Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why Ghana?

My interest in Ghana started sometime in late 2005- early 2006. I had just passed my comprehensive exams in my doctoral program and moved to Richmond to begin teaching at VCU. I had a little bit of money saved up and I wanted to use it to travel. Canada was the only other country that I had been to outside of the US and I was looking for a truly unique experience abroad. I found myself searching for volunteer abroad programs in Asia, Africa and Europe. In the end it was between Thailand, India and Ghana. To this day I am still not entirely sure why Ghana (because I am still dying to visit these other countries) but I guess it was fate. In the summer of 2006 I took my first trip to Ghana through an organization called Global Crossroad.

During my 2+ weeks in country I spent most of my time at Eugemot orphanage (http://myeugemotorphanage.org/management.htm), a rural orphanage set in the Volta region and run by Mrs. Eugenia Kahu Motogbe (aka Mama Eugenia). While I was there I taught english, math, and science and spent a lot of time just playing with the kids . I had brought with me sports like baseball, frisbee, and football along with a lot of arts and crafts projects and school materials. The kids loved everything and were thirsty for attention, love and stimulation.

While I fell in love with all of the children at Eugemot, there was one kid who particularly caught my eye. He was a little bit michevious (which told me he was smart) and very athletic. He wanted to be involved in everything and first in line to do whatever it was that we were doing. It also helped that he was totally cute.

My return home from Ghana that summer was bitter sweet. I will admit that I cherished that first hot shower and never again have I taken for granted the value of indoor toilets. But leaving those kids, and leaving that kid, left me with a void that I could not explain. I knew that I could do more, that I had more to give than I could possibly have manged to give in that 2 weeks time. As time went by I made the decision to attempt to adopt that boy who had won my heart back at Eugemot. To make a long story short, I returned to Ghana in July of 2007 to pick up my son, then 6 year old Daniel Bregon.

But again, I had to leave behind all of those kids that still did not have families and maybe were too old to ever get adopted. In addition, on my second trip to Ghana I got to see more of the country and more of the main city areas of Accra. Here is where I began to really see the rehabilitation needs in this country. There were people with mental and physical disabilities begging on the street, persons with paralysis using skateboards to get around because the did not have wheelchairs, and children everywhere that were not getting the care or stimulation they needed for healthy development.

It was on this trip that I began to think about what OT's in America (and OT students of course) could bring to Ghana. The course I am planning aims to target one vulnerable population, children, and conduct further research into the area of disability culture and needs for persons with disabilities in this country. I hope that my passion for Ghana, it's culture, and the people will be a spark for others to see more, do more and care more about what life is like for people all over the world.

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