Testimonial 4: Students on Semester- Long Service Learning Program

Unedited Comments from the Final Reports of Student Interns Who Worked at Institutions in Ghana Arranged by the Aya Centre:

Stephanie Shaw – Marymount Manhattan College

“This semester I interned at Odorna Clinic in Accra. My time at Odorna was pivotal in my experience in Ghana for many reasons.  Currently, I am studying community health and completing a pre-med curriculum at my home university.  I’ve studied the structure of organic molecules and read about world pandemics like HIV, but this was my first time experiencing them first hand.  I learned about tropical diseases and how the National Health Insurance Scheme works; I was able to interact on a much more intimate level with Ghanaians of all ages; and I gained insight into urban healthcare in a developing country.”

Lauren Davis – Brown University

“As I followed Sonny through the maze of small, ramshackle houses, half-completed structures, and clusters of chickens and baby goats, I wondered where he could possibly be taking me.  When he stopped at a dilapidated open-air building and announced that we had arrived at my Calvary Academy internship, I was shocked.  The faded crimson structure centered around a dirt courtyard was a far cry from any school that I had ever seen and could easily be mistaken for an oversized chicken coop.  It was at that moment that I knew I was in for an incredible learning experience.

 

“Despite the criticisms I may have of the school, my experience at Calvary Academy has been an extremely positive one. I attribute this almost entirely to my passionate, energetic students.  Their innate desire to learn was manifested in the fact that I ended up teaching Spanish lessons during lunch everyday after I said ‘gracias’ in class once.  The students pounced on the fact that I knew Spanish and they were eager to learn another language.  When I came to class the next day, I could hear them practicing with each other what I had taught them.  I love teaching and working with children, so the internship suited me very well.  I learned a great deal about teaching, differences in educational philosophy, working with young adolescents, and Ghanaian culture.  I certainly feel that the internship helped me get the most out of my time in Ghana.  Seeing my students is the highlight of my day, and I always leave school with a smile, ready to greet everyone who calls ‘oburoni’ on my walk home.  I am still teaching at the school now and will continue to do so until I leave at the end of June.  I intend to raise funds for Calvary during my fall semester this year and I plan to return to Ghana in December to deliver supplies and educational materials purchased with the money.  I anxiously anticipate my return to Ghana and to my home of Calvary Academy.”

Michael Smith – University of South Carolina

“In terms of understanding the challenges that a Third World country faces in trying to develop, my internship at United Way Ghana was invaluable.  It allowed me to experience firsthand how organizations such as United Way Ghana are working to develop communities and nations.  I saw how United Way Ghana is engaged in a form of community development, in essence trying to develop the country from the ground up.  The organization does a lot of work for the needy, but it isn’t all about handouts.  United Way Ghana wants to help make each community self-sufficient, and each individual self-reliant as much as possible.  Thus a lot of the work that the organization does involves working with marginalized members of the community.  It helps educate children that normally would have been unable to attend school.  United Way Ghana has a vast network of volunteers dedicated to providing educational opportunities to ‘street youths.’  Additionally, it works with a number of qualified individuals that advise adults in family planning.

 

“Overall, I believe that my internship at United Way Ghana was a very positive experience.  The first hand experience I’ve gained working in the Ghanaian business climate is unique and something I value highly.  It is pretty rare for someone my age to have work experience abroad.  In addition, I think that the work I have done at United Way Ghana was more engaging that any I would have been given at an internship in the U.S.”

Heather Griffith – Pennsylvania State University

“Overall, I am so grateful to have had the chance to work at an orphanage in Ghana.  I have learned to be more patient with children and lack of supplies.  There were days when I went in to make bottles only to find the milk was finished and that the toddlers had not had milk that day.  As often as the milk formula ran out so did the pampers.  The first day I went in to find that they were out of pampers, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I decided it would be okay and was holding Dadum on my lap while feeding her a bottle and before I knew it she had peed on me.  I did the best I could to clean myself up, and then just laughed.  I laughed because there was nothing else I could do besides laugh at my stupidity.  I should have known better than to feed a pamper-less baby on my lap.  Needless to say, I have learned how to manage and cherish resources.  It has been a frustrating experience and certainly not easy; however, it has been one of the best experiences of my life.

 

“This experience also helped me to realize that I would like to continue working with children, especially in an orphanage setting in underdeveloped countries.  In my future I have been planning on going to school for a Masters Degree in Intercultural Youth and Family Development and then joining the Peace Corps.  This experience has only reinforced that idea in my head and helped me to realize how much I want to continue this type of work.”

Lindsay Nash – Tulane University

“My participation in the Development Studies Track of the CIEE program truly made my study abroad experience here in Ghana.  My work with the Alliance for African Women Initiative, through the development studies research, the Teen Club, and the ‘Hope’ Program, along with my academic studies, has taught me a great deal about sustainable development, both within Ghana and worldwide.  This experience has helped to prepare me for a career in international development.  I truly feel that in partnering an academic learning experience with an internship, this program rewards students with a deeper and more meaningful study abroad experience.”

