My STEP Signature Project was a service learning trip to Ghana, Africa. While there, we assisted in a children’s home doing day-to-day chores, painted a school and toilet project, and spent a few days traveling and learning about Ghanaian culture.
I have learned that I take things for granted. In Ghana we didn’t have running water, we didn’t have paper towels, there was no air conditioning anywhere. Everything that is so natural in the US. If we didn’t have those things here people would complain non-stop, but I never heard a single Ghanaian complain, they did the work because that’s what they know and they were happy to do it. Their culture is very community based and that’s something I want to bring more into my life. I would say that I have been a lot more grateful since I’ve been home and working on using my privilege in positive ways.
One activity we did was a privilege walk. In this activity I was all the way in the front, at least five steps in front of everyone else. Initially it made me feel so guilty, it still does sometimes, but the advisor on the trip explained that every question that was asked was something we couldn’t control and it’s not about having privilege but what you do with your privilege that matters.
It took me a couple days to understand the activity, because as we were doing it I was embarrassed to be in the front and I felt like I was being told that I’d had life easy, which is not completely the case. Many of the questions asked I had never thought about being a privilege, which I suppose is part of the problem.
I still don’t know if I’m a huge fan of the activity, but it did change the way I thought about life, how it is harder for people based on circumstances they didn’t create. That sometimes things are unfair, but when you’re the one being treated equally you have a responsibility to stand up for those who aren’t.
It has really given me a new outlook that I know I can use in the future. When I graduate and start work in the real world I hope the experiences I’ve had on this trip can help me relate and empathize with different types of people. Additionally, I want to eventually work in a nonprofit, so getting to see one in action and do a lot of hands on work with creating sustainable solutions to their problems I know will benefit me as I’m deciding what path to take.