Through Buck-I-SERV I got my first opportunity to explore a country other than the United States. I went to Ghana with the Akumanyi Foundation, and volunteered at a children’s home in Akokwa. At first, I thought I would be playing with kids all day and helping with their homework, but it was so much more than just that. While in Ghana, my cohort and I were immersed in the Ghanaian culture by not only living as the Ghanaians did, but learning more about Ghana’s history from our trip leaders and exploring different parts of the country.
As you can imagine, my time spent in Ghana held many adventures that I have yet to experience during my 21 years of life. Going into the trip, I knew Africa was going to be different from the United States, but I kept my mind open instead of holding assumptions. This was quite hard as some people close to me would put ideas into my head as to how Africa would be due to movies or television shows they had seen in the past. Though some parts are similar to what is portrayed in terms of dirt roads and an abundance of foliage, I can confidently say the depictions of Africa are false. I tried to take as many pictures as possible so that I could take them home to change the minds of my small group of friends, to show the Ghana is a large, growing city filled with many of the functions and amenities that the United States has to offer. By the way many people talk about the United States, I often thought it was more modern than most countries, but in reality it is not. Were we stayed was a rural area with limited running water. Now that may sound odd or even inhumane to some, but there are some rural and even developed areas in the United States that experience the same exact situation.
Though it sounds cliché, I realized how much I had here in the United States that was unnecessary some of the objects in my life are, but exactly how important the people in my life are. For example, most of the trip I chose to not use my phone, therefore I had no contact with my family and friends. I learned two things: 1. I, along with many other Americans, rely on my phone too much, and 2. I also rely on my family and friends a lot which is something I discovered I am proud of. One of the most challenging aspects of leaving the country for two weeks with little or no communication with home is how much I missed my support system. Towards the end of the trip I began to get homesick, so I decided to call my family and just hearing their voices made me feel so much better. I had also thought I was tough, but this trip opened my eyes to how amazing my support system is here at home and how much I truly missed them while I was away. What added to me missing my family at home was the strong sense of family and community the Ghanaians hold, especially the kids. What was amazing about the children’s how is the little family they had. Though not all of the kids there are orphans, some are, but an outsider could never tell by the way they play, love, and even bicker with one another. I was not only touched but their kindness towards each other, but the friendliness and love they radiated towards us, a foreign group of young adults who practice a very different culture than their own. That is problem what I miss most about my time in Akokwa is the strong sense of community that I had the honor to be a part of for a week.
Beyond Ghana itself, I could not have been happier with the cohort that I was a part of. The friendships we had while in Ghana were great, and I think most of us can agree we all got along very well! Going to another country with a group of strangers is always a little nerve-racking, but once we had all warmed up to each other, I was so thankful to have them be a part of my adventures. I definitely miss our late night conversations, or playing cards at night until we could not handle the mosquitos anymore, and even the mouse that we had never found running around in the girls’ room. All of this contributed to a trip I could never or even want to forget. Not only did I build friendships with those in my cohort, but learned about their past and how even though we go to the same university, how different we are all for one another. One of the activities we did called the privilege walk definitely hit this home. Though I knew I was blessed with the life I have been given, it was really difficult to see how others are not exposed to this due to their culture, family situation, and outward appearance. Instead of feeling bad about what I had and what others did not, Dr. Mull who ran the activity advised us to not feel bad but to use the privilege that we do have to help those around us. Although it took me going to Ghana to recognize that, it was most definitely a message I took back home with me to the United States with me.
I cannot successfully write this reflection without mentioning just how special the time I had spent with the kids truly meant to me. In my future career plans, I had always hoped to work with kids, and being on this trip completely confirmed that for me. Many kids, whether they live in the United States or Ghana, do not have anyone to stand up and fight for them, and I had always wanted to be that person. At the children’s home that was Momma Charity. Momma Charity dedicates her own life to better the lives of all the children that live and visit the home, it truly is an inspiration. She is the voice for those kids who do not have one, and if in my future career I am half as passionate as she is, I know I will be successful in my goal. Like I mentioned, every single kid I met was so welcoming and loving to each and every one of us. They were so quick to show us the games they played, the things they created, and even the “right” way to do some of the chores we were assigned! The kids were so eager to share their own culture with us which is what made me feel so welcome throughout my stay in Ghana. I was told before I met them that I will never meet a child happier than a Ghanaian child, and I can agree with that statement hands down.
Like I previously mentioned, being apart of this trip confirmed thatwhat I want to do with my future is the path I need to continue to follow. I want to be an adult that kids can look up to, especially the little girls. I want them to know that with hard work and preservation you can achieve your goals. By immersing myself if another culture, I have no doubt that will help me to be a better in my career field as it has taught me to orientate my view to that of whom I am working with if conflict arises, or to even start out with to insure everything is communicated as it should be. Overall, I am so thankful to have been a part of the adventure, and have learned more than I could ever imagine.