Ghana. A word that when spoken was enough to light up the whole of Team Ghana’s faces. We had spent months preparing for this trip, hardly able to wait for the monumental day when we would step foot on African land. What we discovered on this trip was more than any of us could have hoped for or even imagined.
I remember vividly the first day we visited the Bosomtwe Community School. It was a Sunday, which meant there was no school; nevertheless we were expecting to see students waiting outside of the gates. Every one of us could barely contain our excitement as we eagerly waited to greet the smiling faces of the children. Years of pictures and stories throughout all of primary school, about how ZIS was supporting BCS families and the more recent accounts of Upper School peers who had returned from previous trips; all of these images were about to become a reality because now, it was finally our turn. Although I had seen many pictures of the campus, seeing it with my own eyes was nothing like I had imagined.
The school was composed of classrooms, five in total to one side, with the dining hall as a separate building. In the middle of the playground was a huge tree surrounded by pebbles and a tiny wall. A tall fence surrounded the whole campus, and up against that fence were the smiling faces of 20 or more children waving at us as we pulled into the school. That day we spent painting walls, digging ditches, all while the children gazed at us in wonder from outside their school, laughing and singing along with the songs we started to teach them. We couldn’t wait to actually interact with the children the next day.
Having come into the school with full itineraries and lots of activities in tow, we realized five minutes in, that these wouldn’t be happening. Instead we just went with the flow, improvising, singing songs, playing simple games like ‘Duck, Duck Goose.’ At the end of the day we were all exhausted, with visions of the children’s laughter still floating through our minds. The time we spent with the kids was one of the most valuable experiences each of us would ever receive. We came expecting to be teaching them as much as we could, not expecting the depth of what they could teach us. We witnessed children sharing amongst each other, caring about each other as family, a powerful lesson that taught us all so much.
During breaks, students would all rally and get a soccer game going, or help each other ride the unicycle that we brought along. Whatever it was, it always made their faces shine with joy or light up with gratitude. Each of us made special connections with the kids, finding our own buddies and friends among all the children. We laughed with them as they pointed at our cameras, fascinated by their own pictures, while we were fascinated by their simple yet never-ending joy. While playing soccer with them, we were always tending to the line of children waiting for piggy back rides. It was fun an exhilarating to learn the dance moves they had already memorized by heart, as we danced in time to the beat of the African drum.
When the time came to say goodbye, we cried with them, knowing we each had left a footprint on the other’s heart that would never be forgotten. Our hearts were not willing to leave just yet. Still, even though every person on that bus and in that playground was crying that day, all of us knew that his was only the beginning, not an end.
– Sandra de Giorgi