Skylar Cole – Pacific Lutheran University

“I have been extremely pleased to partake in two separate internships this semester, first as a teach for Nadat Memorial School and secondly as a volunteer in the nursery at the Osu Children’s Home.  Both experiences have been richly rewarding and have provided clear windows for viewing several of the issues facing Ghanaian development discussed in the Sociological Foundations for Development Course.

 

“My journey in Ghana has been significantly impacted by the experience of feeling truly needed and appreciated by these two institutions.  The impact of these experiences on my learning about Ghana and her development has been so that I am inspired to continue my study of development in urban populations upon returning to the United States, and I hope to one day return to Ghana to witness the persistence of her ever surging change and growth.”

Rachel Mocker – The College of New Jersey

“Nestled in the mango groves in a rural community north of Accra lies a clinic where I was lucky enough to intern.  It is here at this clinic where I have learned so much about development, as I have seen the challenges that stem from development played out in the practices and policies of the clinic, which is a microcosm of the larger Ghana Health Service.  I have also thought about my own history as a citizen of a developed country, and the history of that country, in understanding by comparison how challenging the realities of being a developing nation can be.

 

“Overall, the experience I had at the clinic was a great one.  I learned about something other than what I have studied at my university, but this allowed me to look at the health care system and development with a sociological perspective.”

Kalimara Otto-Gentry – Grinnel College

“My three months with Dza Nyonmo Drumming and Dance Ensemble has been my favorite learning experience in Ghana by far.  By participating in and observing what goes on in the day to day of a cultural troupe in Ghana—ranging from training and rehearsing to performing, I feel as if I have gained a new perspective into what it means to be a professional musician and performer in not only the context of somewhere outside of the United States, but more importantly in the context of the developing world.  My internship has allowed me to gain some understanding of the challenges cultural troupes face.

 

“Although I didn’t intern with an NGO, school, orphanage, hospital, or anything else along the lines of a more standard development studies internship, my time spent with Dza Nyonmo has allowed me a better understanding of development studies within its own unique context.  For a country like Ghana, maintenance and preservation of its traditional cultural art forms is a matter of priority in terms of national pride and image, but is also a struggle due to issues of development that affect both the top (Government) and the bottom (cultural troupes like Dza Nyonmo). Three months with the dance ensemble, while having taught me a great deal about Ghanaian music, has also given me a firsthand look at Ghanaian life and challenges that cultural troupes face in the developing world.”

Lindsay Andreas –American University

“La Wireless Public School taught me so many things about life.  I can not believe that a few months of teaching in Ghana would give me such perspective and outlook.  The commute alone offered me immeasurable insight on society in Ghana.  The most important thing I learned was about community.  The support I received from the La Wireless staff was truly wonderful.  They took me under their wings and I will miss them and think of them often in my life.  I highly recommend that CIEE Development Studies Track is continued and that they continue a strong relationship with La Wireless.”

Kelly Jacques – Tulane University

“Overall, I think that People’s Dialogue’s contribution to me was inevitably far greater than mine to them.  Some of my most genuine interactions with Ghanaians took place through my internship; from community meetings to praying at the mosque and celebrating the Sala with my bosses to just listening to them discuss projects and politics.  It has been so exciting and reassuring to see ‘development’ achieved through such tangible, grassroots efforts, and it’s helped to shed some light on my own studies.  It is in changing the capacities of the individuals that positive social change can be achieved, and although funding is crucial and often a major obstacle for many of these smaller, grassroots organizations, throwing money at a country is not the way to assist it.  It is through my experiences studying and witnessing development at work throughout  Ghana and specifically at People’s Dialogue, that I feel a renewed confidence in the line of work that I have chosen, and in the legitimacy and sustainability of the field as a whole.”

Ronald Morrison - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Although the workload has been sporadic, I greatly enjoyed interning at the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) very much.  I find that WISE is one of the most well grounded and influential groups undertaking women’s empowerment issues.  Simply observing the way in which cases are handled with care and efficiency is quite notable.  I am also very impressed in how expansive their focal group is.  It seems that WISE is able to advocate for a large number of women in very different parts of Ghana while still maintaining itself and its own employees.  I am very proud to be considered a member of the working body.  In the future I would love to continue with my position at WISE.  More than anything else, observing the methodological and active base for WISE has shown me that when tackling issues of development they have to start within the community and they must be specific to the needs of that community.”

Marilyn Chesler – Perdue University

“Some of the cultural differences that I was exposed to at my internship dealt with various issues of development as learned in the Development Studies course.  The topics of African ethos, ethnic conflicts, urbanization, and health were present during my time as an intern.  I was able to see face to face these issues and more specifically the effects that they have on development.

