Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Interning at Citi FM in Accra, Ghana

By Joshua Rogers

My first time experience of how Ghana does journalism was a very different experience than anything I have done in America. I arrived at Citi FM in Accra and was immediately sent out on assignment with a man named Sammi. He seemed to be an educated and smart man. Our assignment was to go to a conference of distinguished scholars in Accra and get a few soundbites. I thought it was interesting because when we got there, he didn’t even put his recorder on the podium. He found a speaker and just put the recorder next to it. He didn’t ask any questions afterwards, we just left and went back to the newsroom to write the script.

The newsroom was small, especially for the 10 to 15 employees they have. Most were pretty laid back, but seemed to care about what they were doing and had some sort of passion for the industry. The technology was not what I am used to. The computers are old Dells, the internet doesn’t work 50% of the time, and they have never even heard of ENPS. They write their stories in Microsoft Word and use Adobe Audition to edit sound. Then they just print out the scripts and the anchors take them to the studio and read them right off the paper. The studio itself is old, but has all the necessary tools. Their principles of journalism seem to be different. Most of their actualities on the radio are 40-45 seconds, way longer than what we are taught in America. They are very straightforward in their reading of the news, and they don’t really have a “flow” to their half-hour cast at noon. Their “eyewitness” hour-and-a-half cast at 5:30 has a producer and more of a flow to it.

The most enlightening part of all of this was the trip to and from the conference of distinguished scholars. On the way there, I asked Sammi a lot about the country, their way of life, and himself. He was very open and answered just about every question I asked. The Ghanaians are generally extremely friendly people and willing to help out when you are in need of it. I asked Sammie about the way the government is run and how they operate. He explained that their government is nothing like ours. They can be corrupt and they don’t really care for the average Ghanaian. He said there is a lot of poverty in the country and that the government only looks after themselves and their families. Handicapped people “have no hope”, according to him, and there are no programs to help them. There are only six public universities in the country and they are difficult to get in to because everyone who has enough money to go wants to get in. Education is the only way to give yourself and advantage here and so the larger universities have as many as 45,000 students. We talked about the differences between our militaries, governments, and just ways of life in general. He told me he went to the Ghana Institute for Journalism, but wants to find a new job next year because he gets bored of it sometimes. He did express that he is thankful that Ghana’s press is free and not suppressed like many other African nations.

A view from the center of Makola Market in Accra, Ghana.

On the way back, we drove past the Muslim sector of Accra. This was easily the most shocking part of the day. The neighborhood was clearly a slum. It was stricken with poverty and all of the houses were just shacks. Sammie said that the neighborhood is extremely violent and that no one goes there unless they live there. The road we were driving on served as a literal barrier between the Muslim sector and the rest of Accra. On the other side of the road, there were shacks and stores lined up on the sidewalk. Behind the shops was a drop-off, and then an endless sprawl of shacks. Even more interestingly, Sammi said that the Muslim people make up about 35% of the nation’s total population.

I learned a lot in my first day at Citi FM, not only about journalism in Ghana but in Accra in general. I learned that not only do the ethics of American journalism not apply, but that this country is currently at a key point in its development. The people of Ghana burn trash in their own streets, pollute their own rivers and other bodies of water, and generally seem to not care about their environment. They are extremely kind and open people, but they need to wake up. There is a constant smog that hangs over Accra and noticeably pollutes the air. My experience not only opened my eyes to Ghana’s way of journalism but their problems with their way of life. They have a beautiful city and a wonderful culture, but there are a lot of improvements to be made.

