Allison's Ghana Service Blog

More influential people that I will never forget. 

These are some of the people I met in Ghana who have greatly impacted me. There are so many, that I will have to make multiple picture posts. These individuals have become some great friends and family, and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. I will forever be thankful for them for making my experience a positive and life-changing one. 

the post I didn’t want to write

Seven and a half weeks have gone too fast. Ghana is my second home, and I will forever leave a piece of my heart here. Tomorrow, we begin our journey back to the U.S., and I’m finding I’m having a very difficult time with it. I’m not ready to leave this place, my friends and family here, the kids, and the wonderful group I’ve spent every moment with. 

This past week has been a blur. Between projects, presentations, an exam, shopping, dancing, and exploring Accra, I’ve been distracting myself from the thought of returning to the fast paced, individually-centered, and frankly lot less friendly U.S. There are things I miss about home (such as hot water, vegetables, clean clothes, and my boyfriend), but I could get used to life here…well maybe not ‘Ghana-time.’

These people have changed my life and my perspective on it. These kids have affected me in ways I have only just begun to understand. I have made life-long friends, and I cannot wait to return to this country. I beg forgiveness from my friends and family back in the U.S. for my inevitable frustration and sadness. I’m sure these feelings will eventually pass, but it will be difficult to explain my time in Ghana. I’m anticipating the question, “So, how was your time in Africa?” Well, do you have half a day? How can I even begin to explain what has happened here? It will be nearly impossible to put my emotions into my descriptions. I’ll surely be having withdrawals from my group members because they will be the only ones to understand everything. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to show my pictures and tell stories, but I just might start crying in the middle of it. 

I have decided I will be coming back here, especially to get back to the kids that changed my life. They need all the love they can get, and I want to give it to them. There’s millions more that need it as well. I want my future career to somehow involve working with anti human-trafficking organizations. The mix of child welfare and international work sounds perfect. On the other hand, I want to change policies that are affecting these children and those like them around the world. That probably involves a few more degrees and dreaded politics. Maybe U.N.?

Right now, I need to focus on reverse culture shock and doing what I can for these kids from the U.S.: spreading awareness, creating correspondence, raising funds, etc. They will definitely always be on mind. I also am finding some solace in the fact that some of the friends we have made here have a high possibility of attending GVSU (I’ll post pictures once I get home). I can’t wait to show them our side of things and reconnect in the near future. 

It’s hard to believe this is it. I am forever grateful of the opportunities I had here. Not very many people are able to travel to Africa and have such life-changing experiences like this. I feel so fortunate. Definitely bittersweet feelings. It’s not ‘Goodbye’ to Ghana, but, as the Ghanians like to say, “I’m coming.”

Okay gotta buy a new washer and dryer. Just wanted you guys to know that’s what marriage is all about. Acquisition of major appliances.
Joe upon reception of an email from his wife (via ghanaservice-morgan)

D: “I am very sad you are leaving.”

Me: “I am sad too, but I’m so blessed to have met you. You will always be with me.”

D: “I know, I will never forget you.”

Que the tears. Our last couple of days in Winneba have been full of bitter-sweet goodbyes. Thursday was our last day working at the shelter. Friday, the non-medical students had a formal farewell at Challenging Heights. Friday evening, our group hosted a party for our Ghanian hosts: all of our friends at the clinics, the school and shelter, the water projects, Emmanuel’s family and friends, and everyone else that has been so generous to us. We had excellent food, a live local band, and dancing. It was a lot of fun, but difficult to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the night. These people have truly become like our family here, and I feel so fortunate to have had these experiences with them. 

Today was the most challenging. Some of us traveled to the shelter to say goodbye to the children we’ve become so close with. They’ve changed and inspired me in ways I’m not even fully aware of yet. I will never forget them, that would be impossible. My time here and with them has already changed my outlook on life and what I want to do with it. 

The quote at the beginning of this post is between one of the oldest boys and myself. Of course, it started to downpour rain right as he said it. Coincidence? The youngest boy, who usually cannot sit still, clung to my neck until the last second and one of the older boys had to pry him off. My heart was torn watching them wave from behind the bars of the gate as we drove away.

The mood among most of the boys was somber. How many white volunteers have they seen come in there and leave after a brief time? How many of them have good homes to return to once they’re released? I just pray that we have offered them some glimpse of hope, and they know that someone out there loves them immensely. I can’t fully comprehend what my time with these children means, and I don’t know if I ever will. I do know, however, that I have changed because of them. Tomorrow brings us to Accra (with limited communication), and away from my second home. I’m already planning my return trip. 

Sunday at the shelter. Hanging with one of my buds (he’s also featured in my facebook profile pic). Worth 1000 words. Photo credit to the talented Sarah Aman :) Check out her service blog!