 

“I also learned from the experience [with Self-Help Initiative Support Services, SISS] what some of my capabilities are, especially with a somewhat lack of resources to fulfill certain tasks.  I learned that I am capable of still accomplishing tasks by using what I have and making the most out of what I have.  Through this I have also learned to be more flexible and to adapt more to the situation at hand.  This will help me in my future because I feel as if I will be less taken off guard by obstacles that come my way.  Looking back, I have learned to not expect too much and ultimately I can produce the best possible outcome by tailoring myself, my skills, and my knowledge to the specific situation.”

Maiko Yamazaki – International Christian University

“My internship experience in the Anani Memorial International School as a volunteer teaching in Kindergarten and Class 1 in primary school is one of the best experiences that I ever had in Ghana.  It gave me an opportunity to see a tip of what happens in school in Ghana through observing and teaching the classes.  Moreover, the experience enhanced my appreciation of cultural differences and widened my perspective toward education.

 

“Of course I came across many cultural differences or even shocks during the period, such as kids sleeping on the ground and on the table during the napping time, practice of physical punishment, sudden interruptions by visitors, students doing housekeeping work such as being sent for fetching water for whole school or renovating blackboard.  I first judged those practices by my own sense of value, however, later I realized that I should look those from the different perspective by taking into account of environment and cultural background.  This enabled me to have a comprehensive outlook.”

Zack Nolan – Northwestern University

“My internship with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Ghana granted me the unique opportunity to witness and assist with actual mechanisms of development.  During the last four months, I have begun to appreciate and comprehend the rich cultural heritage of Ghana and, in a simpler sense, the rest of Africa.  My experiences bargaining in the markets, tasting local cuisine, and watching traditional performances opened my eyes to this distinctive way of life, while my time spent working at the IEA gave me insight into the methods used by Ghanaians, many other Africans as well, to bring not only social but also political and economic development to their countries.

 

“Considering the exciting economic and political growth occurring in Ghana today, I am grateful for the opportunity to observe and participate in this development.  My internship with the IEA provided me with valuable insight into the nature of a developing country, and the people and institutions necessary for progress.”

Brianna Casciello – The George Washington University

“This internship provided me with a comfortable structure to my timetable, filling my weeks with meaning and purpose.  And while I felt largely unchallenged by the academic experience at the University of Ghana, the work demanded from me at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative supplemented this lack of fulfillment in the classroom.  I would highly recommend future CIEE students to take an internship, or become seriously committed to a volunteer opportunity.  It provides for a much more meaningful experience, and allows for increased exposure, and adds to the cultural experience.”

Kelly DiLorenzo - Santa Clara University

“I came to Ghana knowing little about the country, culture, or people except that it was a developing country.  And, even at that, I new little about developing countries.  I had never taken a development course, have gone to private schools my entire life, and the closest to poverty I had come was the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico airport, before heading to a resort.  I had absolutely no expectations for Ghana or my internship because I had everything to learn and nothing to compare it to.  My internship experience was remarkable and taught me more than I could have ever learned in a classroom, and I really now feel like I at least have somewhat of an understanding of the struggles of a developing country.  From seeing first had that people are trying their hardest, but a lot of time with little results, I learned developing a country really is an uphill battle.  What I experienced working in Ghana, directly related to the articles I read and lectures I attended about development studies, but experiencing this for myself was such an incredible experience and will be what I first think of when reflecting on my study abroad experience in Ghana.

 

“I’m not sure how effective our education of TB was.  Our company [Health Education and Social Initiative, HESI] was very much disorganized, limited in resources, and we didn’t seem to have a clear mission ever.  We seemed to just be wandering the streets and stopping when we saw a pharmacy or chemical shop.  However, I do think even if not everyone listened intently to what we said, three obrunis wearing ‘Stop TB’ shirts around the streets of Ghana definitely did not go unnoticed.  We definitely improved the awareness of TB, which is a step in the right direction.  And, walking the streets of Ghana and talking to so many different people about health issues taught me a great deal about the country, about the way Ghanaians think, and how that relates to healthcare.”

Molly Laue – Santa Clara University

“My time spent at Peace and Love was my most meaningful and productive time in Ghana, and I’ll never forget the lessons it taught me.  The children are energetic and joyful despite their modest lifestyle, and anyone volunteering there can learn from simple observation of these facts.  I grew mentally and emotionally every day I spent at Peace and Love, and for that, I am truly thankful.”

Stephanie Smith – University Wisconsin-Madison

“I fee as if I have adopted 15 African children—I am so attached to my kids at the orphanage!  I did my academic internship at Hope Community Chapel in Haatso.  I spent my time teaching English and math to 8-15 children.  The children I teach are between the ages of 9 and 16 and are all boys, although occasionally one or two girls join in.  During my time at Hope I have had many joys and frustrations, many successes and failures.  Through all the ups and downs, though, I know I have made a positive impact at Hope, just as the children have positively impacted me.”

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