First off I am sorry,
This blog has been in the works for almost two months.
I have tried to sit down daily to write but until now haven’t been able to wrap my head around the experience of it all.
I have always traveled, and I volunteered before in various parts of the world, however I have never traveled with the sole purpose of volunteering; this was my reason for journeying to Ghana.
If you’ve met me or spoken to me you know that the very mention of Africa will cause my eyes to sparkle and I will smile in nostalgia from the months spent here last year. This trip is no different, I miss Ghana, most importantly I miss the kids, my beautiful kids, the ones who bring twinkles to the eyes and make my heart pitter patter.
In mid May when I was boarding my flight from Washington to Accra I wont lie, I had a mini breakdown, caught myself worried that emotionally I may not be able to handle spending time in a village so remote with people who have so little.
This is where I am ashamed of myself, Ghanaians like many other Africans may not necessarily possess a lot but in Dodowa I was reminded that while we Westerners may have a lot more that we own, in Africa there is one consistency across the continent that I find we struggle with in North America and that is humanity.
Its weird,the continent of Africa probably has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world combined with over 2000 languages spoken and countless cultural, tribal, and religious beliefs as well, yet I speak of it as though it were a country (and never would I refer to Europe or South America in the same sense); but in every country I have been to in Africa (13 so far) people share one goal other than survival and that is to be happy.
There is a universal language of celebration across Africa that is usually expressed through music; while the rhythms and dancing will vary – you will always find people dancing with rejoice – enjoying being human, celebrating each day and proclaiming their love of life. It is not that in the first world we don’t celebrate – but our daily achievements are almost always shadowed with a false modesty. In Africa neighbors celebrate being together, living next to each other and being able to wake up each day with the sun. Walk the streets of any big city in North America and you will see people stressed out, frowning or grumpy… I have yet to see anyone in Africa frown.
That is the difference, and of course now I am trailing, between Africa and what we call home, so you can imagine how silly I felt when I arrived into Ghana, traveled four hours north of the capital into the bush to a village that most tro tro drivers don’t know exist and found the home of these 74 little angels full of happiness, love, and joy.
Each one of the children welcomed me with open arms, as did the villagers.
I was never once asked for money or any handouts, they simply wanted to get to know me, and what I was doing as an obruni (foreigner) in their small village of no running water or reliable electricity. Women would offer to braid my hair, let me hold their children and be a part of their families routine while the men tried to get to know me and shake their head in shock that a female of 27 has neither children, chores or a husband.
The weeks with the kids were the happiest I have been in years as everything was simple – there was no fancy toys or money to cause fights or favoritism, children just wanted your attention and to show YOU how to have fun and be happy. I felt as though I were a child again, learning about life and love.
Yes, there were heart breaking moments when new children were abandoned at the doorsteps of the orphanage by their parents. Parents who somehow decided they will no longer fight for their kids – sadly that’s the reality in parts of the world. We would never dream of just leaving out children out to die under a bridge, knowingly poison them, or beat them in the hopes of death (as many of the children at the orphanage were discovered), yet despite all of their hardships and brutality showed to them (and there are many stories of abuse that bring tears to my eyes just thinking about) these children love each other and life. They don’t fight, they don’t bully each other – instead they come together as one unit and treat each as brother and sister making sure that each has their chores and homework done, each is fed and bathed and taking care of one another if the other is ill (these are children – what child under 6 do you know who has forfeited play time to stay and help administer medication to another child through malaria).
As far as stories from this experience, I still struggle wrapping my head around it all, one day I will share it with you. In the mean time, in lieu of what is happening in the Horn of Africa I just encourage you all to stop and reflect on your life. How much that we have that is taken for granted. We have electricity, an substantial supply of drinking water, accessible health care and the opportunity to be educated.
Please be grateful, there are people in this world who are literally dying for the opportunity to live.
I can’t finish this post without urging you to act. Think twice about going out for food or a coffee and instead gift those few dollars towards saving millions, you may think you’re unable to make a difference, but if we each believe we can – we will.
xx lil miss planet
If you do feel compelled to act, the Canadian Government is currently matching donations to Canadian Red Cross, please don’t think twice. That one coffee you skip out on may change the world..