Breanna McGowan - General Care Projects in Ghana
My name is Breanna McGowan, and I'm from Centerville, Ohio. I am a senior at Centerville High School there. This summer I had the opportunity to go to Cape Coast in the West African country of Ghana. I participated in the Care & Community project and spent two weeks working at the Outreach Orphanage and Evangelical International Mission, along with other volunteers from Canada, France and the UK.
We did lots of various activities with the kids, but also painted their orphanage blue. To say that I had fun would minimise the value of my experience. It was life-changing. I will never forget the children and I want them to always remember me. I wanted to take a part of them home with me and leave a part of me with them.
You are probably wondering why I just decided to get up and go to Africa for a couple weeks. I have always wanted to travel and my mom has always wanted me to see the world at a young age. So she searched around and found Projects Abroad, and we both agreed that this organisation was the best one out of all the others we checked out. I picked Ghana because when I read about it and saw the pictures in the Projects Abroad brochure, Ghana stood out to me.
I had never been out of the country before and had never travelled alone, so I have to admit I was kind of nervous leaving my family behind for the first time. After the long flight, I slept for a long time, but the next morning the other students arrived and my project began. It proved to be a life-changing time for me and hopefully for the orphans, too. The first day I went to the orphanage I was a little nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect of the children. As the administrators were showing us around, a little boy came up to me and held my hand. His name was Steven and we quickly became good friends. I still keep in contact with Steven and the other kids through Prince, their administrator.
Before I went on my trip to Ghana, I was told by everyone (even fellow travellers at the airport) that the people of Ghana were very friendly. My friend, Steven, made that statement very true to me. I felt happy and proud at the same time like I had just won an award for being there. It felt good to see that just my presence there made that little boy smile. I don't ever want to forget him, and I don't want him to forget me.
I also met another little girl from a neighbouring village. She was about 4 years old and her name was Zahara. She was a feisty little thing, but she seemed to like me a lot, and I shared my lunch with her each day.
Two days after I got to Ghana, I turned 17. To my surprise, the orphans sang Happy Birthday to me. It was the best birthday ever! As the first week went on, I got to know the children at the orphanage and a couple of kids from the nearby village. Every day I was excited to see those kids, but also to paint their orphanage. I have blue paint on all of my t-shirts and jeans that I took on the trip.
I came back with a goal. I want to make a tangible difference. Those children don't have very much materially and I didn't want to just come home with fantastic pictures, sleep in my cushy bed and forget. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change these kids’ lives more than just by spending some time with them for a couple of weeks. If they could be given more opportunities and resources to help them to be the best that they could be, what could that possibly do for their futures?
I decided to start an organisation called "All God's Children Got Shoes." This organisation will try to get new shoes and other supplies that the children need for each school year. So far my teachers, friends, acquaintances, and my church have joined me to help meet these goals. Additionally, we’d like to give the orphans in their last year of school information to help them possibly attend college in the US on student visas if they meet the requirements.
I am planning to go back to Ghana next summer. This time, I will take a friend along with me. She will get to meet my friends at the Outreach Orphanage and Evangelical International Mission and see for herself the beauty of Ghana and its people who have impacted my life forever.
I have been interviewed for my school newspaper, and I was also asked to speak to local youth about my trip to Ghana. I want everyone to know about Ghana and Projects Abroad, so they can look into taking the opportunity to see another part of this great big world we live in, and also to see how they can make a difference in it.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.