Home away from home

by Daniel Alexander

This past winter, Verlisha Brandon, a Virginia State University student traveled to Amizade’s site in Ghana to spend three weeks serving and learning with our community partners. She shared with us her reflections, experiences, and adventures of her time meeting people and the local culture in Jukwa. Thanks, Verlisha.

As a 24-year-old graduate student at Virginia State University from Halifax, Virginia, I can’t say I ever dreamed that I would have the chance to study abroad in Ghana, Africa. Visiting Ghana changed my perspective of the country and made me realize just how privileged I really am. This opportunity taught me that there’s no such thing as the word “can’t”. I was never a person to mimic anyone else, but traveling to Ghana opened my eyes in terms of how smart, beautiful, and educated I can become when I just apply myself.  In my opinion, study abroad programs are so necessary, and I appreciate organizations like Amizade for making it happen! All of the experiences, from the knowledge of history to trying different foods to doing a canopy walk, were things that I would have never gotten to take part in without this program.

Upon arrival, I felt so welcomed by everyone that I could never stress how much I really felt “at home”. It is with extraordinary pride that I can say that I brought in the year of 2018 on Oasis Beach in Cape Coast, Africa! I have always had a passion for helping others, and this opportunity has taught me that it is ok to put your own wants and needs aside and step outside of your comfort zone to help others get ahead. This program as a whole had a deep effect on me as a student because I collaborated with people from diverse cultures, beliefs, and schools of thought. Another great benefit of studying abroad through Amizade was being able to understand some of Ghana’s issues and crises through grassroots efforts like Challenging Heights, a non-governmental organization protecting the rights of children by focusing their anti-trafficking efforts on the fishing industry.

For any questions or concerns we had as a group, there were four individuals with us every step of the way that made sure we got the answers. I’m so grateful for our flexible but uncompromising program coordinator, Tyisha Burroughs. She made sure that the group was well taken care of, and if there was anything we lacked she made sure accommodations were made. Our Field Coordinators, Kwame and Francis, were also a tremendous help. They were so committed to their jobs, but you could tell that everything they did for us it was out of pure love and not for compensation or obligation. After returning to the United States, I revisited my pre-existing stereotypes as suggested in the Amizade journal, and I realized that none of them were true and could all be thrown away. I brought home with me so many emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I honestly can say will never change. I literally fell in love within two weeks being a part of this educational opportunity during which I immersed myself in the culture. This will always be an unforgettable journey, and I hope that one day you too will be presented with the opportunity to travel abroad with Amizade.