A couple of months ago, the 11 Americans working with AgriCorps in the Eastern Region of Ghana met for our first monthly meeting. We had just spent our first few weeks in our assigned communities and had plenty to talk about – crazy stories, complaints, weird discoveries, good and bad experiences, interesting living situations, and the things we miss and don’t miss about home. At one point, we decided to go around the room and have each person share their favorite moment from the last few weeks. Any of us could have easily mentioned a delicious new food we tried or seeing a beautiful, tropical part of Ghana or learning how to complete everyday tasks in a developing country or successfully implementing a new idea; but we didn’t.
Every single person told a story about how they connected with another person in some way. There were stories about making someone laugh, even though they didn’t speak English…not feeling well and having a student bring you a baby bird to make you feel better…walking your neighbor’s kids to school, hand-in-hand, every morning. Our favorite and most memorable moments are those that involve relationship with another person.
I want to share some moments of connection I have experienced since living in Ghana.
A moment of laughter…
One evening my husband and I were riding a trotro back to our home; we had just visited a city near the ocean. We were sitting in the very back row next to a Ghanaian man. Three women sat in the row directly in front of us. For most of the journey, the ride had been uneventful and the passengers were silent – dozing off or deep in thought. Suddenly, one of the women in front of us screamed and jumped up onto her seat. Slight panic ensued and the driver pulled the trotro to the side of the road, not knowing what was going on.
We quickly learned that a live crab had crawled onto the woman’s foot and frightened her. My husband and I looked down at the floorboard and saw two more crabs scuttling by our feet. Apparently, one of the passengers sitting in the front had stored their bag full of live crabs under the back seat. A hole had appeared in the bag and the crabs were escaping. The women in front of us continued to panic and lift their feet, while the man next to us assured everyone, “I am a security guard, do not worry,” as he captured the escapee crabs and threw them out the window. Once the remaining crabs had been detained and our toes and feet were safe, laughter filled the trotro. Every passenger went home that evening with a smile and a shared story to tell.
A moment of kindness…
I have recently discovered a “shortcut” path in our town. I use this path to get to the market every week and it leads to my seamstress, the woman who has been making lovely Ghanaian fabric dresses for me. The other day, I was walking along this path because a zipper had broken on one of my dresses and I needed to get it fixed. At one point along the path there is a little store that sells candy and snacks. The woman who runs the store had two small girls, I’m guessing ages 3 and 5. Usually, when I pass, they see me and yell, “Broh-foo-noh!” This is the Krobo word for white person or foreigner. I usually just wave and smile and they wave back. On this particular day, however, they saw me coming and looked at each other as if they had a plan. Together they marched up to me, gave me a smile, didn’t say a word and wrapped their little arms around my legs in a hug. This precious act of kindness caught me so off-guard, all I could do was smile, hug them back and say, “Moh-choo-me,” which means thank you. Needless to say, I will be taking that route more often.
A moment of confidence…
At the beginning of Akrosec School’s first ever 4-H meeting, the club president stood in front of a small gathering of students in the dining hall and pounded a rock on the table to call the meeting to order. With shaking hands, but courageous voices, the seven club officers delivered their opening ceremony parts and guided the meeting through the carefully planned order of business. After the meeting had been adjourned, I ask the officers to gather around. I looked at their very focused and serious faces and simply said, “I am proud of you.” Immediately, all seven faces broke into huge smiles.
Helping my school establish a brand new 4-H club has been a favorite part of my job this year. I work closely with the seven high school students who were elected as club officers this term. Since 4-H is new to all of the students and teachers here, I met with the officers multiple times before the first club meeting, in order to explain the basics of 4-H and prepare them for their first student-led meeting. It did not take me long to discover that I was working with seven exceptional students; they were eager to learn about 4-H, optimistic about the future of their club, and determined to make the first club meeting a success.
After that first meeting, I realized that many of these students live in a world where punishment for failure is given out far more often than praise for hard work. Every week I spend with students, I witness the powerful effect you can have on a young person just by encouraging them and telling them you believe in their future. Fortunately, that is what 4-H is all about and I look forward to seeing many more smiles on student faces as a result.
Lyndee Lum is an International Soil and Crop Science graduate from Colorado State University. Before becoming an AgriCorps Member, Lyndee raised livestock and was a state FFA officer.