive maze of makeshift booths in the center of town, to haggle to get food for the day. While we would cook, I got to hear all about Rabi’s life, and I gained so much respect for her independence. Shopping with her for food was also eye-opening because I was learning more about the budget for food the orphanage had. As such a small home, they still do struggle to keep everything running, and it was sad to see how much they had to work to just provide the most basic things, like food, for the kids.
Overall, I think this trip didn’t fundamentally change me, it just reminded me of certain values I think are easy to forget in the business of everyday life. However, I think these sometimes can be the most important to remember. I have definitely worked so much harder at school and with the Akumanyi organization since coming back to OSU. Seeing a lack of access to education so closely really made me step back and think of my own privilege, and it made me want to utilize my education more so that I could do something about these problems in the world that are just passively accepted as “that’s just how things are,” when it shouldn’t ever be okay.
I am so incredibly glad I was able to go on this trip, and meet such inspirational people. I want to keep up my involvement with the Akumanyi Foundation especially, but I also want to get more involved with developmental organizations that are doing good work for access to education. I know personally, I have always loved school from a young age. School has been a place where I have grown the most and received the most opportunities for my future. I believe in the power of education to break poverty cycles, and provide supportive environments for kids, and this is why it is such an important cause to work for.