Hey! Monica here. I’m working on sending Grace Dadzie to computer school. She cooked for us and helped us out a lot while we were living in Eguafo. She also became a good friend. Helping her with school seems like it will work out to the entire project’s advantage in the end. Grace promises to help David with his school when she has become established and gotten a job. I’m really excited for her. I’m trying to raise $175 dollars right now by the end of this week. That will cover the rest of the cost of tuition, books, and 3 months rent of her living space.
If anyone is interested in hearing more about this feel free to comment!

Peace,
Monica

IMG_0144

If you’re interested, here is the first compilation of footage we have from Ghana. We showed this when we did a presentation at an African dinner in Oberlin, held to raise funds for the Yakubu Saaka scholarship fund.

(apologies for the poor quality of the images)

My experience might have been different because I was the youngest and the most inexperienced in service but I think it was most affected by the realization that I downright don’t like to travel. I am the definition of a homebody. I have this belief that anyone who wants to make a difference in the world should travel it and by all means I’m one of those people yet I can’t shake the longing of my own bed and comforts no matter how enriching the cultural experience. This makes for an unshakable impatience throughout the entirety of the trip and enduring my lack of inner calm was the hardest thing for me.

What happened in Africa changed my life. Fixing the children’s cuts and scrapes, taking Grace to the hospital, witnessing our friends’ gratitude when we gave them gifts or old things of ours, trying to convince a grandmother to allow her child to come back home for the night even though he did not fetch his share of water, taking the children at the Center with to an African Footprint show and to the Slave Castles… All of these memories made the trip worth more to me than any of my comforts at home. I will have these memories forever and I can share them with everyone. I sacrificed home for a month and I am so grateful for all I acquired in that time.
If someone like me who hates leaving her comfort zone can live in a small village for a month, then it’s hard to see why more people don’t. I’m nothing special, I just want to change the world.

Monica

We’re at the end of our journey. Tomorrow our group will make our way back to Accra. While I (Yolanda) stay on till Wednesday ,the rest will fly back on Friday.

We’re all emotionally and physically exhausted. We knew this venture would be challenging but I don’t think we thought it would be this challenging. Least of all me. I didn’t think I would be phased at all. I am African am I not? And this culture and aspects of poverty is familiar, right? So why would I get so emotional? I narrowed the answers down to a few things. In South Africa (SA) I have an easy answer to the inequality. I spent half my life living under the Apartheid regime and even though we’ve been free since 1994, it’s taking some time for the people of colour(Blacks, Coloureds & Indians) to reach economical stability. But it’s easy to look at the situation and say we are still suffering because of Apartheid. That evil regime cannot understandably be reverse in one generation. So when I see poverty in SA I can direct my anger at something concrete. But what do I direct my anger at when I look at Ghana?

Last week we went to Elmina Castle. We had gone to Cape Castle 2 weeks earlier so I had experienced a slave castle before going to Elmina. I’m not sure what triggered it, but I found myself flooded with emotions. Feelings of extreme anger and bitterness. As one walks out of the castle which holds a long history of slavery; a history of Africans being sold by their own; a history of Africans being stolen; a history of Africans held capitive in these castles in grossly inhuman conditions and then shipped off to a land where they were continue to be treated inhumanly, you walk out of the castle and poverty is everywhere. What was the reason for this?

I started to think of my life in America. I started feeling angry and resentful. I had questions that did not have easy concrete answers. The history was too long. I found myself not able to to talk with my teammates. I couldn’t relate to them. As open-minded and conscience as they are-they were not black. And while going to the castle definitely and visibly affected them too, it wasn’t the same. I needed someone to talk to. Someone whom I could express my feelings and not be afraid that I would offend. Then I decided to go to Accra and spend time with Marie-Stella. She’s a Ghanaian who is an Oberlin alum.. When I express this desire to the others they were very gracious. “Take care of yourself first” they said. So off I went to Marie’s home. It was so needed. We talked, we screamed, I cried, laughed and then I was back to being me. When I returned on Monday, David wanted to know why I didn’t speak to him or feel like I could relate to him and I said” David you’ve only seen the history from Africa’s point of view. Marie and I have had the opportunity to see the history from America’s point of view. What happened to our brothers and sisters when they reached the Americas? They were continued to be treated like animals.” David has not comprehended this yet. In his life he has met African-Americans, yes. But for the most part they were well off. David didn’t get to see that even today there are black in America living a life like his. So he doesn’t have the same frustration and bitterness. He doesn’t have the questions that Marie and I have. Questions to which there are no easy answers.

