"You're going to Ghana?? In….Africa?? That's going to change you." This phrase ran through my head the minute I stepped out of the taxi, when a little girl came up to me and held her arms up, beckoning me to hold her. Then another one came, and another. A feeling of happiness rushed through me; they were all so friendly, and so adorable. And this was only the first 5 minutes of being at the orphanage! Two boys offered to carry my suitcases to my room. I peeked inside, and turned the light on. There were three mattresses lined up in a row, and one window. After the boys lugged mine and my roommates’ suitcases into the room, there was barely room for us to stand. I’d have to get used to it though since I’d be staying there for three weeks!
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I decided to go outside and take a look around. There was a dirt trail that ran through the center of the orphanage where locals could walk to and from the town which was about a block away. Farther up the path, there was a school where the orphans and other local children could attend – it had kindergardeners all the way up to high schoolers. Since it was the weekend, the children weren’t at school so I was able to get to know most of them right away. There was Romeo, an outgoing young boy who loved to rap and had a passion for romance. Loritta was quiet around us at first, but funny and loud around her friends. Bishop was the cutest six-year old ever, but ended up having quite the attitude. Hilda, my age, was a charismatic young lady who I’ll never forget. Of course there were many others, but to talk about them all would take pages.
Over the course of three weeks I got to know each orphan and connected with them all. We played games, read together, sang together, and were even able to watch a movie in (get this) the computer lab! The day that I left was donation day: the children would wait in line for clothes that previous volunteers had donated. Luckily, I was able to stay for this wonderful event! The smiles on their faces were unforgettable and I couldn’t help thinking that this day was like Christmas for them.
The hours ticked away, and soon a taxi arrived to take me and three other volunteers away (we had chosen to stay for three weeks, while others would be staying as long as six). Teary-eyed, I hugged each and every orphan goodbye. I got into the taxi, and left. I returned about two weeks ago and only just realized how much I’d changed. While I was in Ghana, I saw men, women, and children content with what little they had. I worked at the orphanage there, and saw children playing with cars made out of a hot chocolate container, or running around with sticks connected to two simple wheels. They had nothing, yet that's all they'd known their whole lives, and so they learned to live with it. However, here, in the United States, I can't help noticing how much we have and how we keep wanting more. We buy something and a week later, want something new – something better. My trip to Ghana opened my eyes to the huge differences in happiness in our country and theirs. I will never forget that trip, and especially not those children, where each and every one of them touched my heart.
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