The Start of a New Adventure
If you want to walk fast, walk alone.
If you want to walk far, walk together.
I stumbled across this African proverb earlier this summer, and while it seems a bit ironic as a theme for an independent trip, to me, it perfectly sums up what I’m about to do. Alone, I never could have planned this trip. Left to my own devices, I would not be boarding a flight to Ghana this afternoon. I’d still be buried under pamphlets and world maps, trying to figure out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to study. Thankfully, I wasn’t left to walk speedily by myself. Instead, I had a family who patiently listened to my every plan and idea. I had professors and advisors graciously offer their networks to put me in contact with every corner of the earth. I had the encouragement of good friends, as well as their thoughts and prayers. This trip is an independent study, yes, but in reality, I’ll be walking with those who sent me to the airport and those who I’ll meet when I get off the plane.
So, where will I be walking? My first stop is Cape Coast, Ghana. I will be volunteering there through the month of September and then be making my way to Arusha, Tanzania. After spending October in Arusha, I will head to Huanuco, Peru for November and December. Finally, January will find me in Cap-Haitien and Cange, Haiti.
Each Presidential Scholar is asked to come up with a topic they’d like to study during their travels. While I’m away, I will be looking at organizations that work with children in poverty. Specifically, I’m interested in how these organizations can use volunteers to involve these children and their communities in efforts to create sustainable change. Historically, “do gooders” have wanted to sweep into impoverished places and immediately institute reform. To be fair, I’ve been guilty of doing that very thing myself. And while I like to think that people’s hearts are in the right place when they take such sweeping action, the reality is, that model can no longer be our go to standard. Instead, we must take a collaborative approach, one that matches community identified needs with a volunteer’s enthusiasm and skill. It is a delicate balance, but I believe that when both sides are willing to work, it can be done. On this trip, I’m looking to find organizations that are able to accomplish (or are at least working towards) this lofty goal, and then study how they were able to achieve it.
Earlier this summer, I was fortunate enough to intern at the Buckhead Christian Ministry. (This opportunity would be another example of walking together, as Mike Brown, former Wofford Board of Trustee member, helped make it possible.) BCM has a two fold mission. One, they work to provide for the needs of Atlanta’s working poor. Two, they strive to create an environment where volunteers can participate in meaningful work. Getting to see how this organization functions was incredible. It helped me understand what makes a non-profit tick, and it sharpened my thinking and questioning skills for the organizations I will encounter on this trip.
Now, in this spirit of walking together, it seems only fair that I should make use of what I learn on this trip when I return. After all, what would be the point of walking far, only to never enjoy the distant destination? Over the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of volunteering at an after-school program called ARCH. ARCH gives the first graders from a local elementary school a safe place to come when the school day is done to receive homework help and an evening meal. Working with these sweet children is truly a highlight of my week, and I have a deep admiration for the dedication and love the staff at ARCH shows to every child. Wofford students are lucky to have a place like ARCH to go and volunteer. For over ten years, Wofford and ARCH have worked together as community partners. This partnership has given a multitude of students a chance to discover a love or talent they may not have known they had. Wonderful leadership has inspired multiple generations of students to do more for the Arcadia community. When I get home, I hope to contribute my own small part by collaborating with the community and student volunteers to identify new areas of service and initiatives the community would like to see.
I am excited about what lies ahead in the coming months, and I’m glad that I will be able to share my adventures here! Next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Ghana!
P.S. If you are a Wofford student, or just generally interested in finding out more about volunteering at ARCH, please email firstname.lastname@example.org