Being in Ghana, Africa was one of the best experiences I'm sure I'll ever have. I have always felt drawn to the more remote areas of Africa and when my friend invited me to go with her and her church on a missions trip to Bolgatonga, Ghana, I jumped at the chance. Before I knew it, I was on a plane over the Atlantic, on my way to the most indescribable experience of my life. We did things I would have never thought possible before last June. We were prepared and excited to go and do as much as possible to help, but we quickly learned that it wasn't about what we were doing, it was about the people we were meeting.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Just being with the people not only changed their lives, but changed ours. The children especially touched my heart with their sweet laughs and adorable personalities. They have so little material possessions yet are content, overjoyed even, with just the basic amenities. It sounds stereotypical, but it's true. Two particular little girls had the greatest effect on me. They were both shy as could be, but once they opened up, I couldn't get enough of them.
One of the first places we visited I met Elisha. She is almost two years old and incredibly quiet. I found her at an orphanage in northern Ghana, eating what looked like spaghetti off the ground. I ended up carrying her around for hours so she would be able to participate in the hike that the older kids were going on. Every time I set her down so she could venture off on her own or to be carried by another girl, she came back to me. It still brings me to tears remembering her small, sticky hands clutching my shirt as we hiked. That was the day I told my mom, “Oh and don't be alarmed if I end up taking a little African child home with me. They are too precious!”
A few days later, in a different village, I met Sarmira. She is three years old and the youngest at the school we visited. From the moment our presentation started inside that one-room, mud-hut school she was covering her beautiful face with her tiny hands. That small gesture intrigued me more than a lion and giraffe having tea. As I watched her try to disappear, I couldn't help but want to make her stand out and open up, at least to me. Once outside all the kids wanted to teach us games and how to sing and dance. Sarmira stood quietly by the door with her hands still covering her eyes. In the middle of the chaos I pried myself away from the mass of screaming and giggling to kneel next to her. I finally got her to uncover her gorgeous brown eyes and we played with my camera and some bubbles. Eventually I met her older brother, he is in his early twenties and takes care of Samira. From what I understood he is the only one caring for her. It broke my heart driving away hours later, watching her and her brother out the window of our van, waving us off to our next adventure
I discovered my passion during those two weeks in Ghana. Even though I have always loved to travel, and it runs in my family; my experience there with the captivating people and their culture reassured my feeling that I am drawn to volunteering in foreign countries and now I know that is want to do with my life.