My Trip to Ghana - Emily Petschauer
So you have found your way to the Threads for Education website. LUCKY YOU! This means that you’re either wondering what in the world Threads is, stumbled upon this website randomly (you won’t be disappointed that you ended up here), OR you’re looking for information about the upcoming trip to Ghana. Well, look no further, because I will give you the full, unedited truth about Threads for Education’s service trip to Ghana. I promise it will be worth your time.
When embarking on a service trip to another country, the unknown could be scary. What’s going to happen while I am there? Will I be safe? (Disclosure: Yes, you will be.) Will I regret this decision? (Disclosure: No, you will not.) Will I make an impact? How will it change me? Will it change me? A million questions will run through your head when you make the decision to go on a mission trip. But have no fear, I am here to *hopefully* answer all of them.
Rewind to almost a year ago. March 2018. I found myself struggling with the career I had chosen for myself, struggling with finding where I belong and just looking for a way to make a change — in my life and in the lives of others. During these months, I was in the process of solidifying the idea of becoming a teacher. Threads for Education was introduced to me and I was more than excited to be giving to a company that was so giving. After reading and being told about the volunteer trip, I was in the same position that you currently are in. I kept teetering on the idea of whether I should go to Africa (*cue Africa by Toto*). Talking to family and friends, I finally made the decision to go and I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
Fast forward to July 6, 2018. I want to be really real with you all. I have never experienced more anxiety than I did the morning I was leaving for this trip. It was 4am and I was pacing my house, double checking that I had everything I needed — my Threads clothes, gift for my host family, Malaria pills, medicine, toothbrush, sneakers, socks, and the list goes on. I arrived at JFK and, at 24 years old, needed my parents to walk me through the airport. I was greeted by my friends and some of my anxiety subsided, but it was still a very strong feeling. Why did I have this much anxiety? I truly thought I was going to get some unknown disease and die. (DISCLAIMER: This did not happen.) I said goodbye to my parents, went with my friends, and we walked to our gate.
One thing that Threads wanted us to do was to journal. As soon as I sat down on the plane, I began crying. I was nervous, anxious, yet excited that I was part of something so great. I wrote down my intentions for the trip, my current feelings, all of the questions that were running through my mind and it all seemed to disappear. Fast forward two plane rides later, we made it. We were in Ghana. As soon as we met with the man who was going to be with us throughout the duration of the trip, all of my fears disappeared. Fred greeted us, 13 strangers, with the biggest smile and I felt completely welcomed and ready to begin this journey.
After a day of exploring Accra, we were on our way to Senase, the village in which we were staying. A 10+ hour bus ride later, we made it. All of Fred’s family and friends were there waiting for us, and like Fred, greeted our group with hugs and smiles. I could not believe that all of these strangers were so welcoming and caring. I could not wait to get to Semanhyiya the next day to begin working with these wonderful human beings.
You don’t think that 5 days will fly by fast, but man oh man did they ever. I was assigned to work in the nursery school and I could not be more excited to be there. From the first day there, a little girl named Amma became attached to me and I don’t want to say I had a favorite… but she was my favorite. She greeted me daily and would not leave my side until it was time for her to go back to her home. At the nursery school, I was able to help change some of their schedules to better fit the needs of two to four-year-olds. Outside of the school, I was able to form connections with many of the people who worked at the school. My two roommates, Janet and Olivia, allowed me and two other volunteers to stay in their rooms. We spent our days with the children at Semanhyiya, afternoons with the children of Senase, and evenings with the people of Senase.
There was one moment in particular that really changed my perspective on life. Semanhyiya American School is based on aspects of American schooling. The children who attend SAS are receiving a quality education compared to the other children who live in Senase. So, we visited a government-run school. Compared to the colorful, bright environment at SAS, this government-run school had very little. There were students who did not even have books to write in. There was no color, no excitement. After being there for a while, we decided to gift two classrooms with backpacks that had packed with a notebook, pencils, stickers, and a book to read. I have never seen such joy, such happiness, from first graders. They could not be more thankful to have one notebook, pencils, and a brand-new backpack. They were screaming with excitement and it brought tears to my eyes. How could I complain about not having the brand notebook I desired for school, where there are literally children who do not have paper to write on? Could I really be so selfish to want specific brand pens to write in? Questions like these ran through my mind after this moment. My perspective on life changed.
This volunteer trip is meant for the volunteers to go and help those who have less than us — but honestly, I think the people of Ghana changed my life more. This trip is life-changing and, yes, that gets thrown around a lot about mission trips — but I can truly say that my life changed for the better because of the people I met on the course of this trip. I not only gained a new perspective on life, I gained friendship, love, and the gift knowing that being happy with what you have — the people in your life, the education you are given, etc. — is more important than the material items you may think you need.
To say I did not cry on the last day would be a flat out lie. The people in Senase hold such a special place in my heart. And in my heart, I knew it would not be my last time there. I know I will return to Senase, and be greeted with welcoming smiles and warm hugs each time I go there. All of the nervousness and anxiety I had prior to this trip seems silly now after learning that the people of Ghana are full of love, laughter, and gratitude. So, if you are truly on the fence and are anxious about signing up for the trip — please, please, please do not be worried. I promise you that the people of Senase will greet within the same way that they greeted me. You will feel at home. You will form friendships. You will form new perspectives. These same feelings that I have now, you too will share. Our stories will be different, but they are all worth it.
Thank you, Threads for Education, Semanhyiya American School, Fred, Amma, Olivia, Janet, and everyone else that I met on this trip that changed my life in more ways than I can count. I would not be who or where I am today without this trip.
Be The Change.