For my STEP Signature Project I went to Ghana with a Buck-I-Serv trip. During this trip we worked with The Akumanyi Foundation to empower youth at their orphanage site. We also got to visit other project sites like the toilets they built with the clean water access program and paint at the new school building.
One transformation that took place while completing my signature project is my view of Africa. Many people, including myself before this trip, believe that all of Africa is the same. Everyone has this negative stereotype of sick, starving children living in small huts. But this is not the case for all of Africa. In countries like Ghana, there are many developed cities. For example, one day we went into a mall and it felt exactly the same as an American mall. You take one step inside this mall and it felt like you were back in America. My view of the whole continent of Africa changed because it is not all poor and developing countries like some people describe it to be. There are many beautiful places as well, like the beaches and hostel we stayed at in Cape Coast.
The relationships that I made with the Akumanyi staff and the children that are a part of this foundation led me to a personal transformation because they were all so kind and welcoming to their country. Every Ghanaian that I encountered while abroad wanted to get to know me, whether they were 5 years old or 30 years old. Even when we were walking down the street, the people in the village would wave at us with welcoming smiles and ask us our names. It was through all these relationships and encounters that I learned community is very important to their culture.
One specific event that led to a personal transformation is when we toured the slave castle in Cape Coast. This experience was very impactful because we got to learn about the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade from the African point of view, when many times in America we only learn about the American point of view. It was very interesting to hear why it started and that African people were doing cruel and inhumane things to other African people.
Another interaction and activity that we did that led to a personal transformation was the privilege walk. We had to step forward or backwards based on questions that applied to us and they all had to do with privilege. This activity was meaningful because although I was at the front of the line I shared something personal about myself with the group during our talk afterwards. This activity really showed and reminded me that you never truly know what a person has gone through. It was truly amazing to see and listen to other people’s stories and learn from them.
This transformation is valuable to my life because I can help break down stereotypes of Africa and Ghana by telling others about my experiences. I can help break the “single story” that everyone has of Africa in their minds by showing them all the positive things that we got to experience. I can show them the beautiful beaches, the canopy walk in the tree tops, and the happy kids. This transformation relates to my professional goals because this experience validated that I want to continue helping people every day in the hopes of becoming a Physician’s Assistant.