Returning to Ghana Jan 2013: New Trip Proposal

First off, I want to thank all of my followers who are STILL posting, commenting and sending me emails, years after my last post! You are the ones who keep me excited and motivated to write! If you need advice on Ghana and want to learn my opinion, please email me your name, phone number, and best time to call you (calls must be within USA). I have so much to say about the country I love, I cannot possibly answer all of your questions through blog entries or emails.

I am very excited that I am going back to Ghana this Jan 2013!!! Last time I went to Ghana was summer 2011 so it has been a trip long over-due. I am very excited about volunteering at West Africa Aids Foundation with my mentor Dr. Naa. I will stay with her family again and help out in every way I can. Dr. Naa came up with a wonderful project proposal that I am very excited to get started on. She realized that there is a large problem with traffic accidents in Ghana, and there are very few ambulances available (they usually only respond to the needs of the wealthy). If you remember back in 2010 during my study abroad trip, I founded the WAAF Ambulance Fund to raise money for the clinic to get their own ambulance. Patients are commonly transported to and from hospitals in taxis, which is a major health and safety concern. The proposal Dr. Naa and I are working on together is to develop a First Aid Program, teach basic EMT/ first responder techniques, and provide First Aid kits to drivers in Ghana, to help increase the chances of car accident victims recovering after an accident.  Many drivers of taxis and trotros (vans) have not received first aid training before, and once they are properly trained and supplied, they could make a large impact on car accident survival rates. Many American basic First Aid techniques must be altered in order to make the education relevant and effective in Ghana. Drivers can make a significant difference in reducing road-side mortality rates if they learn how to ensure the safety of passengers during traffic accidents.

Since my return to USA, I graduated with my bachelors from Cornell University, I got my EMT-B license, and I worked as an EMT for the largest private ambulance/EMS company in the Northeast.  I am very excited at the opportunity to put my EMT skills to good use through teaching and educating others. The idea of bringing two of my passions together, my love for EMT/medicine and my love for Ghana, will be an excellent opportunity for me. I am also in the process of getting my application together for medical school, which is a long and rigorous process in and of itself. I am looking forward to going back to Ghana to return to my source of joy, inspiration and motivation. After all, if it wasn’t for my study abroad trip to University of Ghana and my internship at Dr. Naa’s clinic back in 2010, I may not be here writing to you today and I may not be on my path to a career in medicine so early in life! Well, I would like to believe I would have found this career path eventually, and I would HAVE to find my mentors at WAAF someway…It seems like I was destined to be here, to become a doctor and to work in underserved areas with the people I love and admire on a local and global scale. I could talk about my love and passion for medicine, WAAF/IHCC, and my proposal in Ghana for days… I will sum it all up in a smile 🙂 and a <3

What made me decide I had to go back to Ghana? It’s funny, I was reminded of these reasons recently. First, one of my best girlfriends from my study abroad trip went BACK to Ghana to see her boyfriend that she met there in 2010. I was interested in how they kept the relationship alive, long distance for over 2 years without seeing each other! Now that takes strength! She inspired me to return to Ghana. As you know, I publicized my engagement with my Ghanaian boyfriend in the beginning of my blog, but since then we decided it would be best to just be friends since long distance wasn’t working well for us for various reasons. Well, I am happy to inform you that I am still in contact with him and he is in a position to make an impact now and help me with my developmental projects in Ghana. I am very excited to go back and see all of my friends in Ghana, including my Cornell grad friends, my friends from U of Ghana who I met during study abroad, and all of the wonderful people who have helped me and inspired me along the way. I want to go back to the Night Market and say hi to the lovely friends who made my breakfast sandwiches each and every morning, and I want to go back to my friend at Bush Canteen who made all of my beads. I remember, she measured me and tied together all of my beautiful waist beads. And I also have my friend who made all of my traditional Ghanaian clothes and styles! I have so many people I love and miss in Ghana, I can’t wait to visit them 🙂  My third source of inspiration that really encouraged me to go back was my other girlfriend’s wedding party! She got engaged to a Nigerian while she was in Ghana. They knew each other through mutual friends and they had a long distance relationship for a while. I am happy they received blessings from both sides of their families, and they are getting married! I am very happy for them.

