If we are being honest, sometimes Ghana takes its toll. Projects can take a long time to start, bush fires during Harmattan make it rain ash, going to the market means attracting a lot of attention, exposing teachers to new ideas can be challenging, the churches are loud, the market is loud, the eating spots are loud. And on the days when school is canceled and the farmers aren’t farming and your projects just aren’t working, ‘home’ becomes a little too quiet. You start to think, “why am I here?”
So, before I finish out my last few months here, I want to dedicate this blog post to things I want to remember about this amazing, complex, life changing country. I want to remember what motivates me, what makes me happier than I have felt in a long time, and what has formed the new ways in which I view agriculture and development. Hopefully it will give you all a small idea of how amazing this country is and why we love the work we do here.
Its cliché but, my students are what motivate me more than anything else. They keep me going on my worst days and make me smile bigger on my best. They make me feel like, through them, AgriCorps and I can help make a real difference.
One of my students, a boy who grew up in Ghana’s largest city, used to all but refuse to work in our school garden. Each student has their own garden bed to tend to and his was the last to be constructed. When he did finally have a bed, it remained as empty as his homework pages. All it took was some special attention and by the end of the first term, he was visiting the farm more than almost any other student and loved to ask me what I thought of his tomato plants. He’s gradually began to turn in more homework as well and his test scores continue to improve.
I feed off of their small transformations, their continued growth and their excitement when little watermelons start to form and the tomato plants grow tall. It makes me excited as well and feel like I’m doing good for and with my community.
The AgriCorps team not only motivates me, they inspire me. We work together to set up teacher and advisor trainings, exchange ideas, and improve our organization. We take time to group up and talk about the problems we’re facing and offer fresh solutions. We hike up a mountain to meet a quirky farmer – William Dynamic – who reminds us of the beauty of Ghana and the generosity of its people. We watch inspirational videos and plan trainings and discuss what we can all improve on. We get to share stories of the small changes we see in the farmers, students, and teachers in our communities – a teacher who canes less, a farmer who’s going to try no-till practices, a student who won a speech contest. And, when its time to go back to my community, I arrive inspired to keep working towards our goals. My notebook is filled with new ideas and potential solutions and I’m ready to keep going.
There is a lot about Ghana that is inconvenient and uncomfortable but there is even more that is beautiful. Besides my students and the Agricorps team, my community, co- teachers, and the nature here all make me a better person. So, when my days are rough and I’m feeling like I’m in a rut, I want to remember why I’m here, the people who inspire me, and the lessons it has all taught me to carry me through these last few months.
Renee Massa is an Environmental Resource Management graduate from Penn State. Before becoming an AgriCorps Member, Renee served as an environmental compliance intern for hydrofracking wastewater management.