By Sami Elkan, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017
After what felt like an endless bus ride of 10 hours, we finally stepped off and were greeted by the Senase Village in Ghana. Fred, one of the most inspiration people I had ever met, was in charge of our IMPACT trip.
Long-story-short, Fred grew up in Senase, excelled in school, and his parents spent all they had to put Fred through school. They could not afford to send him to college, so he moved to Accra where his father lived and planned to work and put himself through the University of Accra. Living with his father didn’t work out, so he sold bracelets in the street, similar to all the people who walk around Accra selling items that they carried in a basket on their heads. One day, a group of tourists asked Fred where they should eat lunch, so he dropped his things and took them to local favorite, he showed them around the rest of Ghana, and they had an AMAZING time. That group of tourists was from Semester At Sea. They took his number down, and for the next four days, Fred gave tours to Semester At Sea students, with no time to sleep. This happened again the next year, and then he later decided to create his own tour company, which was always 100% booked with SASers when they came to Ghana. Around this time, Fred had a vision to open a school in his village because he had seen the public Ghanaian education system fail too many people. After making closer and closer ties with Semester At Sea, he was eventually invited to go on Semester At Sea where he spread his vision throughout the ship. He later attended the University of San Diego and received a $25,000 grant from there to make his vision become a reality. The grant along with generous donations helped him open the Semanhyiya American School in Senase three years ago.
My fellow SASers and me taught at the school on the 2nd day in Ghana. I worked in the nursery school with two to three year olds. The day consisted of us singing and dancing to songs in English that helped them learn colors, numbers, days of the week, how to cross the road, and how to treat others respectfully and then we took breaks every thirty minutes or so. I was really impressed by the level of knowledge these children possessed at such young ages. The school’s philosophy is based on active, interactional, experiential learning.
On the 3rd day, we painted numbers and the alphabet on their recess area. We also repainted their lunch benches, the basketball lines, and other outside fixtures. Even though it was well over 100 degrees, no one complained because we were all so moved by Fred’s story and the kids’ enthusiasm for learning to make a difference.
Meeting Fred mad me realize the importance of giving back to your own community. Throughout Semester At Sea, we have all participated in many social and sustainable ventures for strangers, which is amazing, but we need to also think about the value in giving back to the communities that made it possible for us to attend Semester At Sea. After working at the Semanhyiya American School, I feel an urgency to give back to my community. I made a promise to myself that this summer; I am going to volunteer in my hometown, something I