International Study Program: Ghana 2017

Ghana (2017)
This year our International Study Program (ISP) returns to Ghana. Over the course of 4 weeks, 12 members and two staff will visit major cities and small villages, including Accra, Kumasi, Wusuta, and Cape Coast. Throughout this time they will meet with students, educators, professionals and politicians to gain a broad perspective on the history, culture and politics of Ghana.

This summer’s journey to Ghana is our fifth in the last 2 decades. Throughout this time we have developed strong partnerships with the Ghanaian community based organizations that we visit each trip. This year, four youth from “Adagana” (one of our partner organizations in Wusuta) will travel with ISP in Accra, providing an opportunity for these youth to visit the capital for the first time. This is one small way we are able to support the organizations who have welcomed us with open arms throughout the years.

ISP is life-changing experience. Check out the photos and review the members’ reflections. You will surely see why it is said that “travel is the best education”.

Reflections

When we got to the top of the mountain there was a beautiful view of the town that we just drove through. It was at least 1500 feet above sea level, and there was a cross at the top where we had a photo-shoot. Godwin and the other kids from Wusuta were flying up that mountain, and I was just amazed by the whole experience. Monica Frederick

July 7th

The first thing I bought was a bracelet. After fifteen minutes of trying to bargain I realized the woman in front of me was a true hustler! I mean she tried to sell me a pair of earrings and a bracelet for 40 Cedis! Clearly she didn’t know you can’t hustle a New Yorker out of their money! Denise Fagan

July 6th

(Poem) The people are friendly and contain a smile. It distinguishes the kind from the unkind. Finding peace within myself. Being quiet sometimes helps. To take in the things with all five senses. Domonique Mckenzie

July 5th

They all simultaneously banged their drums one time and I felt the reverberation through my body. I had to hold myself back from standing up and screaming “YES” at the top of my lungs. Personally, I love music ensembles that involve hard-hitting loud beats. Their music continued to amaze me as dancers gracefully stepped, leaped and rolled across the floor. Seeing the male and female dancers interact with each other on this new level was interesting and pleasing. Luis Angel Cuello

July 4th

We did our thang thang on the dance floor! And what was better than the recognition of our efforts? Hearing the reflections of two members when asked by the ensemble director how they felt after the dance class. Awa answered, “I feel alive”. Jihaye said that initially he did not see himself as a “good” dancer but the class helped him realize that he needs to expand – his perspective and his knowledge. Now isn’t that what journeys like this are all about – feeling alive and expecting?! Cidra Sebastien

July 3rd

As I pulled my seatbelt across my waist and watched the plane take off, reality had yet to set in, but the turbulence did. Being that this is my first international trip and my very first time on a plane, everything was coming at me to quick. I just couldn’t believe that I, Awa Dembele, was on my way to Ghana. Awa Dembele

July 2nd

Anticipating Wusuta. This place is special to me. I hope the smiles are as bright and as welcoming as 2011. I hope the embrace is just a strong, and the conversations produce the same amount of laughter and perspective on life as I remember. I hope that the young people appreciate the experience as much as their predecessors. I hope they remember me – the way I remember them. Juan Tavarez

As we walked down the street to our welcoming party, a young girl held my hand and smiled at me. When she held my hand I instantly felt something, an intrinsic connection perhaps. She would dance and cover her face everytime I would look at her. I saw so many children with so little – with huge smiles on their faces. Alexa Lopez

July 8th

During our Day of Observation in Wusuta we met nice people such as Steven, Peace, and Opoko, who informed us about men and women and their daily jobs. Men tend to be the breadwinners in typical Wusuta households. Men’s jobs often consist of farming and carpentry work. Women are more prone to domestic work. Shirell Favor

July 9th

While I was at dinner a surprise gift was presented to me. A friend that I made while on the trip named Godwin gave me a homemade bracelet and wrote a heartfelt letter stating how happy and thankful he was for meeting me. When I read the letter my heart warmed and in return I decided to give him a letter and a bracelet I bought from the bead Factory. Overall, all the love I’ve been receiving has been overwhelmingly positive. Mya Williams

