One of my most favorite and memorable trips I have ever taken was this past January. I traveled to West Africa with a group of students at my old job at Randolph-Macon College. Tonight I was thinking back to the trip, and couldn't believe it has almost been an entire year since I visited Ghana. I had always dreamed of visiting Africa, and when the opportunity arose to take students on a trip to see the amazing country, I jumped at the opportunity. I wasn't sure what to except, but the trip was both very rewarding and a humbling experience. I spend a little over two weeks in Africa, and can say I came away a changed person.
Some of the highlights from my trip include a canopy walk in the African jungle where we used rope bridges to make our way through the trees more than 200 feet up in the air. It was exhilarating.
The country was very colorful with Kente Cloth attire and beautiful people. I love the picture below of a traditional Ghana mother with new baby.
Another highlight of the trip was when our group hiked through the jungle to a 1000 foot waterfall. It was an extremely hot day, so we jumped into the cold water once we arrived at our destination. There were thousands of bats that flew above us, and I thought at that moment I was truly in the heart of Africa. I will never forget the feeling of pure happiness when the water rushed down from above onto my face, it is a feeling that words can't describe. The power of the water pushed us down off of our feet. Our group was overwhelmed with joy and just writing about it now brings chills.
My favorite part about my two weeks in Africa were the children. Even though most of the kids I came in contact with had no personal possessions, and were lucky to have clothes and shoes, they all had the biggest smiles on their faces. I will never forget when I gave a teenage boy a pair of old sneakers I had been planning on throwing away. I am guessing he was close to 13, and he put them on and looked at me and said, "these are my first pair of shoes, thank you so much." Can you imagine not owning a pair of shoes until you were 13 years old? The picture below shows three girls I met on the beach who had never seen an ipod. I hooked them up with some sunglasses I brought over to donate and let them listen to some music. The four of us had a great time jamming out to some tunes on the beach.
I also volunteered at an orphanage for a short time in Africa, and that is where I realized how lucky I am to have been raised by two amazing parents and for the education I received in the States. Some of the kids at the orphanages have mothers, but many had to give them up because they couldn't afford to raise them. I actually had a mother approach me in Africa asking if I wanted to adopt her child. Even though this part of the trip was sad for me, I was able to take away a greater appreciation for the life I have been given.
We are now in full swing in the Christmas season. I know everyone loves receiving, but giving can also be just as rewarding. Please remember that not everyone owns even ONE pair of shoes, or knows what it's like to spend the holiday's with family. Be thankful for what you have, and never take for granted what you have been given.
Sometimes the road less traveled leads you to unexpected paths. Ghana was a road that allowed me to be thankful for basic needs such as food, clothing, and shoes. If you are interested in giving this season and need a good cause, you can check out the following website Heifer Project. This project is dedicated to relieving global hunger and poverty. It provides gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to financially-disadvantaged families around the world. You can even buy a chicken in someone's honor. So, friends back home, many of you have been asking what you can send me for the holiday's. I ask instead of sending me any gifts this year that you donate to the Heifer Project. I love all of your support, and know others who would appreciate it as well. Take the road less traveled. Until next time I will see you on the internet!