I was excited to come to Ghana! My days of planning and preparations (jabs, visa, work and fundraising for the project) in London whizzed quickly by and before I knew it, I was saying my goodbyes to family and boarding the British Airways flight to Ghana.
My first impressions of Ghanaians were on that very flight. The first class and business class were fully occupied by business people and many young Ghanaians. This slightly surprised me, as the image of Africa that I grew up with in Europe was very different. The economy class was lively and buzzing and the more I observed, the more I became aware of behaviours and customs of people. I noticed how patient and polite and respectful young people were towards their elders, which seemed to be a collective norm. There was a real sense of community even on the plane. People were proud and extremely well dressed. Women took pleasure in their appearance; some wore colourful and patterned dresses, others had beautifully decorated long nails and well maintained hair. Men too were well presented and displayed electronic gadgets or well decorated jewellery or watches.
I found myself sitting next to a UK defence barrister, a Ghanaian born lady, who was also heavily involved in charity work in Ghana. We were both pleased to meet each other and to learn about the Lively Minds project. She told me that her father’s motto, which she cherished was “to choose only one thing and to do it well”; her choice was to give voice to those who cannot defend themselves in her profession and to connect with people through the charity work she was doing in Ghana and UK. I liked that and wished that many more people could be involved in helping own communities.
Welcome to Accra (the capital)
Upon landing at Accra airport, I was greeted by big health-warning signs displayed by the World Health Organization. This was my first experience of entering a third world country and I was a little overwhealmed and sad to think that disease was such a high risk to human life in this country. I felt that my trip had a purpose and despite these difficult conditions, I was glad that Lively Minds was operating in Ghana reaching out to most needy communities. This is why I chose this project and I felt proud to be a part of it.
“First time in Ghana? You are welcome” I heard one lady say to me. I smiled and felt at ease straight away. After months of waiting I was happy to be finally in Ghana (my Golden Coast) and without a doubt this was going to be life-changing experience!
In arrivals, a young man with a warm and a smiley face holding up a Lively Minds sign was patiently waiting for me. It felt good to be greeted by Alhassan, the Lively Minds Volunteer Coordinator who travelled 11 hours on the coach just to greet me here! We soon became friends. I was very happy to be here.