Christmas in Africa

Christmas in Africa
Aly Fossett

When I first informed my family and friends back at home that I would be spending Christmas in Africa, they bombarded me with questions; “Wait, so does that mean you are going to miss Christmas?”  “Do they even celebrate Christmas?” “Aren’t you going to be sad without your family”?  For all of you that were concerned; I didn’t “miss” Christmas, if anything I gained something from spending Christmas here.
Let me further explain…
This trip has helped me open my eyes. I have been looking through a very small scope my whole life. I have lived in a small town growing up, and now go to college in a small town. Things always been relatively easy for me, which I am thankful for, but I believe that you don’t get to grow as a person until you remove yourself from your comfort zone.  And being in Africa on Christmas is my definition of being “out of my comfort zone”.  This trip has helped me begin to widen my scope and see the bigger pictures in life. And Christmas was just one of those many days for me.
We woke up bright and early to go to a Christmas Mass. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, everyone was happy, and I was wearing my favorite red dress. Today was bound to be a good day. The service started out with an amazing performance from the choir. And I kid you not, best choir performance I have ever heard. Not only were they amazing singers but genuinely passionate about the words they were saying. Constant goose bumps, that’s all I have to say.  The sermon was about how to achieve “peace on earth” which basically all comes back to having peace within.
So this is where the story gets interesting. After about half way through the sermon, I started to get really warm, sweat started rolling down my face, more and more, not stopping, now my stomach starts to ache, oh no! Sprinting to the bathroom.  I’ll let you put the rest of the pieces together. Needless to say I think I spent a little more time in the bathroom stall than I did in the actual church. 
I came back to the hotel early with a stomach bug. Home (hotel) alone on Christmas. I’m not going to lie I was a little sad and homesick at first but I sucked it up. I drank my sprite, flipped through the five TV channels at least a hundred times and became one with my bathroom.
After waking up from a life changing nap I decided to get on my computer so I could sit on Facebook and torture myself with pictures of all my friends and family loving the holidays while I sat here in Africa, by myself, on Christmas. 
But as I started scrolling, I didn’t find myself feeling jealous of them, I found myself almost mad. Mad that every other picture was of a huge Christmas tree with a ton of wrapped presents under it, my friend’s 13-year-old sister with her shinny new Ipad, or a sparkling new Michael Kors watch.  And I started to realize that being in Africa during Christmas has really helped me realize the real meaning of the holiday.
It’s not about who got the latest gadgets, or the most crap underneath their tree, it about love, family and happiness.  That is what Ghana is all about; love, family and happiness. They celebrate Christmas here but you never hear anything about Santa Clause, the focus is more on the religious aspect of Christmas. And guess what? They are doing just fine without a visit from the big man in red.
Oh, the irony. I have met some of the nicest and happiest people here who have little to nothing when it comes to luxuries. It makes me sick that we prance around showing off our expensive new toys while the 70 little kids I watched at the day care were content playing with one little plastic car toy. Those kids aren’t making Christmas lists that are 3 pages long or crying when Santa didn’t bring them what they asked for. They are all just genuinely happy to be at school, to better themselves.
Another thing Christmas taught me was the meaning and strength of family. In Ghana, everyone is family. There is no such thing as cousins, aunts or uncles. Everyone is either your sister, brother, mom or dad. The unity is incredible. Everyone is here for each other; people go out of their way to help people. Yet, another thing I need to take back to America with me, the selflessness. I can’t wait to keep learning from this incredible place. I’m leaving Ghana a different person than I was when I came, a better person.

Advertising in Accra

DDP Outdoor Ltd.

Ben Clos

Entrance to DDP compound.
There are many ways that we may think we are different from African culture, but their work ethic is not one of them. There are still deadlines, clients to appease, invoices to be filed and calls to be made. While studying abroad in Accra, Ghana, I was placed as an "attachment", also known as intern in the United States, for DDP Outdoor Ltd. DDP is a advertising business with  the "emphasis on billboard production and installation, production of point-of-sale materials, exhibition building/display, wide format digital printing etc." This is a company that is over 35 years old with 35 consistent clients which include Vodafone Ghana Ltd., Coco-Cola, Ethiopian Airlines, Shell, Pepsi, several banks and government clients, Unilever Ghana Ltd. and several more. There are approximately 100 workers on and off the business' small campus with several different departments of client services, finance, graphic design, operations and fabrication.