These stories prove to me that love IS what makes life so beautiful. Passion and love, whether its for a person, a place, or a purpose. If you LOVE who you are and you LOVE what you do, everything else will fall into place. Life is too beautiful and intense to let a day slip away from you. You have to seize every moment, reflect on what you love, and make a difference for others in anyway you can. Sometimes just saying hi to a neighbor or giving away something as a gift is enough to keep the source of human connectedness alive. Sometimes it takes more—well sometimes it takes dedicating a CAREER and livelihood to follow your dreams into uncharted territory, to stand alone on a cause that you are passionate about, and to find others who support that mission as well. I know I don’t stand alone—although I am alone in my studies and my medical school mission, I know I have people who love and support me on a local and global level, and I want to succeed for US ALL. I can envision myself as a first year medical student, retuning to Ghana in Summer 2015 and sharing my experiences with my mentor, Dr. Naa, in the same clinic where all of these beautiful ideas were born.

Thank you for your continued support and I am looking forward to your responses and feedback.

Have a great day!

~Peace and Love ~


Inspiring Young Minds- Harlem Children’s Zone + My Future Career

I really love my job as a tutor at Promise Academy Charter School in Harlem Children’s Zone! I spent the last two days at the Annual Promise Academy High School Teachers Retreat, staying at the beautiful hotel, the Hyatt on the Hudson in Jersey City (quite a contrast to where I will be staying in Ghana next week). Last night I went out with the coworkers and we had our usual fun times. I am pretty slow with card games, but they explained to me how to play Spades. I am sure I will spend some nights in Ghana playing card games, so I am glad I got a head start on learning how to play them.

Anyone who knows me in the slightest knows that Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, is one of my favorite people in this world. He is like the God of Education to me. I love hearing him speak and reading his books. Every last word he says lingers with me, even after the conference ends. He told us that we are making history now with our 11th graders (they are the oldest Promise Academy students currently) and that the whole world is watching to see how successful they become. Part of what makes Canada such an inspirational and moving speaker is that he incorporates real-life stories and experiences into every example he talks about. For example, he explained in vivid detail about his trip to the White House to meet with Obama. Rather than giving him a handshake, as was customary with all the other White House guests, Obama went up to Canada and gave him a brotherly hug. Obama seems to be fascinated with Canada and his mission with Harlem Children’s Zone.

Obama says that replicating Promise Neighborhoods is the answer for ending educational inequality on a national scale. Obama would like to see Promise Neighborhoods replicated in over 20 different cities across America. As you could imagine, I am honored to be a part of an organization and a school that is so successful and is making national headlines for making measurable differences in the lives of inner-city, minority youth. It is exciting and refreshing to see the eyes of Americans viewing the Nightly News and seeing stories about educational reform rather then repetitive stories about school dropouts and violence.

Promise Academy consists of two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school, all of which are in Harlem.  Promise Academy is part of Harlem Children’s Zone, a social service organization founded by Geoffrey Canada whose mission is to employ a community-based approach to educational success. One of Mr. Canada’s philosophies is what he calls the “conveyor belt system”. This philosophy was realized in the creation of programs that target children of all ages and keep them academically and socially connected to Harlem Children’s Zone from birth to high school graduation and college.  There is programming for every age group, including “Baby College” for expecting parents to learn more about child development, and the Beacon Community Centers to provide after school learning to children who are not enrolled in the Promise Academy. As a tutor for the high school and 4th grade students, I am getting a feel for the entire conveyor belt system and seeing how students perform at different points throughout the system depending on how long they have been involved in HCZ’s programming.

**Disclaimer: All the above views and interpretations are my own and are of no way a reflection of the views held by members of the aforementioned organization. For more information visit the site directly @ http://www.hcz.org/

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I plan to continue to explore many of my career interests and passions while in Ghana this semester. I plan on volunteering in school and designing a project that will help me analyze obstacles faced by Ghanaian youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, while also exploring the role of educational and health intervention projects in improving the lives of these at risk children. Also, as part of the CIEE program’s Developmental Studies tract, I plan on interning with doctors in fields such emergency medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Although I am not completely sure about what I would like to do with my future career, my dream would be to become a medical doctor and also a leader of a nonprofit organization addressing issues related to educational disparities faced by youth of African descent. Since I only have one chance to live my life, I want to make the most of it and impact as many people in a positive way as possible. I refuse to be the person simply handing out money—I want to be part of the team designing and implementing strategies to fight urban and global poverty and inequality. Although my dreams may seem broad, I am confident that I will blaze my own trail and figure out what career path is best for me. I never wanted to be exactly like everyone else or follow the same academic path. I always wanted to explore the world and try out things in a different way.

