Our Daily Lives- by Erin Andrews

Share with me what you love, and I will show you what you are a part of.

Our daily lives in Ghana, as Ambassadors of Hope, always tend to begin the same way. We leave our house together and walk down the rocky, orange sand road to the junction where we hail a taxi to take us to school. We were lucky recently to have our early morning path merge with that of our little angel Lydia and her younger sister Cocoa; the two were also heading off to school and Cocoa was so captivated by our presence that she could barely walk forward. She looked back continuously to grab and hold our attention, and without the helping hand of her mother, she wouldn’t have been able to keep her feet on the ground. Lydia, I should explain, was our little angel when many of us first walked these lands in 2006. She used to run out to hug us on the days that our hearts were heavy and her presence in this moment foreshadowed the challenges we happened to face later that day.

On this particular morning, however, we visited EP Primary in Sokode-Bagble to visit the P4 students and to share the Daily Lives books from the students at Vail Mountain School. The students here were impressed by the work of their 6th grade friends. They were eager to dismantle the orderly rows of their desks and to rearrange them into small groups. They clustered quickly and put their heads together – both literally and figuratively – so they could begin to write letters in response to that of their counterparts in America. One group of students was so truly engaged in the task that they decided to forgo recess in favor of keeping the flow of their ideas moving from pencil to paper. The pictures that the students created, with pencil crayons, depict what they know and love from their lives in their small village community. They sketched and colored images of the animals that roam their school campus, of their traditional Ghanaian meals, of the procedures that fill their school days, and of the personal routines of household chores that fill their nights. Some of the students were so excited about this project and the opportunity to make a meaningful connection that they added their personal information and messages to the backside of their hand drawn pictures. The finished projects were both honest and heartfelt – a true testament to the effects of this organization.

In the late afternoons, after we finish with the students at the schools, we run errands in town, or return home to lounge under the comfort of fans and/or doze off as we read. Eryam and Koku often stop by and greet us with enormous hugs that begin with a running start from several feet away. They play soccer and monkey-in-the-middle with their friends in our courtyard while wearing infectious smiles on their faces. Their joy is evidence that a ball made of poly-eurthane bags, secured by elastic bands, and protected in layers of scotch tape (a toy that I made of recycled materials – fitting for environmental theme of this trip) can be enjoyed and cherished just as much as a real soccer ball.

Our evenings also maintain a consistent tone from one day to the next. We sit around the dinner table, enjoying a meal prepared by Constance, and discuss our highlights for the day. Sometimes we are joined by friends – Bella, Dise, Mable, and Cosmos have each dined with us on this trip – and we invite them to share in the tradition of focusing on the positive. This evening, while reflecting on my personal experience with the students at Sokode, I shared my realization that the excitement of the students helped to reaffirm my role as a teacher; working with these Ghanaian students and watching as they happily poured their hearts and souls into each word (and worked together to get the spelling correct) helped me to remember what brought me into this profession in the first place. Their desire to try despite their weaknesses and to enjoy the process of growing – culturally and emotionally – allowed me to get back to the basics of what it means to develop as a person. After dinner we often sit together to watch a movie, but we have also been known to laugh hysterically as we create short videos of our own (many of which will appear in the blooper reel for the upcoming CIH documentary).

Although each day follows a similar pattern, no two moments in Ghana are exactly alike. Each experience, each relationship, each project, and each child is unique. There are times when our daily interactions and routine fill us up and other times when we are challenged beyond belief. Despite this uncertainty, or perhaps because of it, I am eternally grateful for each second of the day that I am here. This country and its people – especially its children – have forever changed the composition of my bones and the way that I choose to move through my days on the earth.