I wake up every morning with a similar routine not worrying about getting caught in a net of some sort. I stumble out of bed, I feel the soft carpet under my feet as I make my way to the kitchen. I turn on the lights without ever wondering if they will stay on. Fix a pot of freshly ground coffee, hop in an always hot shower, and start to think about the day ahead of me. As I walk back into the kitchen to enjoy coffee my eye usually catches the calendar on our full-size refrigerator. I notice the day and the year and I think to myself. “Huh, this time last year I was in Ghana doing…” It is perplexing to think that it has almost been a year since Haley and I left Ghana and moved to Oregon. It is seldom that a day goes by where I don’t think about Ghana.
A time machine such as a song or a shirt that I use to wear, or seeing someone throw away half their lunch will zap me right back to Domeabra, our school, or the crowded marketplace. Actually, I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of last year. I tend to think a lot about our neighbors and the children who became Haley and my close friends, I think a lot about my students and how they are progressing and I think about the guy at the bus stop who had five goats on ropes trying to get to the next town. It is a common phrase to hear in our completely furnished apartment “hey do you remember” or “like that time in Ghana when”. Haley and I frequently talk about our first year of marriage spent that was spent a West African country. A place, country, and people that we will always hold close in our hearts.
With all the memories, good and challenging, there is one I can’t shake. It was the day we were headed to the airport to finally come home. I was beside myself shaking like a child on Christmas morning. I could not believe that we made it, a whole year in Ghana. Then that thought of “making it” stood out as if this was some survival game, which it was not! I started to think “what did I just do for the past 11 months?” “Was this time well spent?” “Did I really give it my all?”
When I think about my year in Ghana, this is probably the thought I have the most “Did I really make a lasting impact?” As an AgriCorps Fellow and as a professional educator I was always taught to make a difference that outlasts you. This is something that you may never know. It is something that always reminds me that if you’re not giving it your all now you may not get the chance to give it your all later.
As the one-year mark got closer from our time in Ghana, some of these thoughts fade and some just get stronger. Due to technology, I am very lucky that I get to hear from my students and friends from Ghana on a weekly if not daily basis. It is usually a simple greeting and small talk. Sometimes it is an update about the 4-H meeting they had, which usually just consists of plans and ideas that may or may not happen. But the other day I got a message that gave me a feeling I will never forget.
Francis (the current KITA 4-H President) sent pictures of a training the KITA 4-H Club hosted. They invited the local Junior High Schools 4-H club to participate and after he told me, I could not stop asking questions. “How many students came? What was on the agenda? What did you like most about it? What would you do differently?”
For the next few days, I would receive the response to all my questions. The best part is that at the end of the year and my officer team has graduated they held another election and new officers are in place to continue the mission of 4-H and positive youth development through Agriculture.
Progress is a slow process and as I said earlier, sometimes we may never see the fruits of our labor. but when we do, as I did on April 30th, let me tell you it is a feeling that you will never forget. So to answer the question if a lasting impact is possible? It is possible.