Even though I often complained about Cornell’s rural location, I am happy that Cornell provided many opportunities for me to travel. I got to go to Las Vegas with NSBE and network extensively at the engineering conference in ’09. I also got to go to Ghana December ’08 to donate computers to a rural school and teach workshops on how to use Mircosoft Office. For Spring Break 2010, I went to Kingston, Jamaica with Jamaica Difference and implemented fun, educational workshops for 1st through 3rd graders from an underfunded school.  Also, I really love Cornell for their Urban Semester Program! I couldn’t imagine a better, more rewarding Cornell semester. I got to live in the city and experience New York City life, while interning at Lawyers for Children and volunteering with youth in Brooklyn. Basically, whatever urban college experience I though I was missing out on, I got to enjoy my Spring 2010 semester. And of course, now I am in Ghana WOW! I am spending a whole year away from campus but I am enjoying every moment of it. I am a very hands-on learner and I would rather be out doing fieldwork and making an immediate impact on children and communities then staying on campus. I want to make a difference and stand out from the crowd. I love that Cornell provided the foundation and opportunities for me to travel all over the world and make a difference in communities I feel the strongest connection with.

Now that I am in Ghana, I will begin a new chapter in my life. I hope that my dreams become realized as I explore Ghana with an open heart and open mind. Peace and Love 🙂


Deuces NYC.. 4 Days Before Ghana-Time!

From Slope Day to Ghana.. Time Flies!

Summer 2010 was a typical summer! I had tons of fun and it flew by at lightening speed. I spent the majority of my summer at the front of the classroom. I taught 4th graders at Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy and I also tutored the high school students in Biology and Math. After work, I volunteered for Let’s Get Ready and was a Head SAT Math Coach at the Harlem site and also taught at the brand new Greenwich site. During my free time I went to Jones Beach, swam at the pool, hung out with friends and family and shopped more than a little. Overall the summer was cool but as the time got closer and closer to my departure, I really started to reflect on who I am, what I am about right now, and where am I really trying to go with my future.

For one, I deactivated my Facebook a few times. My reason for doing so is because I feel like real friends can keep in touch without it. I’d rather reach out to friends directly via phone/email/video chat and keep in touch rather than get wrapped up in all the drama that comes along with Facebook. By default, Facebook provides too much information that I am not interested in knowing about people. That being said, I really do appreciate emails and posts! I hope my friends figure this out sooner than later.

Another reflection—my focus. My time in Ghana will allow me to put my past behind me and really get a chance to focus on where I want to be in the present. There are probably a few people or situations that will change while I am gone. People ask me how do I feel about leaving NY to live in Ghana for 4.5 months. Right now I feel nothing unusual. I am not excited or nervous, scared or worried. I think homesickness is a state of mind that can be overcome. If I live in the NOW and enjoy each moment, homesickness couldn’t be an issue. I plan to become so immersed in my new friendships, activities, travels, adventures, internship and volunteer work that I have no time to think about home much. I plan to use this blog as my means of communication with the public. The whole point in me going away and not having Blackberry Messenger, free text messaging, and limitless shopping sprees is to get away from all superficial and materialistic aspects of the conspicuous consumer culture that I am surrounded by. People take communication for granted, and I realized many of my friends have never written a complete sentence to me because they are so used to “text talk” LOL.

I only have 4 days left before I fly out to Accra, Ghana. I will certainly miss my friends! I will miss Ace, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Pop, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone else in my family.  My coworkers at Harlem Children’s Zone are so awesome and I will miss you so much! Of course, I will also miss my dog Jessie, my 5 gerbils (that I am still looking for a pet sitter for) and my turtle Max.

Yesterday I hung out with Kareen. She is also going to Ghana with me and we are on the same flight. We met up in NYC and went to Pinkberry (my favorite frozen yogurt place) and we took a long walk and talked. I can tell already that we are going to have an amazing time in Ghana and make life-long memories!

I’ve already been in Ghana before and I have a few best friends who are from Ghana. I am looking forward to reconnecting with old friends in Ghana and strengthening my ties with the culture and community. I’m sure no other experience in the world could compare to the adventure I am about to embark on. I love my Ghanaian friends in NY and I am very thankful that I met you and that our friendships are so deep and meaningful. You have inspired me to go abroad and live in your country to really get a feel for what it is like to be Ghanaian and to love openly, to appreciate the simple joys in life, and to learn to find peace and satisfaction from within myself.  Thank you for the advice and the inspiration. I love you and I recognize that strong friendships will last a lifetime  🙂