What They Produce

Bus stop advertisement.
While DDP is a business of billboards, they also do different types of advertising using images. Their portfolio includes traditional unipolar spectaculars but varies to backlit advertisements, store signage, airport and transit advertising, gantry billboards, and digital advertising. It seems that in Ghana there are many different types of billboards all over the place. While there is technology here, it does not have as overwhelming presence as it does in the United States. So, Twitter, Facebook and other social media advertising is not the best way to communicate to the audience here in Ghana. People do a lot of driving (sitting in traffic) and walking. The best thing would be to have a great print advertisement that is easily seen as one passes along on the street.

Being the Attachment

For the most part, everything was the same as the first day of interning in the U.S. You go around and are introduced to everyone in the office, see the different departments, placed with a designated person to shadow, etc. While I am only here for four days at the most, it would be hard to be given a project. For the most part, this was an observational internship to ask lots of questions and try and understand what a business is like in another country. On the first day I ran errands with Tomastina, an employee of client services. She told me that the holiday season which we are in, requires a lot of work. Clients are possibly changing advertisements to be holiday oriented or producing more advertisements with the shopping season. 

Client Services

Guiness beer three sided unipole billboard.
Something that I find different about working at DDP in the Client Services Department is that they need to travel around to different locations to check on their products. Clients pay a considerable amount of money for billboards and the four employees of the client relations department check on locations to ensure a functioning product. Another reason for travel is when a client reaches out with a new proposal for a billboard at a location, someone from the team has to go see if the location is an acceptable candidate for a billboard. Factors that come into play would be functionality: Would this location be an acceptable location? Will it be seen by many people? Is the right audience of people here? Another question is, would a billboard be able to be built here? Billboards can take up a lot of space. When a billboard is built, it takes a lot of concrete to be put in the ground to make a stable base for the billboard. From there the concrete has to sit for a considerable amount of time to ensure a dry and secure base. From there the rest of the billboard is produced with metal structure, lighting and the image. Aside from the billboard production, client services has to manage project schedules, communicate with clients and their requests and manage invoices and billing.


DDP compound.
The office is not as aesthetically flashy as an office you may see in the United States. This could be because the office has a lot of manufacturing happening on site, or because that is not the way offices are in Africa. There are not fancy conference rooms, a full coffee bar with breakfast provided or beer on draft in the lunch room. But, the culture is still a good working environment. There is laughter, there is joking with coworkers, there is even an end-of-the-year party that I was told about. I was told that the Ghanaians work hard and they play hard and I am sure that this office is just the same.

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, Ghanaians still have work to be finished to keep their country working. There may be some businesses in Ghana that do not work as fast as ones in the United States. But, DDP Outdoor Ltd. has their phones ringing throughout the day with client concerns, needs and wants to get their message out there. Just another reason why Africa and America are more similar than you may think. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Modern day slavery: Lake Volta, Ghana

By Lindsay Boyle

In Ghana, European-built slave forts and castles scatter along the coast — most notably those at Elmina and Cape Coast — and serve as reminders of the central role the country played in the trans-Atlantic slave trade more than 200 years ago.

Slavery has a different name today — human trafficking — but it still flourishes in Ghana: the 2013 Trafficking in Humans Report identified it as a source, transit and destination country for the practice. And, last year, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection said 69.8 percent of Ghana’s human trafficking is internal.

Along the shores of Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake by surface area, children are the victims.

A trip to the Volta Region in eastern Ghana reveals children as young as 4 and rarely older than 13 starting their 15-hour workdays as early as 4 a.m. and ending well after dark, seven days a week. While girls de-scale fish and perform other domestic chores, boys mend, cast and hoist nets.

At the command of their masters — many of whom used to be slaves themselves — they dive underwater to unhook nets even when they can’t swim, knowing the alternative is taking a beating. Several of the children say they know others who’ve drowned. Others contract illnesses such as bilharzia, which can lead to bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain, from the parasite-infested lake.

Although work has primed their young muscles, distended stomachs show their malnutrition.

A child working on Lake Volta. Photo taken by Eric Peasah.

But, most of their parents don’t know the realities of life on Lake Volta. Believing their children will attend school and work in the evenings, parents sell their children for as little as $20 a year. Some parents can’t afford to feed their children, while others believe their kids are staying with relatives, unaware that the relatives sold the children to fishermen.

