By Susie Nordenger, Community Service Director at La Jolla Country Day School
Sixteen Country Day students traveled to rural Ghana on a school service trip in June. We were met by our guide Samuel “Powerful” Yeboah, a world famous African drum maker.
Powerful brought along a group of his drummer buddies and we were welcomed into the country with our own personal drumming ceremony. We boarded a bus and headed out to the village of OKURASE. We lived there for four days and were immersed in village life.
Project OKURASE empowers women, at-risk youth and orphans through education and skills training. We spent three days working on the construction of a community center which will house programs to help the villagers with job training, health and prenatal care and education initiatives. We also spent one day teaching at a local elementary school. The students also worked on mural painting at the Nkabom House where we lived while in OKURASE. Our evenings were spent with the local children learning traditional African dance and drumming.
While in Ghana, we also traveled to the Cape Coast to visit the Cape Coast and Elmina Castles. We toured the slave trade ruins and were all moved by the experience. Together we learned more about the slave trade history and its effects on Ghana and her people.
We were able to visit the local market and visited Global Mamas, an amazing non-governmental organization started by two Peace Corps volunteers after their work in Ghana was completed. Global Mamas is a Fair Trade women’s handicraft initiative that we look forward to bringing to Country Day this fall!
Our students were also able to visit the Kakum National Park. We were all brave enough to cross over the seven 100 foot canopy walks that allowed us to literally look down on the flora and fauna of the rain forest. We spent our last night at the beach at the Asasi Yaa Guest House and woke up to a beautiful beach morning. After swimming in the ocean, the neighbor children climbed the palm trees and brought each of us a coconut as a going away gift. Our last activity was a beach-side drumming workshop.
The trip was a very moving and powerful experience for all of us. Our students represented Country Day with pride. They worked hard each day and worked diligently to make relationships with the men and women and children with whom we were working. There were high fives and joyful greetings everywhere we went.
Prior to our trip, the students did a series of fundraisers and were able to raise $1500 which we donated to The School Fund. This money enabled us to sponsor the school fees for one year for 10 of the OKURASE students. We loved meeting the children who will be able to go to school next year because of our efforts. CLICK HERE to see the children we are helping.
Our Athletics Department and soccer coaches sent us to Ghana with 80 matching soccer uniforms to donate to the children in OKURASE. On our last day in OKURASE, we all put on soccer uniforms for a massive Ghana vs. the USA soccer match at the local secondary school. The students had a blast and the OKURASE community was thrilled to have such a wonderful gift of new uniforms! We also learned how good the Ghanians are at soccer!!!
All of our lives were changed by the experience of being in rural Ghana and getting to actually live within the village. We not only saw the struggles of the developing world, we were able to witness those programs and initiatives that are working to make lives better. We met men and women and teachers devoted to making sure that the people in their care have access to education and training to provide the assistance needed for advancement.
The children brought us endless joy! While working at the construction site, we were amazed at what it takes to actually construct a building by hand without equipment. Every bit of the community center is being built by hand. Their bricks are homemade. We hauled rocks for three days just to mix and make the concrete to lay the flooring of the second floor. Most of us worked harder those three days than we have in a lifetime. We joked and laughed and enjoyed the company of all the men and women working with us. The encouraged us when our backs were aching and our muscles were tired.