Beginning August 5, 2011, Erik Mohn, UUA Young Adult Spirituality & Service Consultant, will be embarking on a 24-day journey to Ghana where he will volunteer in a health clinic, a school, and an orphanage through Amizade, a global service learning organization. Here Erik shares reflections in anticipation of his departure.
It’s Wednesday August 3, 2011 at 11:30pm, and all I keep thinking is, “Friday is almost here. Friday is almost here. Friday is almost here.” I can’t wait! My heart has been beating out of my chest for the last week and my mind has been racing with all kinds of thoughts. “What size suitcase do I need?” “What should I pack?” “I need a bathing suit.” “Do I really need bug spray with 30% deet? Isn’t deet really bad for you? I want to use all natural bug spray, but then again, I hate mosquitoes and I don’t want to get Malaria. That would ruin everything!” “Laptop or no laptop?” “11 hour flight! Wowzers! That’s intense!” “Visa, Passport, Visa, Passport, Visa, Passport.” “Okay, I think I have everything I need.” “What am I going to be doing?” “Where am I going to stay?” “This trip is going to change my life!” “Wow! I’m going to Africa!”
Indeed, this Friday August 5, 2011, I will be taking off from Logan Airport, flying into JFK Airport in NYC, and then boarding an international flight to Accra, Ghana. This is a dream come true. If you had asked me exactly one year ago what I thought I’d be doing in August of 2011, there is no telling what I might have said, but I can guarantee you I would not have replied, “Oh, I’ll probably be flying to Ghana to participate in a three week long service trip with an organization called Amizade.”
So, how did I get to this point?
Well, last summer, after graduating from Howard University in May, I decided to return home to Harvard, MA. As a 23 year old college graduate, it is not ideal to go back to living with your mom and dad, however, I wanted to dedicate some time to clearing my head and acquiring healthier and more productive habits. In the midst of this process, I ended up finding a job at the UUA as the Young Adult Spirituality & Service Consultant. A UU Adult, who believes that the healthy combination of spirituality and service can lead to transformative experiences, decided to fund a position that would promote such opportunities to UU Young Adults across the country. In order to accomplish this goal, I decided to create a Young Adult Service Directory, which is essentially an online menu of service organizations and opportunities that align with UU beliefs and appeal to UU Young Adult interests. While speaking with the various organizations and explaining my position to friends, family, and colleagues, I noticed that there was a certain distance between myself and the work. For awhile I could not pin point why, but I soon realized it was because I had never personally gone on a service trip. I knew that what I was doing was good and important work, yet I had no personal connection to it. I thought that maybe I should go on a service trip, so that I could relate to my work on a deeper level, as well as speak about my experience to other UU Young Adults from a real and honest place. Luckily, my supervisor agreed, so here we are…
So, why Ghana?
Well, first and foremost, I’ve always wanted to travel to Africa. I’m sure the fact that I’m black has something to do with it, but honestly, I believe it’s more than that. Africa is rich with history, culture and life. From the Egyptian Dynasties, to the Slave Trade, to the more recent tribulations, Africa is a continent ripe with stories of humanity, and it will be an honor to step foot on its soil. I have friends from Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, and I’ve always been fascinated by their family structure and way of life. I simply want to experience it firsthand. Now, I chose Ghana for one reason, really; Cape Coast Castle. In my mind, if I’m going to go to Africa, I must see and feel the place where much of the slave trade took place. It’s only right. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m sure that visiting this historic landmark will be emotional and quite spiritual. However, only time will tell.
Now, while exploring historic sites and immersing myself in Ghanaian culture, I will also be volunteering in a health clinic for ten days and in a school and orphanage for fourteen days. I feel like these projects will give me the greatest opportunity to truly experience the people and culture, plus, I just love kids.
Indeed, I anticipate that this trip will open my eyes and expand my mind in ways I never thought possible.
I welcome transformation with open arms.
Thanks for reading and much love to all.
(Read a more detailed story of my journey through race, adoption, and Unitarian Universalism)