Humble and Kind

Students at Have listening to Kofi give a presentation on Relationships

Students at Have listening to Kofi give a presentation on Relationships

The last day at Sokode Senior High School

The last day at Sokode Senior High School

The past two weeks I have been incredibly busy as Kofi and I have been travelling all over Ho to start wrapping up our programs. We have engaged in thoughtful conversations with the leaders of each of our schools and started a discussion to continue our programs after I leave. By the end of this week all the schools will have finished the Reproductive Health Program we designed and Kofi will continue going to our partner schools for weekly video calls with Vermont R.O.C. chapters. Three out of the five schools have all made bracelets for the R.O.C. students back in Vermont as our physical symbol to remember the connections we have begun to develop here.

Children on the Volta Lake

Children on the Volta Lake

This weekend I had the opportunity to interview 10 children that are living at MadamFo Ghana Children’s Shelter. These are children that were rescued from dangerous slave operations in the Volta Region. In the Volta Region there is the Volta Lake, one of (if not the) the largest man-made lakes in Africa. The fishing communities depend on children to manage their fishing operations on the lake. Children as young as 4 years old are sold by their parents (or relatives) to go live with a master. These masters force the children to paddle canoes and fish all day long working from early in the morning to late in the night. The lake is filled with all kinds of different dangers from parasites to snakes. The boys are sometimes made to dive into the water to detangle the nets as they get tangled on the underwater brush, and a lot of children drown. The girls are house maids, forced to help cook, clean, and sell the fish on the roadside for little money. The children are lucky to get two meals a day, but mostly get one, and are not able to attend school. Lucky to have been able to have the opportunity to hear (and eventually share) the stories of these incredible children

The apocalyptic landscape of the Volta Lake

The apocalyptic landscape of the Volta Lake

Children working on Lake Volta

Children working on Lake Volta

Lucky to have been able to have the opportunity to hear (and eventually share) the stories of these incredible children

Lucky to have been able to have the opportunity to hear (and eventually share) the stories of these incredible children

At MadamFo Ghana these kids have been given a second chance at life and I can assure you they are making the most of it. During my interviews I asked them to pick a word from a big picture of different words and to then share a story about it. The past two days I heard stories about bravery, courage, boldness, and being powerful. These kids now have hopes and aspirations to become teachers, doctors, journalists, and investigators. These same kids had been forced to live a life none of us could possibly imagine. I am humbled and reminded yet again how lucky we are back home, and how important it is that we not take our advantages for granted.  If these kids can defy the odds, then we all sure can, too.

My time here in Ghana is very close to being over. Although I am excited to return back home I am going to miss everything about being with the students everyday-our mutual learning and discussions of issues that matter to all of us. I know that I will be back (hopefully again before the end of the year), but it is always hard when things are slowly starting to wrap up.

Students at Dogame school after Skyping Stowe R.O.C. for the first time

Students at Dogame school after Skyping Stowe R.O.C. for the first time

Hard at work making bracelets at VEG

Hard at work making bracelets at VEG

Tomorrow is Independence Day in Ghana. Kofi and I will be going to the town early in the morning to set up to watch all of the different marches and festivities.  All the of the schools organize a different march and march all the way through town with a banner out front, it is an event that the kids practice for all year. It is definitely a little different than our Independence Day celebrations in Vermont where we have candy thrown from floats and watch fireworks going off. I asked about fireworks in the beginning of my time here and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. So I will not be expecting that tomorrow! With Independence Day the schools are closed on Monday and Tuesday so we will not be able to have our programs until Wednesday. We will have our final Skype call between South Burlington R.O.C. with our school at VEG. On Thursday Kofi and I will be traveling to Accra to meet with the Mission Director of USAID to talk about our program (small world-he went to Middlebury College and knows Vermont!). Friday Kofi and I will be having our final meeting with Have school and our final Skype call with CVU R.O.C.  On Saturday and Sunday we will be at MadamFo Ghana saying our goodbyes and Skyping for a last time with MMU R.O.C. Finally on Monday, we will have our final program at Dogame where we will have a final Skype with Stowe R.O.C.

Something must have been very funny :)

Something must have been very funny :)

I am feeling blessed to have had the chance to meet and connect with all of these people and I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next.

Stay tuned for my final blog! :)

Natalie