For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in a Buck-I-SERV trip to Ghana. On the trip we volunteered at a Children’s Home and helped clean and prepare meals for the kids. We also painted a newly built school and bathroom building that were in different villages.
During my STEP Signature Project, I realized that everything can be seen as a privilege. Privacy, electricity, refrigerators, and running water, are things that I never considered to be a privilege before going to Ghana. Also, even though the kids at the children’s home had very little, they were still some of the happiest people I have ever met. The project changed me because it helped me to better understand how to respect and participate in the customs of a different culture, for example, one day the kids taught us how to dance the way they had been taught their whole life. My view of the world has changed because as an American, the pace of everyday life is very fast and usually follows a strict schedule, however in Ghana I realized that it is good to take a break and enjoy living in the now.
The relationships that had the largest impacts on me and led me to change the way I viewed things were my relationships with the kids. The kids had very little, yet they were always happy, upbeat, and excited to teach us more about their culture. In the afternoons we spent time with the kids, which allowed us to develop strong relationships with them. They enjoyed teaching us their language and asking us questions about our lives and our culture. Their positive views of their world reminded me to be thankful for what I have.
One activity that had a large impact on my perception of hard work was when we would get water from the river. At the children’s home, there was no running water. Therefore, we had fill buckets down at a river and bring them back up to the home so that there was enough water to drink, cook with, and bathe over 60 kids with it. With that being said, the Buck-I-SERV trip members spent one to two hours a day bringing water up to the home. It was extremely tiring, and I quickly learned the true meaning of hard work. The kids who were 12 years and older would help us carry up water, and throughout all of this they would laugh with each other and have fun. Their positive mindsets when working very hard out in the heat inspired me to stay positive myself and has influenced me into keeping this mindset when I am completing other difficult tasks.
Lastly, the relationships that I developed with the Ghanaians who worked for the Akumanyi Foundation had large impacts on me as well. It was very intriguing to get to know people my age from a completely different culture and learn about their societal norms. The Akumanyi Foundation workers are very passionate about what they do, and it was inspiring to see all of the projects that they had organized and completed in the different Ghanaian villages.
This change is significant for my life because I want to be a doctor, which means I will be seeing patients who come from many different backgrounds. This experience has taught me how to effectively communicate with people of a different culture, and also how to truly respect their cultural differences. While in Ghana, I learned that it is common for Ghanaians to wait to seek medical help until it is absolutely necessary. As a doctor, having a patient who waited until the last minute to go to the doctor could be frustrating. However, I will be able to draw from my experience in Ghana and understand that perhaps, the patient waited to go to the doctor because that is how they were raised and that is what they know to do.