Stacy Omorefe, cofounder of counter-trafficking NGO City of Refuge Ministries (CORM), said some NGOs have estimated that 7,000 – 10,000 children work along the lake — a number she thinks is low.

“No one can really give you an exact figure,” said Eric Peasah, founder of Right To Be Free and former field manager of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) counter-trafficking project. “But, I can say that, when you go on the lake and cruise for one hour, you can meet not less than 20 different canoes, and each one of them might have at least one child or two children in it.”

That wasn’t always the case. Four or five decades ago, Peasah explained, fishermen brought children or nephews who’d already finished middle school to learn the trade and carry on the family practice. But, he said, many of the teenagers eventually rebelled, not wanting to become fishermen.

“Some of the group along the line started taking younger boys from their villages to go and help them,” he said. “They had these young, young kids who are very submissive and obedient. They do what they’re asked to do.”


Ghana’s 2005 Human Trafficking Act criminalizes the practice on the lake, and treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — ratified by Ghana in 1990, before any other country — discourage child labor and human trafficking. But, resolving the issue is more complicated than merely arresting and jailing those who are violating the law.

“We want to prosecute,” Peasah said. “But, the question is, how do you prosecute without much evidence? You need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this child was given out, was sold…and the people you need to (get) the evidence from are people within the family.”

Children, not knowing any better, sometimes say the fishermen are their fathers or relatives, which compounds the problem.

“Some of the kids we found, they don’t even know where they’re from, their last name,” explained Johnbull Omorefe, cofounder of CORM.

According to Peasah, only those who partake in extreme and obvious trafficking are successfully convicted.

Besides, according to Victoria Natsu, Head of the Human Trafficking Secretariat in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, “it’s not in the best interest of Ghana, the children and the family themselves to have parents being prosecuted.”


Although an Anti Human Trafficking Unit was established within the Ghana Police Service in 2006, large-scale rescues pose another problem.

“We have a lot of shelters around, but we don’t have shelters,” Peasah began. “For example, if police go and do police raid — we’ve done that before — and we have hundreds of children, where do you take them? Nowhere.”

Most NGO shelters are at capacity, including CORM’s Children’s Village, where almost 40 children — most rescued from Lake Volta — stay in two dormitories.

At the village, the children attend the on-site Faith Roots International Academy, receiving tutoring if necessary. In their free time, they take part in bible studies and a number of recreational activities, including football, art and other camps in the summer. Lessons on life skills such as budgeting prepare them to live successfully on their own.

The Freedom Centre, one of two dormitories at CORM Children's Village.
Photo taken by Lindsay Boyle.

“We really try to take a holistic approach to our restoration process,” Stacy said.

While the children are free to come and go as they’d like — get married, attend university or do whatever else — none have left permanently, yet. Stacy said it’s possible that some never will.

“This is their home,” Johnbull said.

In Peasah’s opinion, though, permanent shelters aren’t the answer.

“I personally don’t believe in long-term institutionalizing of children, victims,” Peasah said. “Those who run the orphanage, or whatever they are running, until children move, you can’t bring more.”

And, when just one child is rescued from the lake, his or her siblings are still in danger of being trafficked. Peasah suggested organizations should support the parents and reintegrate children into their homes, instead.

During his work with IOM — which has helped rescue and reintegrate more than 730 children since its inception in 2002 — only five or six families didn’t want their child back initially. Even those situations were resolved when both parties agreed upon an appropriate caretaker.

“If you have money to take care of this child, support him in his environment and then build him up,” he said.

His current organization, Right To Be Free (RTBF), uses the “5 R System,” which was developed during his time at IOM. After researching the situation, workers rescue the children fishermen have agreed to release, often in exchange for a micro-grant, new supplies or the opportunity to learn a new trade.

At the Rehabilitation Center in Accra, the children receive medical, psychological and educational services for three months. Afterward, measures are taken to reunite and safely reintegrate the children with their families, where RTBF monitors and supports them for more than two years.

