Returning to Ghana for a second time with Amizade was one of the best decisions I made in 2011. I returned from the Community Development in Ghana Summer Service-Learning program like a woman on fire. I had found a like-minded group of individuals and an organization that I believed in. This program further solidified in my mind my passion for this region and my desire to work with community-driven development. Before I even stepped off of our returning flight, my mind was running a million miles an hour in an attempt to figure out how soon I could return to Jukwa, Ghana.
I soon learned that Amizade also had a Winter Break Service-Learning program, Exploring International Development in Ghana. While at first it seemed like wishful thinking to return so soon, as time passed I realized not returning was not an option for me. I felt a deep sense of connection to the community and to the projects we worked on during our time in Jukwa. I yearned to go back and mix plaster for the ceilings of the library and have the yellow paint from the walls of the library all over my arms and legs, as we taught the children on their break from class how to play tag as they taught us how to play Ampaho. I had a burning desire to return to Ghana to continue to learn and work with the community on service projects, so six months later I found myself, along with two other West Virginia University students, one of whom had also participated in the Ghana Summer Break program, and a professor from Franklin and Marshall University, on a plane to Ghana.
Stepping off off the plane into Accra, it felt like I had never left. I was ready this time; more prepared, more adventurous, and ready to squeeze every second of knowledge, service, and experience I could into the short time that we had in country. This time around, one of the service projects we had the opportunity to work on held special meaning for me. On my previous trip to Ghana, our group had the amazing opportunity of getting to know a great man named Nicholas. We learned from him, volunteered with him, and visited his family’s village with him. In his village, Anwhiam, we had the opportunity to meet his father and tour his cocoa farm. He also shared with us a project that was very close to his heart, the broken water-pipe. The water-pipe in Anwhiam was unusable for many years, leading members of the community to contract water-borne illnesses, as they were now drinking straight from the small natural water source near the village. His goal was to raise the funds to fix the water-pipe and stop the resulting unnecessary deaths in the community.
Unfortunately, Nicholas, a great man, father, and community activist passed away before he was able to see his dream completed. With the money raised by Amizade, alumni, and supporters, our Winter Break group was able to serve the community by clearing the area around the water-pipe in preparation for the arrival of the new pipe. Meeting Nicholas, donating to and participating in a fundraiser created by an Amizade alumni, meeting his beautiful wife and two young daughters, clearing the area for the water-pipe, attending a celebratory bonfire in Anwhiam, and viewing pictures of clean water flowing from the pipe just days after I returned from Ghana, are all combined events from both of my experiences in Ghana that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Reminiscent of my previous experience, as we descended into the United States my mind was already preoccupied with returning to Jukwa, Anwhiam, and to the children who are so full of life that it is impossible not to become attached to even in such a short period of time. Each time I travel to Ghana it becomes harder and harder to leave, as you become invested in the community and the service projects that you work on while in the country. You really become a part of the community and they a part of you as you learn from and serve with one another. These are not experiences that leave your mind once you are out of the country and back in your daily routine; I still feel Jukwa and Anwhiam as a part of me just as strongly as the day I left and will continue to until the day that I soon return!
Sara Wood originally traveled with Amizade to Ghana in the summer of 2011 and again in December 2011 as a student at West Virginia University. In 2014 Sara joined the Amizade staff as a Program Coordinator.