July 10th

When I first reached the lake I didn’t want to be there, especially because the insects kept on following me. But I sucked it up and sat on the grass. I swear, that was the most peace I’ve felt since I arrived in Ghana. I don’t know what it was, but those fifteen minutes (despite the bugs and everyone around me) I felt alone and at peace with myself. Aminata Seck

July 11th

While I was at dinner a surprise gift was presented to me. A friend that I made while on the trip named Godwin gave me a homemade bracelet and wrote a heartfelt letter stating how happy and thankful he was for meeting me. When I read the letter my heart warmed and in return I decided to give him a letter and a bracelet I bought from the bead Factory. Overall, all the love I’ve been receiving has been overwhelmingly positive. Mya Williams

July 10th

Today we went out to visit the Vakpo Secondary School. The students welcomed us with open arms and were ready to converse and connect. It felt like I was famous, because many of them were running up to me with paper and pen in hand, waiting for me to sign it and put my email on it. At the same time it felt weird, because I’m just the same as them, I just live a couple thousand miles away. Trevor Walsh

July 12th

Seeing all the pretty butterflies and creepy spiders was amazing. I took pictures of them as well as all of the cocoa plants and green leaves. Once we got to the actual waterfall it was so amazing because I’ve never been to one in my entire life. I got soaking wet and didn’t even get in the water, that’s how strong the water was flowing. Pershay Hawkins

July 13th

Farewell to Wusuta. When we arrived at the celebration we took our seats and watched the group performance before eventually being asked to dance with them. Throughout the whole time spent at the celebration the group danced and enjoyed the native music and people. Making friends in Wusuta and then having to say goodbye was difficult, but I feel like this group will be remembered and the connections built will last a lifetime. Jihaye Jones

July 14th

Besides the lake and my lovely horse named Gaia, there was so much natural beauty to experience – butterflies, birds of paradise, plantain trees, and more. Along the trail, the residents along the route waived, laughed or cheered me on. There’s no ignoring that we are staying in a community where accessing water is a daily struggle. And still, so many smiles and genuine acknowledgement. Cidra M. Sebastien

July 15th

The Prempeh II Museum at the Kumasi cultural center was really interesting. We got to see different materials and items that were used throughout the daily lives of the Ashanti people. We were given 20 minutes to shop at the market located on the premises. I got excited because I saw a couple of things that I liked from far away. However, it got a little more difficult to concentrate on them because the vendors from other shops were coming to us and distracting us with their offers. Commerce is real out here! Luisangel Cuello

July 16th

Today we traveled to many fascinating places, which has me craving more from this country that reminds me so much of home (Jamaica). After the very comforting breakfast of eggs with toast, we traveled through the labyrinth streets, waving to the beautiful people and offering rides to some, due to the difficult nature of traversing the road. Our driver is not only skilled, but also empathetic. Domonique McKenzie

July 17th

I’ve come to the conclusion that we can be selfish even when we seem to be selfless. We are ignorant, even when we pretend to be open; and we are ungrateful, even when our privilege is evident. Ås I write this, I hope no one takes offense because whether you like it or not, it is the truth. Denise Fagan

July 18th

Nobody can really answer my questions, “who am I”, “where am I from”, and “why my skin is so dark but hers isn’t”. Our parents don’t have the answers. They’ve been asking themselves the same questions for generations. Native African people are lucky. They know who they are from their customs, to their language, and even down to how certain food is made. They aren’t lost at sea wondering who they are and how they came to be. Monica Frederick

July 19th

As an ISP facilitator, attention to detail is needed at every level. Adaptability, and most importantly patience, must carry the day. I am used to it. Whether it is New York City or West Africa, the members come before me without hesitation. But today, I just wanted to take a dip and reflect on the experience as well as sort out some things that have been occupying my mind – unfortunately, it was not to be. Such is life. Juan Tavarez

July 20th

We got out the van, got our passes to the park, and followed the tour guide. It took us awhile to get to the top of the tree line, but we did. My mind was set on crossing all seven rope-bridges, but I chose to only do three. I took my first step, and the bridge started shaking. My hands were sweaty and I started to scream a little, even after I was told not to. I crossed that bridge and was on to the next. This one was longer and less steady. I was so nervous I started to slow down but I heard Cidra behind me saying, “you’re doing great sweetie! Keep going!” which boosted my confidence, so I started walking faster, and made it to the end! Alexa Lopez

July 21st