“When you rehabilitate (the children) and you give the mother some help, the facilities open,” he said.

Peasah suggested if all counter-trafficking NGOs worked together to improve and use an existing government shelter as a temporary rehabilitation facility, money could be freed up to help more victims directly. But, he added, many NGOs don’t want to give up their shelters.


CORM does more than just shelter children, though.

Since they were met with anger during their very first rescue attempt, Johnbull and Stacy have been holding meetings and workshops within Lake Volta communities, educating fishermen and other residents about the law and the practices of trafficking and child labor — a process they call “intervention.” They also educate “sending communities” — places where parents are likely to sell their children — about what really happens to children sent to work at the lake

The library at Faith Roots International Academy.
Photo taken by Lindsay Boyle.
For Johnbull, a pastor, it’s about building relationships and trust and showing love, rather than being superior and condescending. CORM never pays for the release of a child. Already, he said, he’s seen change.

“Some of the slave masters are now supporting us, helping us. (They) convince people on the ground to let the kids go,” he said. “That is something really good, something we’re really happy about.”

According to Natsu, the government is also working to create awareness so parents and fishermen will know trafficking is not proper. Because, she said, even though the age of the children has changed since the practice began, some parents still consider the children’s work on the lake part of a natural ‘socialization process.’

“Today we are talking of modern day slavery,” she said. “What we are saying is even if you want your children to be part of the process, let them have their education, their good health. Let them do all that children are supposed to do.

“Let them grow to the level where they could fit into the job, then start to train them.”

As part of a five-year national anti-trafficking action plan — drafted this year by the Human Trafficking Management Board — government officials visit relevant regions, explaining trafficking and the fundamental rights of children to residents in terms of Ghanaian law.

Anti-trafficking TV and radio programs broadcasted throughout the country reach an even larger audience.


But, the problem is not only fueled by lack of awareness — it’s also fueled by poverty.

“If you look at everything, it revolves around single moms,” Johnbull said. “So, let’s go back to the root: what can we do to prevent it?”

For CORM, the answer lies in operations called 7 Continents and Save A Child Water.

The former, located in the Tema New Town district of Greater Accra, employs about 10 single mothers who learn to make bags, jewelry and other similar items that are then sold in places such as the United States and France. The women are paid on a monthly basis, which is common in Ghana.

Save A Child Water filters, packages and sells clean drinking water in Ghana, and only employs single mothers. A message inscribed on each water sachet, including the words, “children are not for sale,” helps spread the word about the issue. Fifty percent of profits go toward rescuing and supporting children and reconnecting them with their families.

In Peasah’s opinion, helping fishermen find alternative fishing methods is important as well. Some organizations, he said, provide micro-grants to fishermen and parents alike so they can improve or start up their own businesses.

As of last year, for example, IOM had given micro-business assistance to almost 1,000 parents, guardians and fishermen.

A mural on the wall of the Faith Roots International Academy.
Photo taken by Lindsay Boyle.

The government, too, recognizes that preventing trafficking means alleviating poverty.

“It’s vulnerability that creates most of these problems for us,” Natsu said. “The first point of protection should be the family and the community.”

Programs such as Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), for example, provide cash and health insurance to qualifying extremely poor households across Ghana, as long as their children are not in labor or trafficking and are enrolled and kept in school.

Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) and the Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP) also encourage parents to send their children to school.

But, although Natsu said the government provides free school uniforms and supplies in the poorest communities, a January GhanaWeb feature suggested some communities neither receive those things nor have adequate facilities or teachers. Plus, there is widespread agreement that FCUBE — established in 1996 with a promise of free primary and junior high school for all by 2005 — has still not been fully implemented.

Regardless, Natsu said the programs have resulted in increased enrollment.

Soon, she added, a child protection policy that UNICEF and the Department of Children are developing specifically for Ghana will focus on both families and communities.

“If the community and family are involved,” she said, “it is our prayer that we should be able to protect children more than we are doing today.”

Countless counter-trafficking organizations work in Ghana, including Partners in Community Development Programme (PACODEP), Touch A Life, Free the Slaves, Challenging Heights and many others. Some are new, some are old and all have varying approaches.

