In approximately 2 months we will be leaving for Ghana! Its amazing how fast the trip is approaching! The support we have gotten for our book drive has been fabulous. I am very thankful for Christina Hamner who has organized a book drive at Mango Salon in Richmond, Va. This is a perfect example of the ability for individuals to help immensely without having to travel.
We also recently had the opportunity to orient ourselves to the culture of Ghana through the eyes of Randi from the VCU department of social work. She has been going to Ghana for the past 6 years and has had the ability to see changes occur and be maintained. Randi not only discussed safety and culture issues with us but gave us a picture of the extreme poverty we will encounter. We talked about the street children in Ghana, many of which are orphans after their parents died from AIDS. Fortunately, the street children in Ghana are different than the street children found in other countries. In Ghana, children form tribal families and care for each other instead of fighting and competing. Interestingly, children are most at risk for exploitation from adults, not each other. But trying to survive without appropriate adult guidance is a 24/7 job when these children should be playing and developing.
Poverty in Ghana is not about a lack of access to resources, not material goods. Randi explained to us that the people are very happy, joyful and resilient; they are hopeful and have positive outlooks on life. This is uplifting and inspiring to hear that poverty has not affected the spirit of Ghana. Randi also explained to us that the return culture shock would actually be more intense than when we arrive in Ghana and see the extreme poverty. Coming back to the United States where water out of the faucet is safe and the rush of life drowns everyone, I honestly don't know how I will react. Currently I am trying to get rid of things in my house that I do not need so I won't give everything I have worked for away when I return! I am nervous to see how this trip changes me as a person and re-orders my values and priorities. However, it is helpful to mentally prepare for this trip and our return and to have friends to be able to share these experiences with.
I hope to bring back from Ghana the deep understanding that it takes very little to be happy. I want to bring back the positives as well as the negatives and grow as a person from both.