Reflections on Ghana
Mika McAfee is the first parent of former CIH participants to travel with us to Ghana. Her daughter, Thea, participated at Cliff Valley School from 5th and 6th grade. Her son, Colin, recently participated in the 4th and 5th grade. These are her powerful reflections from our March visit to Ghana, through the lens of a parent, educator, facilitator and volunteer humanitarian. Thank you, Mika, for the gift of your time, talent, heart, and especially your children of the world who inspire us.
In her TED talk of the same name, the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about “The Dangers of a Single Story”. It is the concept of how one story, one perspective, one small piece of data can become generalized across an entire population, country or even continent and by doing so greatly limits and handicaps the way we act towards that group. A ‘single story’ may not be untrue per se, but it certainly does not give us a complete picture and usually perpetuates stereotypes.
Coming home from Ghana, I could certainly recount stories that support the ‘single story’ that many of us in the United States have about ‘Children in Africa’ (a term I use with tongue in cheek, as if Africa were not an immense continent, rich with diversity of resources, topography, language and culture). I could talk about the poverty I saw, the stunning lack of what I have believed to be necessities in the classroom, or the reality of many families still having to walk daily for clean water. It is not these stories that interest me, however. While I could systematically write about all the differences I saw between my home in Washington State and the village in Ghana – it is truly the similarities that struck me the most.
One of the profound and immeasurable benefits of Children Inspiring Hope is that by adding positive data points to the knowledge and experiences of students in both countries, we challenge the ‘single story’ and begin to see one another in multi-dimensions. This in turn, begins to change the dominant narrative from that of “Other-ness” to that of “One-ness”.
Here are some of my observations of Life in Ghana: • Some people are happy. • Some people are sad. • Some people are healthy. • Some people are sick and can’t access or afford quality healthcare. • How natural resources are being used is having a significant impact on the environment. • School is a place for learning and exploring things bigger than your daily experience. • Not all children have equal access to quality education. • Children have an innate desire to learn, to play and to connect with people. • Music, laughter and dancing are universal connectors across all types of borders, real or imaginary.
In other words, life in Ghana is pretty much the same as it is in the United States of America. The details of daily life and the specifics of certain challenges are necessarily different, but distilled to the core; the human experience is the same. This is the gift and awareness that Children Inspiring Hope gives to the students who participate, and it is NOT a small one. With this realization - the knowledge that many of our goals, dreams and concerns are the same, we can work together to better address many of them. This is the hope.
The children in the U.S., the children in Ghana, the children of the world are our future. With the increasing globalization of the economy, there is a high likelihood that one day they will be working together. Thank goodness that they will not fall victim to the ‘Dangers of a Single Story’, thanks in large part to Children Inspiring Hope.