For as long as I can remember, my parents have been doing business at Interbank. When my dad told me I had to get an after-school job in high school, I applied and was hired as a part-time teller at our local Interbank branch. I remember loving this job because of the wonderful staff I worked with and the knowledge I gained. I had an advantage over most teenagers, learning about money and banking at a young age. I was off work on all major holidays and only had to work a couple of Saturdays a month. It was the dream job for a seventeen-year-old. I was sad to leave when it came time to start college, but little did I know that this part-time job would come full circle just four short years later.
In December of 2014, I was offered a job as an AgriCorps member working in Ghana. I was so excited! AgriCorps is an organization that sends American college graduates with degrees in Agriculture to developing countries. I could not believe that I had the opportunity to spend a year abroad working with kids by serving as a volunteer with 4-H Ghana. It was truly a dream come true. During the following August, I was in my first week of training as an AgriCorps Member. As I sat around the table with my fellow AgriCorps team members, I found out how this, my first job as a college graduate, was connected to my high school job at Interbank.
I tend to notice small things, so when my new boss, AgriCorps founder Trent McKnight, pulled out an Interbank debit card, I had to ask about it. I told him I was employed there during my junior and senior years of high school and he told me that his family owns the bank. To top it off, AgriCorps is funded by Interbank! Talk about coming full circle.
I have been in Ghana for over six months now. I live in Bepoase, a small community in the eastern region. I teach agriculture classes at the local junior high school and co-advise their 4-H club. In Ghana, 4-H is structured similarly to FFA in America; the meeting times are during school and most schools have a vegetable garden maintained by thestudents. My students have a large garden where they grow cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. We also have experiment gardens instead of flowerbeds in front of the school for each class to take care of. I also work with a fe farmers in my community to help them in improving their practices and connect them to existing resources. Most recently, I have connected my host dad, a local farmer in the community and PTA Chairman, with our 4-H club. When I first got to Bepoase, he did not know much about 4-H, and now he wants to become the advisor for the local club and teach the members all he knows about agriculture. He wants the members to see agriculture as a business.
These past six months in Ghana have been the hardest six months of my life. Between the language barrier and trying to understand local customs, some days are extremely frustrating. On the flip side, I see young leaders emerging from this small community. Our 4-H officer team next year was recently elected, and I am proud to say that it includes four girls! My students are excited to work in our gardens instead of seeing it as a chore. I love what I do, especially since for me it is a connection to my home, to my first job.
Hannah McCollom is an Agricultural Communications graduate from Oklahoma State University. Before becoming an AgriCorps Member, Hannah raised cattle and studied agriculture in Brazil.