Games and Goodbyes
The final day of this year's Spring Exchange in Ho was an inspiring cultural experience that started with games and ended with a beautiful goodbye.
We started our morning at the local stadium where students from schools across the Ho-Bankoe district – including EP Primary and RC Mixed – had gathered for a day of sport and amusement. The tournament had only just started, but the crowds of students and teachers were already euphoric. A DJ blared hip-hop music over a loud speaker and groups of joyful children danced along the field with their arms linked over their friends’ shoulders. School representatives made enthusiastic predictions before their soccer matches began, and the players did their best to make the pitch prophecies come true. We were enlivened by the expansiveness of the friendships and the school spirit that we witnessed and we carried that energy in our hearts as we ventured from the city center to the outskirts of town towards EP Primary Sokode-Bagble.
The sense of connection and belonging that we had witnessed at the stadium were reinforced the second we arrived on the Sokode campus. The teachers were dressed in their celebratory clothes and they smiled mischievously as they ushered us towards seats that had been arranged under the shade of the mango trees, jokingly referred to by our driver, Michael, as Ghana’s A/C. Elders, parents, and other interested residents from the nearby villages, as well as staff from the local primary school and the junior high school joined us in the shade. The Sokode students, from KG to 6th Grade, congregated around the patch of dirt in front of our chairs. The children beamed with joy and sweetness as the ceremony, which we learned was a way to give thanks to us for all that we bring – physically and metaphorically – to the campus, began.
The school’s Principal, Chief Christian Akoto, spoke eloquently and passionately about the meaningful connection of our CIH exchanges. He expressed gratitude, emphasized the mutual benefits of our growing friendship and collaboration, and made it clear that he was hopeful about what the future would hold for Sokode-Bagble and Children Inspiring Hope. In a particularly moving and totally unexpected turn of events, elders from the village then presented each of us with a handmade necklaces – gifts that symbolically welcomed us into their community.
The highs of the ceremony – and, in retrospect, the highlights of our entire trip – continued as we were ushered to the school’s computer lab. We quickly discovered that the teachers and 6th grader students had prepared an incredible exhibition of items made out of recycled materials. We marveled at painted and fabric bead necklaces and toy trucks made out of soda cans. We were truly amazed by how much time, effort, and thought had been put into preparing for this exhibition. It was clear that these students had taken the message and theme of our exchange to heart.
We returned to our seats in the schoolyard inspired by the beauty and ingenuity of the items on display. Our hearts were full. We were overwhelmed by the magnitude of this gathering and all that we had already been shown and received from this small community; but this, we quickly realized, was not the end of the celebration. The school and community members began to dance.
And they danced.
And they danced. They danced, drummed, sang, and cheered for well over an hour with a power, passion, and intensity that was unwavering. It was such a beautiful sharing of heritage. It was a moment so full of joy that we will never forget it.
As we drove away from the school, all of us had huge smiles on our faces. We didn’t say much, but it was clear that each of us was carrying the warmth that Sokode-Bagble had given to us. We couldn’t have thanked them enough for the passion and the generosity they exhibited with each aspect and movement of this incredible ceremony. While it likely came to its inception as a kind-hearted sendoff, it didn’t feel like an ending. Instead, the day felt like one piece in a string of many connections that had been and will continue to be created by the presence of CIH.