My Experience in Ghana with AFAWI - by Emiko Kamitsuna, 31.07.2023
Volunteering at AFAWI has been an eye opening and learning experience for me. Coming from the United States, we take everything for granted and get frustrated when things are not our standard. There are a lot of things that are not US standards here in Ghana. Electricity (since the power goes out often here), toilets, roads, waste system, etc. Here in Ghana many people live without running water, electricity and toilets in their houses. On the other hand, wealthy houses standing next to these simple houses, surrounded by concrete walls and heavy metal gates.
I was fortunate to go on a 5 day field work to the town of Torgome (Volta region) in my first week. I didn’t know what to do or what kind of project AFAWI were working on in detail, but Philp, Jennifer and Marlene kindly accepted me as a part of the team and entrusted me to work. In Torgome, we had a meeting with town representatives and various focus groups (potters, teens, health workers, farmers, fisherment, etc.) from the community. I took pictures and helped audio record the meetings. I am Japanese and I am Obruni/Obroni (foreigner) here. People look at me and they call me so, especially in the markets, but I have never felt uncomfortable or I should say judged. I stand out to be non-black in Ghana. As far as I could see, there were no Asians around (except when I went to ShopRite and a Chinese store to buy groceries). And you think visiting a rural area I get more stares from the community, but I didn’t feel any. Even in this rural area, they welcomed me with friendliness and I didn’t feel that I was being observed because of who I am. I actually felt visiting the rural area here in Ghana was safer than visiting rural areas in the United States.
Last Friday, we visited a local school (Ashongman) for the Empowering Girls project. I am a teacher in the US and I looked forward to this day. I wanted to see what it is like to be in a classroom in Ghana. Yes, the building is not up to date (concrete building without windows or doors). They lack modern technology (only a whiteboard in class) or materials (textbooks, classroom supply). The children were in a small classroom for this session, but their bright eyes looking at you, eagerness showed on their faces and their bright smiles are something I have not felt in the US for a while. They are full of hope, vitality, and resilience.
Coming to Ghana and having the opportunities to interact with the children and women in the community made me think of how little problems I face in my life. We are bombarded with materials, information, and greed. Livelihood Project women who want to make a better living for themselves and their families, street vendors who walk between cars on busy streets with goods on their heads selling plantain chips, water, bread, etc. in blazing hot weather. They are living day by day, trying to survive, making today better than yesterday.
This trip to Ghana made me aware of my privileges and I feel how fortunate I am, yet I cannot help but to think about my obligations; what am I doing everyday to make life better for others tomorrow?