When did I become a celebrity? August 13th, 2010.
Of all my moments on the stage as a flutist, actress, singer or whatever, none have compared to my daily excursions in Ghana. Every time I leave the house it's as though I'm preparing for a parade. Pageant queen wave, check, sturdy walking shoes, check, hair and makeup... Well, you get the point.
The image above was a moment that caused me to blush more than I have in a decade. These children, were all so over joyed to see me. Me! ... Me? Why, yes... me. Simply, because I am an obruni; I am white. I have journeyed all this way to see them; to try and build a better future for the children.
This past week was my midterm break, so I decided it would be a good opportunity for me to take a trip with my internship to some of the rural communities. The Ark has been sponsored by Nestle Ghana ((Milo, anyone?)) for some years now to go to the schools in the Eastern Region and educate about Children's Rights. The Eastern Region is a huge producer of cocoa and a lot of children are recruited to work in the field, and thus aren't able to go to school. Therefore, the Ark wrote a proposal to Nestle asking them to fund their efforts to educate children on their rights (one of them being the right to an education).
I went with the Ark to various villages to educate primary and junior high children on child's rights and child abuse. I did my best to stay on the sidelines; taking notes and pictures, etc. However, one of my supervisors liked to try to get me involved. My second day, I was watching him give his lecture to the kids and when he was done he walked off, and gestured to me saying I had a word to contribute. I rose, stammered to find a few words, and thoroughly embarrassed myself. However, the students were all very amused by this performance.
At times, it was difficult for me to remain on the sidelines. As we were educating on child abuse, some of the teachers would use cains to keep the kids in line. The contradictory nature of this situation was overbearing at moments. However, watching the expressions of the teachers during these lectures was really fascinating to me. I was overjoyed during one session, when a few teachers really seemed to try to grasp the idea of why caning as a course of disciplinary action was wrong. How else, were they to get children to stay in line? Caning is just the simplest way and it was how they were disciplined in school.
Another point of sadness for me, was the moments of Q&A. In one session that I sat in on, Evelyn, a social worker with the Ark, posed the question "How much money do you get for lunch?" and "How many times a day do you eat?" It was astonishing to hear how many children got around the equivalent of a quarter to feed themselves. Also, the majority of the children ate only breakfast and supper. I imagine it must make focusing at school very difficult.
At the end of the lecture when the children got the opportunity to ask questions, I was overwhelmed with how much they had to battle against, to remain in the classroom. One boy, had such a look of defiance on his face when he inquired about the situation he had at home. He was probably around the age of twelve and had to raise money for all of his needs; food, clothes, education, etc.
These kids are such champions.