I hate that just as I become comfortable with this place and feel at home, we have to get ready to leave. It’s hard to believe I only have one week left here Winneba. I’m dreading Accra. I’m dreading the U.S. I miss the people back home, but there are so many aspects of this culture that I prefer. It’s simpler. I have hardly looked in a mirror in 6 weeks. Or carried around a cell phone. I have no idea what songs are played on the radio back home,  how the election is going, or what other awful things are being portrayed on the news (prayers to those in Colorado). 

Now what I know is Azonto, rice and beans, bucket laundry, greeting everyone you meet, asking about each others family, the 16 other people I traveled here with, taxis and tro-tros, ocean waves, goats and roosters, Alvaro, smiling faces and hand shakes that snap, corny ringtones, dirty feet, lovable and loving children, and faith. 

I have never seen a greater representation of faith than this morning. Some of us went to the rescue and rehabilitation shelter to join the children and house mothers for a church service. Sitting amongst 40+ children, all former slaves, I was overcome with emotion. A believer, but hardly a devout anything, I have never felt more spiritually connected than I did today. The kids sang songs of worship in their local language, with their eyes closed, heads bent, and hands raised. Beautiful sounds from beautiful children gave me chills. Then they all said aloud their personal prayers. At once, I heard over 40 children truly speak with God. After everything they’ve been through, after all the horrible things humans have done to them, they have this immense capacity to forgive and trust. And most of all, have faith. To many other people put into similar situations, they might believe God had given up on them. But these children haven’t given up on God. I find this powerful, courageous, and inspiring. It truly makes me want to reevaluate my own beliefs and faith. 

I also realized today how much I’m going to miss the people I’ve met here. Not only did I get to travel with some amazing fellow-students, but we have had the opportunity to meet so many impressive people, most of them young people, along the way. Tonight we enjoyed dinner with some of them, and truly enjoyed ourselves. From riding in the back of a pick-up truck, to trying chicken-gizzard kebabs and wine, to pushing a stuck taxi out of the mud, to taking modeling pictures with all of them, and to dancing to bad 80s music. They all have big plans on making Ghana better. Whether it is through water quality and sanitation, micro-loans, creating NGOs, or charity rock concerts, these people have dreams for their country. And I feel honored to have met them and call them my friends. I’ll miss you Sammy, Keelson, Teekells, Kwe, Baffour, and everyone else!

My little buddy at the shelter. Love him and his giggles <3

My little buddy at the shelter. Love him and his giggles <3

Heavy

It’s been an emotional past few days. Fortunately, I am now devoting most of my time to the rescue and rehabilitation center. This has lead to a lot more child-interaction and some great conversations with the social workers there. God bless those women. 

I wish I could describe what being with those children is like. They will stay with me for the rest of my life. Today, one of the boys stated that I “wasn’t going to stay.” I didn’t want to lie to him, so I told him he would always stay with me and I’d never forget him, and that I would have many friends come to help. I still felt horrible. 

Today, the youngest boy at the shelter, only 5-years-old, connected with me in one of the most intimate ways. I was sitting on a step outside, reading with another boy, when the little one came over and sat next to me. He is usually very mobile, and doesn’t let anyone get too close. However, he put his head on my shoulder and started singing a soft song in Fante. The other boy returned to his class, and my little guy climbed up on my lap. He nuzzled into my chest and quickly fell asleep. It was difficult to hold back tears as I rocked him for 20 minutes. He is so small, I can’t even imagine what was done to him, or what he was forced to do while he was trafficked. How many times had someone held him like that? In that moment, I wanted to just keep him safe and apologize for all the things that other human beings have done to him. I can only hope he dreamt of sweet things like puppies and football. No matter what I think or what I feel, I can’t undo what has already been done to him. That sucks. 

Later in the afternoon, we had to say goodbye to one of the boys. He had been there for 8 months and was returning to his family, who I had been told were prepared for him. I certainly hope so. The worst thing would be for him to be re-trafficked. His departure was ceremonial. They gave him nice new clothes and shoes, packed up his things, and took a bunch of pictures. At 15-years-old, he stood proud and gave a shy smile. He seemed happy to return home, but sad to leave his new family. After the pictures, he retreated and sat by himself. All the children came up to him, giving him hugs and laughs. While these boys fight with each other constantly, at the end of the day, they’re in it together. They’ve all been taken from their homes, been beaten, been worked, seen friends drown, almost drown themselves. And now they are all there, healing together. All of us volunteers were watching this unfold with tears in our eyes. This boy has come so far, but still has a long way to go, and I pray that gets there. 

Based on popular demand, I have decided to upload this impromptu Beiber dance vid. From one of the first nights in Accra. With special guest appearance by Zander.