But, Peasah said, vast areas of the lake are still mostly untouched by NGOs or otherwise.

“Most of us who have been on the ground for a long time working on trafficking issues, internally and externally, we work as a team,” he said. “I believe that we cannot do it all. We need each other.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

City of Refuge Ministries Children’s Village: A Brief History

Stacy and Johnbull Omorefe met in Ghana in 2001, married in 2002 and launched a non-profit organization called City of Refuge Ministries in the United States in 2006. It wasn’t until they read a New York Times article detailing rampant child trafficking on Lake Volta, though, that they knew what they wanted their organization to tackle.

They flew back to Ghana in 2007, enduring a sometimes road-less, 17-hour drive before arriving at the lake.

“That trip was the one that changed everything,” Johnbull said. “(The children) were young when they came, but now they are 16, 18 years old and they can’t read, write. All they know is fishing.”

Johnbull himself grew up on the streets of Nigeria without parents or guidance.

“I wept,” he said. “I’ve never felt that way before in all of my life. It reminded me of my childhood, how I grew up.”

City of Refuge Ministries’ work in Ghana started in an apartment in Tema with less than 10 children. Now, an entire children’s village sits in a clearing behind a military camp in Doryumu, Greater Accra, a dirt path through farmland the sole way back to the main road.

Ground was broken early in 2011, but already the village boasts the Omorefe’s home, a volunteer house, a guest house, two dormitories plus one that’s in progress, a school, a basketball court, a playground area and more. The whole place is a story of collaboration.

The playground at CORM Children's Village. Photo taken by Lindsay Boyle.

“Everything you see here…we didn’t have the money,” Johnbull said. “Everything has come as a surprise from God.”

When they learned a private Christian school in Tema was passing students on to the next grade even when they couldn’t write their own names, the Omorefes decided to build their own school. The chief of Shai Hills, when he heard about their plan, offered the land in Doryumu in exchange for free education for one needy child from each of the eight local clans.

Y – Generation Against Poverty Australia agreed to fund the Faith Roots International Academy. U.S. citizen Autumn Buzzell, first the principal and now the director of education, helps run the school and develop curriculum. A paid staff of Ghanaians teaches the classes.

The 43 children staying at the village — six of which are Stacy and Johnbull’s — plus almost 180 children from around the area attend the school, which tries to cap classes out at 20 students. Sponsorships from people and organizations around the world support the children staying at the village, as well as about 40 of the community children.

Although there were just seven classrooms when the school opened in 2011, there’s now a classroom for each grade level from preschool through junior high school 2 (8th grade), as well as a computer lab and an office in the works.

“The expansion has been really great,” Stacy said, “but we’re already outgrowing this building.”

She said they hope to eventually have two classrooms for each grade and to build a separate junior and senior high school facility. Other plans include building a clinic, looking into sustenance farming and completing a third dormitory that will hold almost 40 boys — the girls will stay in the two existing dorms.

“The vision is there, the dream is there,” Johnbull said. “We take life just a day at a time.”

According to Stacy, there’s also a plan to establish other City of Refuge sites in places such as northern Ghana or Nigeria that will reach out to the needs of the area.

“We see City of Refuge, this place, being a model for additional campuses like this,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ghana Exposed

By: Zach Bourgraf
Before reaching Ghana I had few expectations, but the ones I did have were similar to my expectations of Thailand; hot, rural, and slightly dirty. Upon arriving the hotness and rural aspects were deemed true, yet the slightness of filth was washed away buy thousands of pounds of trash littered throughout the city of Accra. In my opinion, Ghana seems to be a country of filth and dirt. Even the people who teach from AUCC blatantly litter in front of us without even acknowledging the fact that they are. While driving through the city you will see piles of trash being burnt out in the open with a big black cloud of smoke pouring from the ruble. It almost makes you sick to see that that is how the citizens treat their air and land.  Deceiving the obvious problem of trash and pollution is not only done by the people of Ghana it is done through technology as well. When I turned on my smart phone the weather report noted that there was an extreme amount of “fog” covering Accra, I did not let this fool me because the “fog” was most definitely “smog” from the factories and poorly maintained cars.

