Thinking About Ghana 

 January 25, 2013

By  Laura Kosloff

My 18-year-old son, Marcus, is spending a community service exchange semester in Ghana.  So I am trying to learn about the place he will be living for five months, beyond the basics such as it’s about the size of the state of Oregon (although with a population of some 25 million).

The other day I came across this link about Ghana I thought I would share.  It’s a video of Ghanaian ex-President Kufour showing off the sites and countryside of Ghana, with reporter Forrest Sawyer from Travel Channel serving as guest and narrator.  OK, so it’s tourist propaganda in a way, but what’s wrong with that?  It shows great footage of Accra (the capital of Ghana), wildlife in Mole National Park, Ashanti culture, and Kakum National Park.  Watching this video makes me want to visit this beautiful country for sure!

Kakum National Park’s famous canopy walkway  Copyright Chiappi Nicola Jan. 2007
Kakum National Park’s famous canopy walkway
Copyright Chiappi Nicola Jan. 2007

This is on top of the New York Times’ Jan. 11, 2013, article, “The 46 Places to Go in 2013,” which was published the day Marcus arrived in Ghana.  The New York Times has rated Accra #4 on this list, calling Accra a “buzzing metropolis” and noting that “the country has Africa’s fastest-growing economy and is also one of its safest destinations.”  I’m having trouble reminding myself about the cardinal rule for parents of exchange students — all exchange programs tell parents the same thing, which is “please wait until the end of your child’s exchange period, don’t interrupt their experience.”  I know, I know …. but I want to go!

Marcus, of course, is not out and about every day seeing fancy hotels, wildlife, or beautiful beaches.  He is living an “ordinary” life – that’s what exchange students do after all.  He is living with a host family in Accra and working as a tutor and school assistant; in other words, learning what it’s like to live in the “buzzing metropolis” as an ordinary person.  He is working in an after-school program run by BASICS International, a non-profit organization trying to fight poverty in Ghana by providing educational opportunities to primary school children.

BASICS International's "Nana House" where Marcus is working
BASICS International’s “Nana House” where Marcus is working

The organization’s main facility is located in Chorkor, an overpopulated fishing community on the outskirts of Accra.  The children attend school in the mornings and spend all afternoon at the BASICs after-school program.  Marcus and 4-5 other volunteers tutor students and help them with their homework.  The hope is that this will expand on the curriculum at their local school, introduce them to creative learning, such as art, music, dance, and sport, and in general help the children move up the education ladder and move out of the cycle of poverty.  Marcus has only been working a week, so he is still getting used to the daily activities — but he did bring a couple of lacrosse sticks with him and hopes to teach the children his own favorite sport!

Marcus arrived in the country two weeks ago, and he hasn’t seen any of the tourist sites yet.  But this weekend he is heading out with the other students and volunteers in his exchange program for a weekend of hiking and seeing some of the countryside outside the city of Accra.  I can’t wait to hear where he is headed. Kakum National Park? or Cape Coast Castle? or Shai Resource Reserve?  I guess I will have to write some more when I find out!


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