Beginning August 5, 2011, Erik Mohn, UUA Young Adult Spirituality & Service Consultant, began a 24-day journey to Ghana where he volunteered in a health clinic, a school, and an orphanage through Amizade, a global service learning organization. Here he reflects on the experience.
So, I’m back from my trip to Ghana, and, understandably so, people want to know about my experience. When people ask me, “So, how was your trip?” I usually start by saying, “Well… It was amazing!” while secretly wishing I could teleport them to Africa for a month or give them a pill that would instantly transfer my experience into their soul. Sounds extreme, right? Yeah, I know, but at this point, it’s a pretty difficult question to answer in a few minutes.
Honestly, my trip to Ghana feels like a dream. It feels so real, and then so unreal at the same time. Even when I look at the pictures from my trip, I can’t believe I was actually there. From bartering in the market place, to roaming the jungle on a canopy walk, to weighing babies in the health clinic, to being chilled by the feeling of death in a slave dungeon, to eating fufu and banku on a bench in a back alley, to washing my own clothes, to debating gay marriage with the village chief, to taking river showers, the list of wild and life changing experiences is endless and my feelings and thoughts about them keep expanding daily.
Indeed, my thoughts and perceptions of myself have changed. First and foremost, I have realized and accepted how American I am. I have lived and enjoyed the comforts and opportunities of American society for the last 24 years, and, yes, I would like to continue to enjoy these luxuries. I am, however, 100% more grateful for what I have i.e. a working sink and toilet, hot showers, a washer and dryer, a stove, a laptop with high speed internet, paved roads, etc. I can safely say that I will never look at these the same way ever again in my life. Secondly, I have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no excuse, for me personally, to not pursue my dreams and aspirations. I can’t pinpoint exactly what about being in Africa made me come to this conclusion. Perhaps it’s the vast difference in access to opportunity. I don’t know yet. Thirdly, my confidence in my ability to go anywhere, completely immerse myself in any situation, and still remain true to who I am, has grown immensely. I will take this confidence into my relationships, my job, and everywhere I travel from here forward.
I can also say that my thoughts and perceptions about service work have changed, as well. From witnessing a multitude of situations and talking with various people, I now have a better understanding of the complexities associated with service work and international development, but I also have a greater understanding of the fulfillment and priceless rewards that come from helping out fellow human beings. I also have come to believe that traveling, immersing oneself in a culture, and then telling your story to as many people as possible, is one of the greatest services one can provide to a village or country.
I am excited to continue processing my experience and to keep telling the story of the people ofGhana.
I leave you with a quote Kwame Apiah, my in country host, and now, great friend, always told me: “Those who give sunlight will never be deprived of the sun itself…”
|View Erik’s Photos|