This past summer, I journeyed east over the Atlantic, to the western coast of
Africa in hope of realizing a personal dream. I had the privilege of participating in
a Global Leadership Adventures service program in the Volta Region of Ghana, and
gained a chance to immerse myself in a foreign culture and connect with its people.
For three weeks, I worked and taught a classroom of forty-four eager primary
students at a rural school called Rhema, where the headmaster’s desk sits under a
colossal mango tree.
There, on a Wednesday morning, while my service group mixed cement
for bricks, the students gathered nearby with the headmaster’s wife for song and
prayer. As I listened to the girls and boys sing passionately in their native Ewe
and dance to the pulsating beat of the drums, I felt compelled to drop my shovel
and join them. This wave of belonging touched me; never had I felt such joy and
togetherness. Here I was, a white stranger, welcomed and invited into their world
to fully experience the act of rejoicing. This single moment showed me that in spite
of their real deprivations – a scarcity of school materials, inadequate staffing, and
poor health conditions– these people know how to live blissfully, bound by the
richness and brotherhood in their community.
My experience in Ghana is not simply a tale of performing good deeds. Yes,
our service team produced over 650 bricks for a new schoolhouse. Yes, I helped
encourage both leadership and learning among the young students of Rhema. Yes, I
made a personal commitment to maintain ties with the local leaders I met. But for
me, my three-week service trip became my own treasure. The strength of the
human spirit I witnessed within the Ghanaian community has inspired me to build a
kinder, more joyful community here at home. As Student Executive Board president
of my 2,027-student high school, I hope to bring a bit of “Ghana” to my suburban
school environment. At Rhema, I saw moments of pure spirit — life stripped down of
all misfortunes. If I am able to recreate such camaraderie and heart at just one
school event aimed at helping a family in need or a local cause, I will have
My service travel experience with Global Leadership Adventures helped me
realize the trials and tribulations that communities face. But, in good or bad times,
there is always an opportunity to become whole. One family, one community.