Throughout our time in Ghana, Nikki and TK have shown us the realities of their communities and country, whether hopeful or challenging. They have shown us their work in the streets with children and youth, they’ve shown us their work in the village of Lolito, and the work they do mentoring university students. Through their time leading us here it has become apparent to me that commitment and consistency are what change and transform people as well as communities.
In Nikki and TK’s work, this commitment and consistency come out of a deep love they have for the people they work with. Each child they interact with on the streets or in Lolito, each university student they invest in, they acknowledge the importance and value of each one of them and make it a point for them to know that they are loved and that they too can make a difference in their own community.
We are looking forward to speaking at three important events. We will share more about our vision and what we do as we connect with friends, family and community members. Our goal will be to build the partnerships and acquire the finances necessary to empower our mission.
You are invited to listen and partner with us in our mission to serve children and youth living in disadvantaged and vulnerable conditions.
Background & Explanation
“Future of Africa” is a community of people providing food, education, and healthcare for children and youth living in the streets of Accra, Ghana. Over the last two years we have developed relationships with over 100 street children and we have started to understand their harsh realities. While these kids are forced to be resilient and resourceful, they remain extremely vulnerable. Part of our long-term plan is to invest in their well-being by providing them with a safe space, caring friendship and education.
We have a big vision for we desire to see our kids become thriving and contributing citizens in their world. We are seeking people to partner us; to bring their expertise and financial resources. Our plans include opening a community center in downtown Accra where kids can be kids and where we will run numerous programs and where mentoring relationships will be developed. Our vision also includes a fully operational school in a rural village where our kids will transition and access education. This stage of our development has a fundraising goal of $80,000.
It feels like only moments ago, I was under the Ghanaian sun, surrounded by dozens of giggling children, all eager to hold my hand and learn my name. Close to my memory, are all the late night conversations I had with my team members on topics like justice, identity and faith. Even though it happened one month ago, I find I am still grappling with the experiences I had, and struggling to figure out what it means to live out the lessons I learned.
In countries like Ghana, the needs abound. The problems the country faces seem very visible, from power outages, to poverty, to traffic congestion. It was all a little overwhelming for me. It wasn’t until I witnessed the people and the school in Lolito, that I began to understand how change happens. It’s not about solving all the problems. It’s about using your gifts to address the needs in your own community.
It’s a good lesson to learn, but I’ve found it challenging to apply to life in Canada. The issues seems far less obvious here, and even more so in my wealthy, small town of Elmira. It has forced me to step back and take a critical look at my community and the people I interact with. What are the hidden needs and what is my role in addressing them?
In my reflection, I’ve noticed the need for genuine relationships that go beyond the surface. Relationships built on trust, openness and encouragement. To be a part of the solution, requires a great deal of intentionality on my end. This summer, I will have numerous opportunities to interact with those who may not have these kinds of relationships. Whether it’s the children from the summer camps, the youth from Sunnydale Connect, or my fellow leaders and friends. I must go beyond the “programming” by being an example of openness and encouragement and by intentionally starting conversations of greater importance.
I know it’s a lot easier said than done. It takes extra effort, a certain amount of patience, and sometimes it’s downright awkward. But this is how I start taking the lessons I’ve learned from across the ocean and bringing them into the context I know best, my home.
They say all good things must come to an end and indeed it is true. One would be led to believe that sight seeing primarily involves viewing illustrious buildings, environments and to some extent people. However, today being the penultimate day, we journeyed through Sodom and Gomorrah and Chokor- two places immensely punctuated by abject poverty, promiscuity, a high crime rate and an inadequate sewage system.
The smell was unbearable, houses were crammed together and the smoke from burning garbage persisted incessantly. The entire community was located within the heart of land solely designated for sewage and garbage. How people manage to live there remains a mystery. The grim image was very disheartening and a profound contrast was soon created when we saw visited one of the richest estates in Ghana shortly after. This area was well decorated with affluence and to some of the persons on the team, it appeared as if the estate was independent of the nation.
The portrait of black and white, riches versus poverty, aroma versus stench, perfection versus imperfection clearly showed the contrast.
The experience left the team reflecting on the quotation, “We were all born equal but grew to be unequal” and wondering how we could truly be agents of change…
Our last few days in Ghana will be spent in Accra, doing some sight seeing and a lot of reflecting. Today we began our morning debrief with a discussion on justice. We explored the reasons why many of us are hesitant to stand up against injustices and tried to rationalize when it would be appropriate to intervene in situations. It was quickly identified that interventions in regards to injustices are always easier said than done. Conviction and passion were brought up as possible driving forces to allow for us to make interventions when we observe them.
