STEP trip to Senya, Ghana

For my Step Signature Project I was able to work with the Akumanyi Foundation in Senya, Ghana helping uphold their mission of providing self-sustaining resources specifically geared towards youth and women. We were able to help out at Becky’s Children home as well as supporting the local seamstress businesses in Ghana.

Prior to traveling to West Africa I had many assumptions of what I expected Ghana to look like. Based on stereotypes and empty presumptions I expected Ghana to be a an unsafe, lifeless location. I expected it to be a place lacking beauty and life compared to America’s technological advancements in our infrastructures and everyday surroundings. Much to my surprise Ghana was the exact opposition. In Accra, there were roads and buildings and malls much more beautiful than I have seen in the United States, in Cape Coast the beach was breathtaking and in Kosoa there was so much life in their markets. The scenery there was so beautiful with so much green surrounding you and so much life. But the advancement and of Ghanians and the beauty of their country is not what made me fall in love with Ghana, it was the people.

  

The sense of community in Ghana is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The Ghanians are the most generous, most friendly, most inspiring people I have had the privilege of interacting with. They would stop you on the streets to greet you and learn about where you were from. They were genuine in asking you how your visit was going and if they could do anything to make it better. This was unlike anything I had ever experienced in the United States where you may live in a house for 10+ years and not even know your next door neighbor’s first name.

Aside from how the Ghanians treated the foreigners, or the Obrunis as they called us, it was interesting to see how they interacted with each other, the natives of Ghana, which they called Obibinis. And it was truly astounding to see the trust and love in the community. The children in every single town I saw would roam around all day with no parental supervision and many of these kids were toddlers or maybe just a bit older. No one ever worried about them because everyone in the community knew each other and kidnapping children was not something that was prevalent in their society. These children would ban together and spend the day wandering around until it started to get dark, then they would all return to their homes and wake up and do it all over again the next morning. There was no fear in leaving these children by themselves, no one worried about their safety because nothing bad ever happened that was induced by members of the community.

A few street children in Senya

I feel so connected to the citizens of Ghana because of the children I was able to work with at Becky’s Children’s home. To accurately describe the way these children touched me is unachievable. From the first day we arrived at the home these children accepted us with open arms, and I mean that literally. As the bus drove onto the lot of the children’s home the kids ran out of the home to come greet us and as soon we exited the vehicle we were attacked with hugs and excitement and playfulness. These kids have encountered many volunteers but it was easy to see that they were always excited to meet the next batch coming in. I was instantly attached to many of the girls there, Dorcas, Fafa, Gloria and also Mary and Esther. And of course I loved being silly with the boys, Justice, Desmond, Isaac and Prince. Everyone single one of these kids had such a prominent, bold personality that they all stuck out to me in different ways. Some were shy, some were open, some were troublemakers, some would calm the others. Some of them were very young while the others were quite a bit older. They all were so different yet they loved each other with a passion I had never seen. In the U.S. there is always this negative stigma about orphanages, how they are corrupt, how none of them are happy, and how selfish they are. I can not tell you how false those conceptions are when it comes to Becky’s Children’s home. These children do not distinguish biological siblings from adoptive ones. The way these children looked out for each other moved me in so many ways. For example, one of the children there Desmond, we all call him Desi, is the only handicapped child at the home. His lower legs do not function properly so he wanders around the home either on his knees or in his chair. He also slurs his speech a bit, but it is understandable. Desi loves doing things all of the other kids do, dancing, playing, singing, everything. And even though some activities are more challenging for him all of his siblings make sure he gets to participate. One day I was carrying Desi and he told me he wanted to go play on the swings. As I walked over and told the kids that Desi wanted a turn, every single one of them got out of their seat for him to get on. Whenever lunch or dinner time approached they also made sure he had his hands washed and was seated with them at the table. On our last day in Senya the children were eating ice cream and if any of them had extra or were given extra ice cream they all gave it to Desmond. For these kids who live such a simple life to give up so much for their brother is so beautiful to me because it is all genuine, pure love. They have so little to give one another and yet they do not bat a single eyelash as they do it. And what’s crazy to me is that you do not see that amongst wealthiest families in the states who have more than they imagine.

 

These kids taught me much more than I could ever teach them. They led by example and did not require anything from you other than your attention and your willingness to learn about them and their culture. Every time we visited their home they would love being responsible for something so they would ask to carry our things. And it did not matter to them whether it was a backpack, a fanny pack or a water bottle, as long as they were able to hold something for you. And there was never any uneasiness about your stuff being returned to you because as soon as they heard the bus pulling up to the home they would run to find you to return your things and never was there a single thing missing. These kids beat every assumption and every stereotype of the ‘typical orphan’ we think about in the U.S. These children were kind, compassionate, selfless, and so resourceful. They surprised me in every way.

 

Going to Ghana started a whirlwind of ideas that I want to accomplish after being there. The Akumanyi Foundation’s goal of creating self-sustainable resources is something I truly admire and have seen firsthand. But there is always more work to be done. Being one who has plans to enter the medical field, I am hoping to see more medical relief in Ghana especially getting the children at Becky’s home vaccinated and immunized. I want there to be a point in time where these children do not need anyone anymore, I want them to be healthy and educated and well taken care by their own people, without the “American Savior Complex” playing a part anymore. I want the best for the beautiful country of Ghana and its amazing citizens and I hope one day they will not need anyone but themselves. To learn more about the Akumanyi Foundation and their amazing programs please visit https://www.akumanyifoundation.org/ for more information or to donate to their many projects.