- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
Our group served the vulnerable youth and women by assisting with water filling and filtration to sanitize for daily use, completing daily house chores, providing daily play and educational experiences with the children, and participating in cultural immersion experiences to better develop an understanding of local Ghanaian traditions, beliefs, and challenges.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
Africa is often generalized to the point where everyone seems to hold the same views about the entire continent, when in fact, the many countries – 54, to be exact – are all very different. When I would say I am going to Africa, I often had to stop myself and say Ghana specifically, because every part of Africa is different, and just because I have been to Ghana, doesn’t mean I now understand all that Africa encompasses. On the flip side, it is interesting how in saying North America, we just think about the U.S., and we forget countries like Canada and Mexico are also encompassed in this broad terminology.
I say this to make the point that I, among many others, came to Africa with very generalized thoughts and impressions of what it would be like. In turn, all of the Ghanaians we met along the way probably had their own set of assumptions regarding the walking attraction our nearly all white service group impressed on them. I found that my views of Africa as a whole was able to be completely transformed because I not only was able to have first-hand experiences in a small portion of the massive continent, but I was also able to recognize how my generalizations had prevented me from being able to truly know and understand the culture and landscape of something so unfamiliar to my life here at home. I think that this level of self-reflection and new understanding is something that has helped me grow in my own life, and I feel like I am able to have a better understanding of parts of the world I had previously been ignorant to know the full depth and beauty of.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
Our group advisors fostered an environment for our service group that allowed us to have some really in-depth conversations. We were also fortunate that two of the Ghanaian members from the Akumanyi Foundation were able to also be a part of some of these conversations, as well as others that took place outside of the structured group setting. Through these talks, I not only heard from many perspectives from the group of students I had travelled across the world with, but from the natives of the land we had come to serve on. We had people from all walks of life, and no two backgrounds were exactly the same. These new relationships harbored a chance for us to share our stories and express our thoughts and opinions in a safe environment.
We went deeper than just America versus Ghana. We were able to touch so many areas of life that affect people no matter where they live. We discussed race, ethnicity, sexuality, access (or lack there of) to healthcare, religion, individualistic vs. community based culture, and so many other topics. We were encouraged and supported to share our thoughts, engage with each other, and listen intently. I found that, through the engagement with my peers, both from America and Ghana, within the setting we were in, I was able to grow in my knowledge of the world around me.
On the last night, we were asked what we hoped to leave in Africa. I remember responding that I hoped I would leave some of my ignorance behind. It is inevitable that we will remain ignorant about something our whole lives because we are unable to fully understand everything, but I wanted to leave the ignorance I had had previous to coming on this trip. I wanted to acknowledge the new misconceptions I had had about an entire continent, and alter them so that I could better understand a small piece of Africa. Ghana provided a space for me to reflect on what I had previously held to be true about many things, and change my perspective to better encompass all of the new things I had been introduced to while there.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
I believe that the less ignorant we become, the further we promote our ability to better connect with others. I had the opportunity on this trip to expand my knowledge on so many fronts which will impact me in every scenario of life going forward. The more we are able to understand, empathize, and connect with the people around us, the better we are able to foster meaningful and impactful relationships.
As an aspiring Occupational Therapist, this trip has given me the opportunity to see how essential of a role I can play within the healthcare system. I had the chance one night, after noticing the lack of understanding of basic first aid skills while working within the community of Ghana, to give an impromptu First Aid class to the adults working with the children. Over the course of just a few hours, I demonstrated the proper use and application of materials to help with wound care and management in order to prevent infection and to ensure proper healing of the injured area. After modeling the techniques, the men and women were provided with opportunities for hands on practice to make sure they understood and could perform these skills. This experience highlighted to me how essential an occupational therapist would be working in this region, as empowering people with the tools to manage their own health, thereby increasing their independence, is what I believe to be the very foundation of Occupational therapy.
Overall, I found the experiences I had in Ghana to be immensely impactful in both my personal and future career life. I think that when we take the time to better understand the world around us, we learn, over and over again, that people are all the same at their core, and we can all learn from each others differences. Treating everyone the same is something the healthcare world even today continues to struggle with, and I hope that I am able to promote change within my work community for the betterment of our society.