Where Is Away?
We are full, from filming a family’s morning routine and jubilant singing at EP Primary Ho-Bankoe’s Chapel, as we head to EP Primary Sokode-Bagble on the lush outskirts of Ho. We are working with the P5 and P6 students today, connected with Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail, Colorado and Summit Charter School's 5th graders from Cashiers, North Carolina. The students are eager as we come together, and a powerful connection fills the large room as hands are held and hearts are opened in circle.
One of our cardinal questions this exchange - inspired by discussion cards from the Global Oneness Project - has been, “When you throw something away, where is away?”. In this class, the need for education in this area is punctuated by the students’ responses. We believe that connecting feelings is important, for our personal and collective consciousness, and the students are vocal and animated in their responses to the photos that we share of the local polluted streams. "I want to vomit," one boy notes with disgust on this face. Another student shares about how bad it smells. They are notably disturbed.
When asked about how long the plastic that chokes the gutters and streams throughout the city takes to break down, we were astonished at how far from the truth their understandings are. Answers range from 15 days to 5 years, most of the students believe it takes mere weeks and months for this garbage to disintegrate and disappear. That is as far as their minds expand on this topic; that is how little they understand about how serious this problem truly is. It is a new problem, but its pervasiveness is hard to miss. Plastic - and specifically the black polyurethane bags made from tires - was introduced to Ghana relatively recently; before its introduction, people used biodegradable items to carry food and water. Today, the bags are everywhere. The change has caused dramatic destruction to the landscape. The people truly just do not know enough about the hazards of its use. They don't think about what happens when they throw it away. This is an urgent area for education and part of the solution to their growing water crisis.
We focus on solutions in our work, so not as to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by the enormity of the challenges before this generation. We also focus on creativity, and the power to inspire others - even a world away. The Red Sandstone Projects are shared, one-by-one. In the US, they worked in groups, and chose a variety of artistic ways and mediums to inspire deeper thinking, and action, as stewards of the earth. We give the students in this class options about what to create, and a significant majority of the P5 students choose to make lily pad flowers. Their disgust transforms into contentment and pride once they have created their own flowers. The seemingly miraculous transformation of a sheet of paper, folded into an entirely new entity, and marked with individualized messages will help to bring beauty across the world. With this, hope blooms.
The P6 class introduction flows more easily, and they seem to know more of the reality of the decay process. Smiles flow like waves as the photos of Summit 5th graders are passed out along with bracelets made from recycled plastic bags. With physical reminders, from friends far away, they begin their drawings with messages quickly. We will return to complete the remainder of this project next week, and be entertained before our departure by their cultural dancers and drummers. We look forward to being together again soon.