Besides feeling peace at Marie’s home I found myself thinking very differently. Here was Marie, a medical student,with well educated parents, and economically very stable. Her friend and the people in her network were all from a similar background. As I lounged in her beautiful home I wonder what exactly is the “African experience”? Many times people talk about the African experience they talk about village life and mostly poverty. I remember resently asking a girl who visited SA what she thought of SA before going. What surprised her most. She said, “Sadly I thought only of povery and distraught. I was supprise to find it so well developed.” I thought of all this and wondered. I wonder what would an American or even European say, if I said “Oh I want to have an American experience, take me to your ghettos, take me to your trailler park. I want to have the real experience.”
Even Oberlinians with their open-mindedness don’t always realize that they sometimes reduce Africa to a vision of poverty when they encounter a well-developed part in African, they oh it’s been westernized or Americanized. Is it really? Or is that the African experience?

I reallize this blog is two-fold and is contridictory but for all of us it’s been a conflicting experience.

Just some thoughts.

Peace and Love from Africa

Yolanda-Esi Lenda

At this very moment the inaugaration of President Barack Obama is occurring. I am sad and disappointed to be missing the ceremony, especially after investing so much in the campaign. There is not so much buzz in Ghana as you would expect, but that may be due to the fact the election was 3 months ago. After President Mills won the election here in Ghana, it was about a week and a half turn around to their inauguration. It was interesting to see all of the Obama comparisons, the calls for change, and the declarations of being “Ghana’s Obama,” during the election. Regardless, I wish that we could watch the inaguaration, but at the moment Sara, David, and I are setting up the blog at Sankofa (http://sankofachildrenshome.wordpress.com) and solidifying our plans in Accra.

The good news is that everything appears to be coming together in the end. We are finishing up with accounting and totaling the donations and the supplies. I mentioned that one of the last things that I thought that I would be doing on this trip was accounting work. It is not that I thought we wouldn’t be handling finances, but that I didn’t think that I would be doing it. That has been kind of how this entire trip has been. You can never expect something to go completely to plan, but it tends to work out in the long run. Things just run a little different here than in the US. It has been a good learning experience, in many things, especially patience.

This will probably be my last post until I reach the United States, so I thank you for reading all or some our posts.

Wish us safe travels.

Thank you,

Patrick Bourke

It’s tempting to try to be really reflective as our time in Ghana comes to a close, even though our last few days have been, and I’m sure will continue to been, as full as any–a whirlwind of activity as we prepare to say goodbye to friends and colleagues, finish up projects here, run final errands and take final photos. And at least for me, a lot of what I’ve learned from travel or study abroad or other similar experiences has dawned on me later, after having re-established what I usually consider my “normal” life in the States. SometimesĀ  I still don’t know what to make of an experience even months later, and I’m sure this Winter Term will be no different, continuing to affect me (and I hope the others in our group) in new and perhaps surprising ways.

So I don’t claim to offer any definitive closing remarks–which I suppose is fitting for a project that we will continue to work on and be a part of. In trying to assess our own progress with Sankofa and my personal contribution, I feel great about our accomplishments and dismayed by how small they seem in the grand scheme of things. I’ll be glad to have left the Center a cleaner, warmer space with books, beds, and personal items for the children/ I’m happy to have made progress on administrative projects and as many times as I feel like we’ve had to start from scratch in assessing the true needs of school–and our role in getting them met–I finally feel like we have an idea of how we can continue to help. A lot of research, networking, grant writing and fundraising, and establishing a program for other volunteers to come can be done much easily from the States, with better internet access and within networks like the Oberlin community. We have our work cut out for us, but I think the group joins me in feeling good about committing to Sankofa into the future.

To thoseĀ  interested in volunteering abroad, I whole-heartedly recommend living in the community you work in. It’s been maybe the most challenging part of the experience, but eye-opening in so many ways. I do not feel like we would have been able (begin to) to discover or understand many of the broader issues or needs at stake in the community without total immersion in its way of life and the chance to interact closely with the children and adults for whom it is their “normal” life. I will not miss trying to cook dinner while children I don’t know stand out the window pleading “I’m hungry,” or seeing things we dispose of in the trash heap end up in the mouths of other children, but I will miss the friendships we’ve only just begun to form, and the sense of adventure–about being here, learning from a new culture, and trying to lend some sort of a hand–that still hasn’t worn off.

