ME to WE: Free the Children by Laura Patterson


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ME to WE: Free the Children by Laura Patterson

  1. 1. TRIP LOGISTICS: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Me to We Toronto, ON Two Weeks June 24th-July 5th Anna Patterson & I Position: VOLUNTEER 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Village: Nyameyekrom Takoradi, Ghana Three Weeks July 5th-July 26th 19 Students: 18 gals, 1 boy Project: SCHOOL BUILDING On my enrichment trip I spent two weeks volunteering at the Me to We headquarters in Toronto, ON from June 24th to July 5th. Here I was immersed into the Me to We culture. Working hard to help them fold and organize their fair trade, Made in Canada T-shirts, I was exposed to the shameless idealism and incredible work ethic of the Me to We and Free the Children staff. I had the opportunity to meet with members of their domestic Leadership Development Team that works in Canada and the USA to empower youth to take action. As well, I met trip facilitators and on the ground staff that work to create sustainable and systemic development abroad. A special thanks to the Brown Fellows Foundation and the University of Louisville for making this possible. I would not be the person that I am today with out their support. Also a special thanks to Dr. Elmaghraby, Andrew Grubb, and Dr. Karen Hadley for helping me formulate this plan and make this trip a reality. NYAMEYEKROM In the local language, Fante, you are named by the day of the week on which you were born. So in the village Nyameyekrom names are shared abundantly. I was given the name Ama, for being born on Saturday, and had the pleasure of sharing the name with two beautiful girls who came to hang out at the work site after their school day. Just as names are shared, love is shared endlessly through the community. Entering the village each morning we were met with the cheers and hugs of excited children and parents looking forward to the construction of their new school. School building was our main project. Upon arrival we had only the foundation of the structure in place—a mud floor. Our goal was to mix cement to give the students and teachers something sustainable to stand on where they can begin their education. When we left the floor and pillars to hold the roof were in place and the entire school building was just finished last week! The community members took such pride in their village. As they showed us through the village we were better able to understand their lives. Their reality is absolute poverty, but they work every day to sustain their lives and have embraced Free the Children to break the cycle of poverty. The people of the village work on the local Palm Plantation as farm workers. It was heartbreaking to witness the terrible working conditions and the lack of health care in Takoradi. But something the community is not lacking is hope. Everyday I saw it in their eyes and in their smiles as they went about life as they knew it—seeing that change was coming. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND GLOBAL AWARENESS Generally we were on the work site for half day or full day build and then remainder of our time was spent back at our accommodation on the coast where we worked to understand our impact on the global community and the concepts of social responsibility. Our facilitators organized modules with us to help us better process and understand the poverty that we witnessed in Nyameyekrom. We had discussions about our passions, our hopes, fears, dreams, and together we focused them into attainable goals for our return home. My trip with Me to We to Takoradi gave me an entirely new perspective and a passion for meaning in life. The people of Nyameakrom, through their expressions of love, hospitality, and uncanny happiness gave me more than I could have ever given them in the three weeks we spent together. CAPE COAST CASTLE On day 17 of the trip we travelled to Cape Coast Castle. There we took a tour of the first and one of the largest slave ports on the African coast. On our tour the guide showed us inside the male slave dungeons. No bigger than an average classroom, 200 men survived side by side. There were six chambers side by side. Light was only let in through one window—the same window in which food was dropped from and where the white men listened for plans of rebellion and escape. The floor they stood on was saturated with feces, puke, urine, and dead bodies of their companions. On top of the male slave dungeons the English built the church. As our tour guide said, “It was, ironically, heaven up there and living hell down here.” We toured the female dungeons where the women were held captive and raped repeatedly. And we saw The Door of No Return through which the slaves passed as they boarded the ships to the Americas. We look back on slavery and the slave trade and think of how it was so disgusting. What will people look back to 300 years from today and think of us?