This summer I was given the wonderful opportunity to travel to Ghana for two months for my internship with Voices of African Mothers, a United Nations NGO whose mission statement is to establish a peaceful African continent by using the methods of conflict resolution and diplomacy. The organization was founded by Nana Fosu-Randall, the former CFO of the United Nations. The organization’s vision is for women and future generations to possess a full range of educational opportunities to attain economic empowerment and to become decision-making leaders in the countries of Africa.
I spent most of my summer in Kumasi, Ghana at John Williams Montessori School, which is owned by Nana-Fosu Randall, more commonly known as ‘Grandma’ to the school and the surrounding area of Tanoso. My internship was very exciting throughout due to the diversity in projects and activities that I encountered over the two month span. I, along with other Cornell students, spent several weeks teaching a multitude of different subjects in the school. Having no prior teaching experience, this was a somewhat challenging but very fun opportunity in that I had the opportunity to interact with the children at the school and to gain a better feel for Ghanaian culture. John Williams Montessori School is an international boarding school so I would typically eat and sleep at the school. Talking to the children was one of the highlights of my summer as many of them had very interesting life stories as well as just very funny jokes or comments. In Kumasi, Ghana nearly everyone speaks the local language, Twi, as well as English. I am happy to say that I picked up a bit of Twi during my stay. I would often hear these languages, as well as Spanish, because of the Equatorial Guineans that were at the school. It was fascinating to find out that some of the students were from all over, including several different African and European countries.
I was especially excited for this opportunity because it gave me the opportunity to experience Africa firsthand. I am of Togolese heritage but had not been to the continent since I was an infant. Going to Ghana gave me a fulfilling experience that cannot be replaced. It was especially relevant as I am interested in global development and poverty alleviation in Africa. Though having just finished my freshman year at Cornell’s ILR School, I was amazed at how much my coursework could be directly applied to the real-world. I almost instantly began to think about the child-labor I observed and how the different cultural norms and economic situations of the country impacted the standards of labor. The economics courses I took also helped to understand better Ghana’s everyday economy.
With Voices of African Mothers, I was able to travel to many different sites and participate in several projects that were headed by the organization. For example, I was able to go to a microfinance event that was hosted by Grandma. In addition, I also got to participate in the annual school budgetary meeting as well as visit the Tanoso Community Hospital on multiple occasions and learn how they conduct their finances. Other memorable days include a trip to an orphanage about two hours away and another long trip to a village in which they weave the traditional Kente cloth, which Ghana is known for.
During the school breaks, the other Cornell students and I were able to travel to Accra, the very-developed capital of Ghana, as well as Cape Coast, a former slavery hub, and several other engaging cities, towns, and villages. Overall, I am confident that this cross-cultural experience will have a lasting positive impact on me. My contributions to the school, such as the administration of SAT exams and the development of a mentorship program will hopefully have lasting impacts. The mentorship program, of which the three other Cornell students and I created, was developed due to the realization that not everyone was able to go onto high school and college. Due to this, it seems as though some of the students we encountered had a dream but lacked the confidence, inspiration, and general skills to pursue that dream. Through the program, we aim to bring in JWMS graduates to speak on their path to success; we also aim to help the students develop public speaking skills, form stronger study habits, and gain several other skills that will be of great use in everyday life. I am forever grateful to Cornell, the ILR School, and the Tang Travel Grant Award, which allowed me to be able to have all these wonderful experiences this summer.