When someone asks me if I felt that I made an impact in Ghana, I have mixed feelings.
The first days were very difficult because we were surrounded by intense poverty. We all wondered how a small group of volunteers could change the situation we were immersed in. I went to teach in a school, and there were a few dozen children sitting on the floor trying to listen to the lesson. Initially, I felt a bit discouraged. I was wondering what information these children could remember in such conditions? The teacher with me was not overly helpful either.
Before I arrived to Ghana, I was expecting to make a sustainable impact. This did happen, but not in the way I imagined. I realised I needed to adjust the scale of my expectations. It’s not possible to change Ghanian society radically in one volunteer trip, but it is possible to give Ghanian people the desire to make positive changes for themselves.
For example, some of the children I taught had never heard of Europe or America before we arrived. This incident was eye opening for both of us: the Western volunteers and the Ghanian students. Our presence allowed for people to realise that there was a world beyond their home country and vice versa, our group of volunteers learned a great deal about Ghanian society and what it was like to live in a country so different from our own.
I also had the experience of making deeper relationships that were meaningful and educational for me. I spent a month getting to know, a lovely eight year old girl named Radia, during my volunteer placement at a local hospital. Before I left Ghana, I gave her a picture of the two of us to remind her of the time we spent together. While volunteering at the hospital, it was my goal to help Radia temporarily forget that she was a young child, living in a hospital, and share moments of happiness with one another. I will never forget her smile. I don’t know what she will remember about me, but maybe this is not the important part. Perhaps the importance of us getting to know one another is to tell other people about her smile, so that they will also be inspired by this lovely little girl to make changes of their own.
So again, when someone asks me if I made an impact in Ghana… I answer that Ghana impacted me. I’d advise anyone sincerely interested in making a difference in peoples’ lives (remember to keep scale in mind), to take part in Tzedek. The trip itself was an unforgettable experience. However, what was even more exciting was coming back to Europe and sharing my testimony. For me, it is important to tell others about the people I met, like Radia, and what I experienced in Ghana. By doing this, I am still making a difference and my adventure continues to live on.
Written by Daphné Tapia, Ghana Project 2016 volunteer. To get involved with Tzedek’s summer 2017 volunteering opportunities, get in touch.