Hudson woman volunteers in a Ghanaian village
Veering from the well-worn tourist path, Deb McNally of Hudson recently embarked on a journey of hope and goodwill to a small village in Ghana. Last spring and again last fall, McNally volunteered in the Ghanaian community of Senchi Ferry, located in the Lake Volta region of this West African nation.
The service programs were coordinated by St. Paul-based Global Volunteers, a private nonprofit, nonsectarian international development organization that pioneered short-term international service programs in 1984 to engage American volunteers in sustainable development projects abroad.
McNally taught conversational English by singing songs, playing games and helping the children learn about the Americans. She said the teachers were warm and welcoming and the eagerness of the children to learn was very rewarding.
"The children would greet and follow us like Pied Pipers singing 'It's A Small World,' as we passed through the village ... running blocks to greet us on our walk to school with the hopes of carrying our bags or receiving a hug or handshake," McNally said. "Their smiles could warm the coldest of hearts.
"One day while working in the classroom, I talked with the children about their dreams for the future. I was surprised to find that in the midst of their underprivileged lives and the absence of books, they too have dreams of becoming doctors, pilots, scientists and teachers. They have dreams of changing Africa through their own education.
"I met Emmanuel, a bright 12-year-old who dreams of becoming a doctor, but has never seen a picture of the human body. Rosina dreams of becoming a pilot, yet she has never seen a map of her own country. It was through listening to the children's dreams that a dream of my own formed in my heart -- to create a library for the children of this village.
"These children were hungry for books to read. The chiefs, elders, teachers and children have all embraced the idea of building a library in their village. The location has been chosen, the blueprint has been drawn and prayers have been offered for the success of our vision."
Looking back at her service program experiences, she said she has gained a better appreciation for cultural differences and the common thread that ties us all together.
"Being part of a team of people I did not know has helped me grow in tolerance and perspective. I gained new insight about my own strength of character."
On her first night in Senchi Ferry, the team was invited to meet the village chief and elders.
"They performed an ancient traditional prayer ceremony for our safety and protection while in Ghana," she said.
Tears came to her eyes when one of the village elders said "A piano has black and white keys. To play only the white keys would not make beautiful music. To play only the black keys would not make beautiful music. It takes both the black and white keys to make the most beautiful music. And, so it is with people... to make the most beautiful world."
In 2007, Global Volunteers mobilized some 185 teams to work on genuine development projects in 20 countries. Volunteers pay a service program fee ranging from $795 to $2,895 to cover their on-site costs and program materials for the work projects. Additional discounts are available for former volunteers, students and groups. The service program fee covers all meals, lodging, ground transportation, emergency medical evacuation insurance, team leader services and other project expenses. Airfare is extra although all project-related expenses, including airfare, are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.