Ghana 2017

As I sat on the plane preparing to land in Ghana, I looked at the group of twelve Y 12 students around me. I have to admit, all looked extremely tired and disgruntled due to the 36-hour trip it had taken to get there but nevertheless, the feeling of intense optimism, a hint of nerves, and a shared sense of adventure was undeniable. Despite all of our months of preparation none of us were sure of what to expect, but the feeling that the next two weeks were going to be ones that would change us as individuals and the way in which we look at the world we live in was certain.

Having arrived, we travelled to the house that was to become our home for the duration of our stay and met the members of staff who were to look after us. We all instantly felt comfortable and at ease, living with the Thrive Africa workers and their children was amazing as they were all so kind and helpful; every single one of us spent a countless amount of hours playing with the kids and helping out around the house. Being welcomed into their home in such an open-armed way thrust us into the Ghanaian culture from the get-go, as we ate traditional Ghanaian food cooked by the wonderful chef, Rhoda, partook in local language ‘Twi’ lessons, chilled together in the common room after long hard days of work (at this point not batting an eyelid at the frequent power cuts and freezing cold showers), and played football with the locals early in the morning (I watched). Living with our leaders, Fred, Kwame and Maxwell, allowed us all to get to know them on a personal level, creating friendships that extended beyond work and adding an extra dimension to our trip.

During our trip, we transformed three empty rooms in local schools into libraries to service the children who attended. As we hammered and painted our way through the day we got the opportunity to chat to a lot of students, with their ages ranging from nursery to high school. It was humbling to witness the sheer excitement on the children’s faces as we introduced ourselves and discussed our lives back home. Getting the opportunity to talk to the students and learn more about them was amazing. Working as a team to complete each project strengthened us as a group, and we all shared an immense feeling of satisfaction as the days came to an end and we stepped back to look upon our hard work. Our trips biggest aim was to set up Ghana’s first ever STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) centre and we completed this successfully, supplying an ICT suite, class sets of maths and science books and science equipment to all schools within the Kumasi area.

Halfway through the trip we were lucky enough to go on a three-day mini-holiday to Cape Coast. Here we completely relaxed, with our huts literally right on the beach we all spent each night together playing games on the beach, paddling in the sea and playing cards in the bar. During the days we visited the national slavery museum, actually going underground into the cells in which the slaves were captured and kept, whilst waiting to begin their journey to America by boat. The tour was so informative and very interesting, and we were all left speechless at the harrowing experience. The excursion to the jungle canopy was amazing, and by far one of the best things that we did. The canopy was 46 metres at its highest and the beautiful views of the Ghanaian jungle were absolutely breath-taking. None of us even had time to think about the terrifying height we were at, simply because we were so enchanted by the scenery.

Other than our trip to Cape Coast, we also went on many more fun experiences that allowed us to appreciate and become a part of the Ghanaian culture. We toured the Kings Palace and the War Museum, had an authentic cooking lesson creating our favourite Ghanaian dishes and wove original Kenti scarfs. The Kumasi Market was unreal, millions of stalls selling everything from strange (and smelly) fish to delicate colourful jewellery, with stallholders shouting to advertise their goods to passers by as we walked single file down extremely narrow passageways. The cultural market was a more relaxed experience; we had time to browse the vast array of authentic products that had taken hours to create by hand. Each Saturday night that we were there, we went to local ‘spots’ and ate a meal and danced to the popular ‘high life’ music played by live bands. On our last Saturday we wore original tailor-made Ghanaian clothing, made from material that we had previously bought and taken to a group of college ‘enliven’ girls, who were all young single mothers learning how to sew so that they can set up their own businesses and support their young families.

Maxwell, who owned the Thrive Africa charity, was a pastor at a local church and one Sunday we attended his service. To be thrust into an environment in which everyone was so passionate and joyous was humbling. Life is Ghana is very different to that of the lives we lead in England. Community and teamwork are valued highly and everyone you meet is so welcoming, treating you like family. It is a simple life, but a very beautiful one at that.

At the end of our adventure as we all sat on our plane preparing to depart Kumasi airport, I looked around once again at the group of students around me. Two weeks later I saw a group full of humbleness and satisfaction at what we have accomplished. Many people have asked me about the trip and the excitement and joyous feeling that I get every time that I explain the small change that I made in the world quickly falters as I realise that although they are happy and proud about what I have done, but they don’t quite understand. The experiences that we experienced and the sights that we saw with our own eyes were all things that we lived through together and the silent sense of understanding between us about the lives we changed, is one that will bond us together as a group for the rest of our lives.

By Tara Butler (Y13)