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Teens volunteer to give orphanage a brighter future

Posted By Denebola On September 24, 2008 @ 4:07 pm In Global Education | Comments Disabled

By Amrita Rao

Fifteen hours of flying, three hours of waiting, and six hours of attempting to locate lost luggage later, I finally arrived in Accra, Ghana.

The thick humidity hit me as I stepped out of the airport. A seemingly innocent taxi driver tried to con me into paying him money, and I was unable to find the man who was supposed to pick me up. After locating my ride, we drove along the empty highways. It was dark and I could hardly see anything. I could faintly make out colorless figures moving in the darkness but at the time they were of little importance to me. We finally arrived, four hours late, to SOS Herman Gmeiner International College in Tema, Ghana. I was hungry, sweaty, and absolutely exhausted. Nothing could cheer me up.

We were escorted into the main office of the school where we were served food that I would come to love over the next three weeks. Other kids from around the world began to filter in to welcome me and all of a sudden, everything seemed a little better. We were shown to our rooms, where I met the greatest roommate I could have ever asked for, Selam Tilahun from Ethiopia.

Selam is a student at SOS Herman Gmeiner International College and though I did not know it at the time, she would become not only a friend but someone who  I deeply admire.

Though my first few hours in Ghana were not perfect, the rest of my time spent there would more than make up for it. Ghanaian culture is one that is based mainly on the family and hospitality.

Ghanaians are some of the friendliest people in the world and I cannot remember passing one person on the street who didn’t wave or smile at me.

In fact, my friend and I had a contest to see how many people we could get to wave to us. After a few days the count had reached over 100 each.

The group that I went to Ghana with is called Global Leadership Adventures (GLA). The group enables high school students from around the world to meet, participate in community service and learn about a specific culture. In total there were about 60 students on the program including students from the US, Britain, Greece, Sweden, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Ghana.

During my stay, I not only participated in a series of social events but I also got to work with kindergarten students at different schools. During my kindergarten visits, I managed to befriend the cook Agnes. She was a cheerful woman who had the daunting task of feeding 150 hungry children. At first I was slightly overwhelmed by the smell of burning and fish heads that seemed to be everywhere but I soon got over this phobia.

I was soon, with the help of Agnes, scaling fish, cutting off their heads, and trying to maintain the small coal fire. The conditions were less than adequate but I realized that complaining about the situation would not make it any better. I had to learn to cope with a completely alien setting and when I finally did, I began to understand that even though something may be different from what I am used to, it is not neccessarily bad.

I earned the affectionate name of chief cook from Agnes and went home feeling great. Though she spoke little English, we made a deep connection that stayed on my mind for the rest of the trip.

The main part of my trip was spent at an orphanage called Bright Future. Bright Future is located in rural Ghana and is run by a woman named Peace, a former orphan herself. Peace has tried to maintain a decent  standard of living for the orphans but often finds it difficult.

Last month the Bright Future Orphanage received their third eviction notice. Peace tries to keep up with the rent but with  over 150 mouths to feed and supplies to buy, often there just isn’t enough money. The teachers that visit the orphanage receive little to no compensation and usually walk five miles one way to reach the school.

One teacher, Joshua, was a recent high school graduate and when asked why he chose to teach at the orphanage he replied, “They [the children] need someone and I am here.

They have been evicted from their building and will soon be living on the streets. Until recently, Peace has provided the children with not only a home but with an education. Many of these children were abused or left to starve., “I too was once an orphan and I want to give these kids the same chance I was given, Peace said.

Destination Education will meet during Monday J Block in Karim Dao’s room to help rebuild the Bright Future Orphanage.

Together with the help of other former members of the GLA program, our goal is to not only supply Bright Future with a new building and solid roof over their heads, but also a way to sustain a quality lifestyle for the children.

Those lifeless figures that I viewed with apathy at the beginning of the trip had gained so much meaning. They were no longer figures, but human beings with stories, names, and lives.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/09/24/teens-volunteer-to-give-orphanage-a-brighter-future/

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