 Pictured below are some of the slums that were right next to my internship at the Daily Graphic.
One aspect that I observed (also similar to Thailand) was that there is a great aspect of power distance in Ghana. The poor are poor and the rich are rich.  The figures of authority and prestige do not rest in the bankers and big business men like the United States and advice and knowledge does not come from the people relevant to the topic. For example, when I was watching TV there was a commercial about a car was business and the person that was vouching for the company was dressed in a military uniform. You would expect the person giving the advice to be a car salesman or a car mechanic (some one with frequent use and knowledge of cars) but the credibility rested simply in the military uniform.

Our Christmas day was made pleasant by our program director, as we were able to go to church and celebrate similarly to America. The church service was held at University of Ghana, which had a beautiful chapel with a great amount of space. The preacher who gave the sermon was ecstatic and almost as good of a speaker as Barak Obama. His physical gestures and verbal emphasis brought the building to life.
Also included in the service was a small treat for the few visitors attending the service; we were treated to a Ghana baptism ceremony. One by one the children were walked into a giant pool of water and fully submerged. To my astonishment there in fact, was a giant pool inside of the church. In my church the pastor only splashes water on the head of the person being baptized. I found great pleasure being in attendance with such a traditional ceremony.
One disappointment of the service is that in one of the choruses we sang “and the government shall rest upon his shoulders” it seemed a bit controlling and brainwashing to say the government rests upon the lords shoulders.

In conclusion, the trip has brought many great surprises so far. My eyes have been opened to a completely different way of life, which has given me a great perspective of the world. With the tightly jammed packed scheduled days we visit and view such great detail of this country. I am excited to for the future days to come in Ghana to expand my knowledge.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Off to Ghana

By: Adrienne Green 

When I stepped off of the plane in Accra, Ghana I thought I knew what to expect. I had a picture in my mind of what Africa would look like, how the people would act, and what we would do. I quickly came to find that I was completely wrong.

I thought I was a little more prepared than most people who have never been to the continent of Africa. I didn’t come dreaming of riding lions, hiking through jungles, or making friends with people who live in huts. I thought I knew exactly what Africa had to offer.

Our first day in Ghana we traveled to AUCC, a Ghanaian communications college, and sat in on an Africana Studies class. The topic of the day: Pan-Africanism.

As I understood, Pan-Africanism is the creation of an overarching national identity between all African countries despite their differences. The class structure was much different than ours, and students were very expressive and passionate about their opinions. We made friends and talked with AUCC students about their culture and specifically the pride that they have in being Ghanaian.

 Despite the fact that some want a communal identity (kind of like a United States of Africa) there are many individual qualities about this country to be accounted for. I have learned so much since I have been here but one thing stands out the most—Africa is not one homogenous place.

When most people think of the United States they take the time to understand the differences between the north and the south, or places like New York and places like North Dakota. No one that has ever been to the U.S. would imply that all of its states are the same. People relish in the cultural and historical differences between Spain, Italy, or Poland.

Yet when people look at Africa some see one big place, one culture, and one people instead of the extremely different countries that make up the continent. I never realized how unfair this was, and how it strips people of the pride they have in their nationality.

Ghana, I have learned, is very different than Nigeria, Togo, and the other West African countries that surround it. No one here is the same. They have Christians and Muslim religions, eat different food, speak over 40 dialects, and have very different approaches to family and education.

Some members of the Ghanaian community that I have spoken with realize that Americans make these types of generalizations. I was asked the same question at least 50 times in the first week—

“What does American media say about Africa?”

After explaining that this new land was one very different from my expectations, those that I spoke with explained to me how people are given a false view of Africa.

We have now been in Ghana for two weeks, and it has been an eye-opening experience. I now see more positive things about Africa, Ghana, and the people that live here than I ever have watching traditional media (which focuses so heavily on negative events and communities here).

I look forward to the rest of the trip!