Ghana, West Africa

Two days before Christmas, my mum, two sisters and myself shuffled through the congested and overcrowded streets of Accra Town. What we thought would be a day of eclectic Christmas shopping turned out to be a day of West African ‘whimsicalities.’ African women charged their way like wild bulls through the crammed streets effortlessly balancing boxes, buckets, and bags on top their heads. Locals were shouting and rioting at the tro-tro (bus) drivers pleading for a seat inside. Mini vans with passengers zoomed around sharp corners sparing my toes by only a few feet. My sisters and I filed into a line gripping tightly onto each the others’ shoulder peeling our way through the crowd of aggressive pedestrians.

That night we bagged over 100 sacks of rice, salt, oil, and clothes as our donation to families in poor villages for Christmas. The following day we drove 2 hours outside of Accra to a destitute area called Hatorgordor village. Mothers and children stood outside anticipating our arrival and within moments of parking, they crowded the car windows with smiles and warm greetings. As we unloaded the bags of clothes and food, the village chief filed all the children in a line by height and instructed the adults to have a seat. I looked at the texture of their skin, their worn clothes and anxious eyes. An upsetting yet joyous feeling of Mama Africa struck my heart and I began to cry. It’s indescribable. We spent hours handing out the clothes from our closets and bags of rice we bought at the market. I felt helpless looking into the faces of these village mothers and children. There I was, thousands of dollars in debt with nothing else to give but the clothes off my back. I’m reminded that if they can survive, so can I.

Hours of backbiting and bickering went by over who will get the last few bags of rice. Donations came to a close. Chief Fedelis and his tribal senior members welcomed us into his home- made of mud and branches- and offered us a traditional welcome. It sounded something like a recited chant in their native Ewe language lead by one senior, followed by the others with precision. They offered us water and malta. Water..? We declined. There isn’t any irrigation system in the village and the only source of water comes from rain caught in a decrepit reservoir. We politely declined. But our native friend leaned over and whispered that out of respect we had to accept. As per tradition, we must pour a bit of the water on the ground first, then drink. Thankfully, I was surprised when the water was prepackaged.

The sun was setting and it was time for the 2 hour drive back to Accra- but according to Chief Fedelis, we weren’t going anywhere. Our discoveries continued as he lead us into the backyards of Ghana- another primitive village sequestered behind a stream we crossed via canoe. In front of these box shaped mud homes covered with branches, children ran about unclothed, unbathed, laughing, screaming and jolting across the barren ground playing with dead birds as if they were stuffed toys. When we returned to the other side of the malaria-ridden stream, hot banku, chicken and okra stew awaited us. Without hesitation, I galloped over to the little wooden table, peered into the pot and sat down with a smile. I vigorously began to mash the banku with three fingers, scooping it into the stew and savored every bite. There in that tiny village in West Africa, I had the freshest tasting meal I ever had. - tnoely