The afternoon was spent touring the city. We visited a museum dedicated to the first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and spent a few hours at a market, learning to bargain and navigate the numerous rows of colorful stalls.
Grandma Dogbe, the principal of Smile Child Academy, travelled up from Lolito and joined us for supper. Aunt Nunya also joined us to thank us for our efforts and also discuss our time in the community and the observations we had made. It was a time of brain storming for the school, talking about things like curriculum, training and next steps. As if we have not been given enough already, we were presented with scarves as a small token of appreciation. The day has been full, leaving all of us tired. But the conversations we are having continued to challenge us and dig deeper into the things we have experienced on this trip.
And we’re back! Since we spent most of the day driving back to Accra from Lolito and settling in, we thought we’d take today’s blog post as an opportunity to reflect on our favourite memories from our time in the village.
As we collected the stories, it immediately became apparent that getting to know the people of Lolito was quite simply a load of fun. Jeremy’s highlight was sitting down with one 84-year-old villager and his wife and just listening to them talk about their dreams for the future, both for their family in particular and for the village as a whole. As Scilla pointed out, getting to know the children of the community was often particularly rewarding, as we spent the most time with them and so got to learn about their stories and passions throughout the week. For Tarique, it was his conversation with Christian, a local teenager from a broken home who dreams of one day working in the IT world, that stood out the most. Several other team members had fond memories of a local 3-year-old named “Korshitse” (Korshi for short). TK recalled his boundless energy and enthusiasm as he ran around the village, while Van reminisced about the time Korshi danced freely to the music amongst a crowd of volunteers and older kids. All in all, we felt incredibly privileged to get to know each of these individuals and share a small piece of their lives, even if it was only for a week.
The other strong theme of our time in Lolito that came to mind was how impressed we were at the way the community came together into a single and effective unit. For Dana, this was embodied in the way the community received our team with open arms, while Nik remembered feeling humbled by the willingness of the kids to pitch in and help move the cement bricks needed to build the new washrooms for their school. Esther summed up the whole experience by simply stating that the highlight of her trip was witnessing a community have a dream and put in the effort to make it a reality.
Though our time in Lolito is now over, we won’t soon forget all the amazing experiences we had and the exceptional people we met during our week there.
We rise early to observe as the kids come to their first day of school from a three-week break. All hands are on deck; everyone from kindergarten to form 2 (grade eight) is doing something. The compound is swept and chairs and desks are moved into classrooms to prepare for the day. As 7:45 rolls around, the children line up according to grade and sing the national anthem, morning and marching songs. With great enthusiasm they march to their classrooms while we begin our day of work. Final touches are added to the project as some heap up shovelfuls of sand, while others clean around the construction zone. The students are ecstatic at the progress, on their break period some even venture to use the urinal before it’s open to the public! We then spend some more time training students on the Khan academy software on the computers.
At the end of the school day, the bellboy rings the bell to release the students from class. Once again they line up and sing final songs. Our last night in Lolito was full of fond memories of the experience. With the power out once more and desperate for cool, we lay on rocks outside, bug repellent slathered all over our bodies looking up at the stars and sharing stories that unfolded during our time in Lolito.
Our checklist for the day had three incredibly important tasks on it: 1. Continue our work on the washroom. 2. Educate the staff about our computer literacy project. 3. Get to know the kids more. Like a sprinter completing his last 20 metres of a 100m race, today we inched closer to the completion of the bathroom facility. We dug deep and kept grinding away in the sun as we polished the structure we often associate with hope. Tomorrow is the first official day of school at Smile Child Academy and the teachers arrived a day earlier to get the necessary training to be able to use the computer software. Words were not important as their expression made it pretty clear how sated and optimistic they were.
As the sun kept beating down our faces a few of the team took the students into the schools main classroom and facilitated arts and crafts with them. There was beauty in the comradeship that could be seen with the older children playing with the younger ones. Some of the younger ones spent coloring and showing off their finished products to others. Whereas the older girls broke into singing and dancing of traditional folk songs and aroused all the little ones to join them as well!
Sunday morning consisted of a church experience very different from what many of us are accustomed to. With heavy drumbeats, energetic dancing, beautiful singing, we were quick to get into the atmosphere. To top it off, Jeremy had some very encouraging words about each individual’s value and how each one of us is greatly loved. Tarique and Esther also shared their testimonies, just as the kids have been sharing their stories with us.
After lunch we had another cultural experience: laundry. As we washed our clothes by hand, we were surrounded by the smiling faces we have now gotten to know. Our afternoon was spent dancing, singing and interacting with the kids.
We ended the night with three questions:
Despite all of us being having relatively the same experience here in Lolito, it has been interesting to hear the different lessons each team member is learning. The ultimate goal for all of us is to live out these lessons in our own context when we return home.