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. Sometimes  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 those  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!