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Nov
25
2013
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Journey of a Lifetime

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It was a journey that took 17 of us halfway around the world to Ghana, Africa to build a playground. With the best of intentions, we set out on Saturday, August 10 on an adventure of a lifetime. And that is exactly what we got, but not necessarily in the way we anticipated.

When we arrived at Anyirawase, the village where the playground was scheduled to be installed, the news broke that the shipping container with the playground was delayed on the Customs Clearance dock with no concrete release date. Caleb Mensah, a representative of Kids Around the World, spent the next two weeks working around-the-clock to try and get customs to release the container. With each passing day, there was a new obstacle to overcome, including wanting to know the value of each and every nut and bolt in the container.

But all was not lost. We banded together and decided that we were going to make a difference in the community, one way or another. We worked with the locals to build three classrooms for primary school children, which entailed creating cement blocks, shoveling dirt and carrying bowls of sand and rocks on top of our heads. Simultaneously, there were members of the group providing outreach initiatives throughout the village, including our dentist, Sonia Thibault, examining and treating children in need, and Lorraine Proudfoot, a local teacher in Fort McMurray, educating students through interactive reading. There were also four youth in the group, Lyndi Proudfoot, Taylor Day, and brothers, Matthew and Cameron Forward. These four individuals were truly touched by the children and came to understand that while you live in another country as they do, children are the same around the world.

After five days, we managed to build the three classrooms and made some lasting memories in the process. By the time we were setting off to our next destination, the men in the village were just making the final preparations to put the roof on.

Next stop on our journey was the Cape Coast of Ghana. Because we still didn’t have the shipping container, we concentrated on outreach efforts instead. Sarah Wilm, my roommate, and I set out to visit Fort Victoria, a lookout post on top of a hill that was built in 1712. We met a couple living at the Fort; they appeared to need some assistance so we sprang into action. We collected everything we could: clothes, shoes, hygiene products, blankets, and anything else we could our hands on, and rushed back to the Fort. The couple was overwhelmingly grateful and said, “Christmas came early this year.” It was so touching to see how something that means very little to us can mean the world to others. While staying at the Might Victory Hotel, we were also able to impart some of our western cooking skills. The Hotel has now added grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna melts to their menu.

During our time in the Coast, we also had the opportunity to see some amazing sites. While visiting Kakum National Park, we crossed the canopy walkway, which is 350-metres long and connects seven tree tops in the forest. Donna McQuade, who is afraid of heights, decided that it was time to conquer her fears. It may have taken a bit longer than the rest of us, and some tears were shed, but she did, along with the support of two members of our group, Dolores Gough and Lana Sweeney.

After exploring Cape Coast, and leaving behind all of the personal items, skills and knowledge that we had to offer, we were off to Accra, the capital city of Ghana. While there, we took a day trip to Independence Square, Black Star Square, Nkrumah Mausoleum, and an arts and crafts market. Before we knew it, it was time to head home. Although some of the group stayed behind to continue travelling, the majority of us waved goodbye to Accra, Ghana, and an experience of a lifetime on August 27.

As of August 29, Caleb was finally able to retrieve the playground and all of the shipping container after clearing Customs. Kids Around the World would like to schedule a build for the playground in January 2014.

To learn more about the project or how you can get involved, please visit http://on.fb.me/15WEPhK.

NAOMI MISON

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