- Ekua Rebecca (Wednesday-born)

PS: All the Ghanaians we talk to are just as excited about Obama’s inauguration as we are!! This is the first time I’ve traveled abroad where I’m excited (rather than a little sheepish) to say I”m American and proud to talk about our government. I’ll be delighted to return to an Obama administration!

I can’t believe that our time here is almost over….as cliche or corny as it may be to say, this experience has truly been life altering and I never imagined I would learn as much as I have in such a short time…

I really have no idea how to process everything yet, or articulate the lessons I’ve learned, the people I have met, and this life and world that has become my own over this past month…I can’t even be articulte in my own journal.

This morning, the children came over to our porchand sat around with us while they ate their breakfast. The girls greeted me with big hugs, Edwin with a cool hand slap and a big grin, Seth with a cool and calm good morning and smirk, Mark with his usual stealth humor and wit, and Samuel with a loud “eh” and huge grin as he used my hair brush to fix his hair…I will miss these rituals so much.

Yesterday we walked up to the school with the boys and several other village children for after school activities and Sarah and I just laughed and soaked up their energy and let them be kids. I’m going to miss being around such vibrant and eager kids. They are so fun and free when you give them an outlet for it and just encourage them to be kids.

I was on the phone with my Mom and Mary, a 3 year old who lives un front of our house came over and just leaned on me and snuggled while I continued my phone conversation; the night before her older sister who had fallen and scraped up her knee sat on my lap for about 20 minutes, just because it was what she needed. I will miss being around kids who need so little to feel loved and important.

There is an energy and spirit in Ghana and Eguafo that I have never experienced before. Yes, it does get tiring explaining to people that I don’t have money and that I can’t just buy things for them, or telling random men that they are not my friends and that I cannot marry them or take them to the states…but those things are such little things really. For the most part here I have just been truly embraced by the people here and humbled by their strength, faith, community, lifestyle, and spirit…I cannot tell you how nice it is to actually talk to my neighbors and to have people ask me how I am doing and to return the question. The most frustrating thing I have found here (aside from the difference in child rearing and the role of children in a family\society) is that it feels as though people here think that everything in America is perfect and that we have all the answers…and further more, that the answers to all of Ghana’s problems and struggles are America’s answers…and I really don’t htink that this is true. Yes, I think that it is great that the elections here went as well as they did and I think that the Ghanaian people felt really empowered and proud about the democratic process that they all helped to carry out…but America does not have all the answers and Ghana needs their own dream, not just the “American” one. I was trying to explain to one of them men on the Sankofa board that there are people in America who live on the streets and don’t have money. He didn’t believe me and asked why do they live on the streets? I told him because they do not have jobs and can’t get help. He was shocked about this and didnot know that there are people in the states who live like that.

I guess what I mean to say is that I hope that the Ghanaian people see their own potential and realize their own dreams. There are people here with dreams and aspriations and ideas, and tons of children who want to go to school and learn…I don’t know what I’m trying to say I guess. Just that, Westerners coming in and trying to help or adapt our own systems is not the sole solution here…there’s more to it. I look at the kids in the center and they could do something for Eguafo, for Ghana…they just need to believe that they can and I hope we can help them see that.

I have just learned so much here about my own life and opportunities and mind set…I’ve been truly touched and inspired by my time here and the people I have met. I did not intend to have such an overly sentimental post, but I’m just very conflicted about our departure. On one side, I’m ready to go home and to fundraise state side, to have faster and more helpful internet to do research and yes, to go to the bathroom on a toliet seat and flush it…but I will so miss the simplicity of life here, of taking time to just experience things and notice the world around me, and to be around kids who just make m laugh and are always teaching me things and learning from me…

It is time to leave, but it will be hard to do so.

My Mom told me that I will be coming back to an America that feels very different, one that is hopeful and starting to pay attention to those that are in need. I hope that this mindset can help the children here…I want them to go to school everyday and learn and to have food everyday and to remember that they have people in their corner routing for them…I just wish I could stay here to remind them that in person.

See you all soon

~Adjwoa Lizabet/Lizzy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.