Trip to Akokwa

My STEP project consisted of a two-week service trip in Akokwa, Ghana. Most of our time was spent at a children’s home where we assisted the kids with their daily tasks and helped to entertain them. We also travelled to two other villages to paint both a bathroom project along with a new school project that the Akumanyi foundation had already started.

Honestly, I have no idea where to begin with how much this trip changed my view on the world. For starters it completely exposed how much privilege I have and that I clearly have taken it for granted. Through the children the trip showed me that money truly doesn’t buy happiness. It taught me some cultural aspects of Ghana throughout history and up to the current day. Finally, it taught me that I can become close with large group of people (children, staff, and other participants) in two week which just seemed to fly by.

During the trip everyone participated in an activity called a privilege walk. Essentially the entire group is asked a series of question about uncontrollable scenarios you may have been throughout your life. It is a fair measure of how much privilege everyone has. The results were extremely eye opening, but I do not want to ruin it for future participants. The most I will say about the activity is that everyone should do this at some point in their life with a large diverse group of individuals. This along with the many other activities we did such as nightly reflections really taught me a lot about myself, but the children also inspired me.

Hands down the children in the Akokwa children’s home were the happiest children I have ever seen in my life. They found ways to make all daily chores enjoyable and created their own toys with limited supplies. During the trip we drank out of plastic pouches that were sold throughout Ghana. The children were able to create a jump rope by tying the plastic pouches together. Donations were given to the kids which consisted of a few new toys, but what impressed me most was their ability to use creativity to create multiple games from a toy that was mainly meant for one. These children could find joy in any situation including daily chores such as fetching water. The jugs were very heavy, and many volunteers even struggled with them, but these kids helped us with big smile on there face! This barely scratches the surface in the ways that these kids influenced and inspired me to better myself and appreciate everything I have.

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I would consider all activities with the children as the events that changed my perspective on the world the most, but a close second would have been the multiple cultural experiences our group experienced. First and foremost, would have been the slave castle we toured. Our guide gave detailed descriptions of the physical and psychological tools used to dehumanize slave which led to a vivid eye-opening experience. The most extreme case by far being that the place that held slaves was directly beneath the castle’s church. This positioning was meant to allow the slaves to hear the preacher above them which instilled the thought in their heads that god had given up on them. After realizing that they did this intentionally I began to realize how brutal the Transatlantic slave trade was. I also gained a lot of cultural experience just visiting the many larger nearby cities and villages. During our travels to other cities many people stood in between cars in the road in high traffic areas to sell a plethora of items such as fresh fruits, water pouches, and necklaces. However, when it came to the cities the most culturally rich experience was when we visited a chief of one of villages. Here we learned more about proper greetings to the chief, the duties of the chief, and the more political side of a village.

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Living in Ghana over the two-week span resulted in many eye-opening experiences and complete emersion in the culture of Ghana. In the future I plan to go to medical school and eventually become a practicing physician. However, my goal is to be a good surgeon as well as have fantastic bed side manner. I want to connect with people by being able to understand their culture and background more efficiently. The ability to understand others in a more cultural aspect will lead to stronger relationships with my patients. This trip taught me so much and will help in achieving my long term goals.