I walked up to the farm that I had been working on for several months, just like I did every other Monday. I had just come back from Christmas break and was going around to check on some farmers that I had been working with. This day, however, the young man who works the farm was there instead of Dennis, the farmer. “What’s your name again? I have forgotten,” I said rather confidently to this young man I had seen many times. “Actually,” he began, “you have never asked.” BAM! I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Not because someone else had slighted me, but because I felt sick with my own guilt and shame. How could I have never asked him his name before? Something so simple, yet something so big. His name is Ben. He is the nephew of Dennis and Abigail, sends his brother resources for school because he has more access to various books living in the south, is from the Northern Region, wants to go to university for agriculture, and has a smile that can brighten a room. Ben has become a person I genuinely enjoy spending time with, and I could have very well missed out on that opportunity. This year, especially, I meet new people each and every day and sometimes it’s easy to just walk by and never even ask for their name. I have met some genuinely wonderful people who I think deserve for you to know their names. So here it goes; let me introduce you to some of the people who have made incredible impacts on me in the past 10 months.
Eunice Danso is my co-advisor for 4-H and one of my best friends here in Ghana. From the moment I met Eunice, I knew that we would be close. She is a spunky, independent woman who is okay being on her own. She loves her family, looks just like her mother, and LOVES her students and her job as a 4-H advisor. Eunice was the first person to teach me how to make and eat fufu and continues to teach me about patience and perseverance. My year would have looked entirely different without her there to hug me when I cried, and to allow me to also be there for her when she did, to teach me local Ghanaian games like Ludu and to laugh at me as I struggled through the rules. She always works hard to make sure her students are receiving information in the most effective ways possible and works to truly understand topics she is teaching to them and to the 4-H Club. She has a genuine passion for teaching and for learning.
Kennedy is in Form 2 (equivalent to 8th grade) and is the treasurer for the 4-H Club. Despite being picked on for his size, Kennedy is one of the most hardworking and confident young men I have met in Ghana. When the officer team had to learn the Agriculture Creed for our LEAD Workshop in November, Kennedy came to my house and stayed after school almost everyday to practice. When other students leave early from the farm, Kennedy stays behind to make sure everything is finished and cleaned up. One day while working on the farm, a fellow teacher began to brag about how hard he works. She said last year her water tank went empty and she had to refill it. Kennedy had heard her talking about it, so he gathered some of his friends, walked to her home in the neighboring town, and worked all day to fill her tank. She said from that day on, she always liked him. He not only showed compassion, but initiative to do the right thing, even though it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Kennedy is currently working to be a competitor for the 4-H Ghana National LEAD Contest, and oh how I wish I could be there to watch him.
Kersia is 13 years old and has been my caretaker for the past year while in my community. She is in Form 1 (7th grade), a 4-H member, and has become like a little sister to me. If I have any type of after school event, she always recruits students and makes sure we have people in attendance. She is constantly willing to learn more about anything she can and has become increasingly comfortable with asking questions about things she does not understand. She loves when I paint her nails and she practices different types of braids on my hair. She also learned how to shuffle cards this year and how to play war. I have watched her grow up in the past 10 months at such a pivotal point in her life and find myself wanting to do everything I can to maintain her innocence. On my birthday, Kersia gave me a note that says, “Happy Birthday! God Bless you!” and it is taped in the back page of my journal from the year, and I plan to leave it there. I have so much faith in the woman she is and will be.
Abigail and Dennis
Abigail is the assistant head mistress at my school and Dennis is the farmer I have worked the most closely with while being here. Abigail is always patient with me and always allows me to learn how to do new things while I visit. They are both the type of people that make you want to spend time with them. One night while sitting at her kitchen table and sharing a ball of banku, we were talking about our students and she said, “even if you can get one student to see their potential, you have done your job. If you show them that you truly care for them, and make them see it, as well, you have succeeded.” They both have been such a crucial part of my experience here and my further development as a person, in general. They have 3 sons, two are twins, and each of them has their own unique and beautiful personalities. Whenever I leave their house, they all three will walk me to the end of the road before the town to see me off. Their names are Peter, Paul, and Dennis. This family will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Theodora is my headmaster’s daughter and a former 4-H member. She is the type of young woman that makes you wonder what she has been through in her life to make her so passionate, hard-working, and caring for others. When asked in her interview for Senior high School what she could bring to the school, she responded, “4-H!” She made it into the top 3 of her class, academically, in her first year at senior high school, and is the type of person others naturally follow. Theodora visited the United States when she was a 4-H member and one day hopes to attend school in the States. She is such a special person, and I have learned from her that perseverance and passion can go a long way.
Although I couldn’t write about every person that I want to, each of these people has been a huge part of my experience in Ghana, and I would not have the memories that I do without them. In their own unique ways, they have taught me lessons and have been a guiding light through the past 10 months. Each has a name. A beautifully and wonderfully given name, and I’m lucky to know them.
Carrie Stephens received a degree in Animal Science from North Carolina State University. Before becoming an AgriCorps Fellow Carrie interned with Elanco Animal Health and will continue employment with Elanco when she returns as part of the AgriCorps-Elanco co-recruitment partnership.