Category Archives: Volunteering in Africa

PLACEDIA REMINDS ME THAT GHANA 🇬🇭 IS WHERE THE HEART LIVES!

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Post Written By Guest Blogger Kweli Kitwana
East Bay, California 
In this article Kweli shares how her volunteer experience and a developing special relationship with a high school student in Ghana continues to impact her life. 
Of all the years of me volunteering in Ghana over the past few years and of all the wonderful experiences that I’ve had while in Ghana, one young woman truly stands out, and she stole my heart. She was a recipient of scholarships from SistaWorks. This honor allowed her to complete high school, however due to the lack of funds, her dreams for pursing additional education seemed to be unattainable.
Placedia is is her name, and I encountered her after she graduated from high school.  As a way of giving back for having received her education from The SistaWorks Program, Placedia returned to her high school to show her gratitude by returning to speak to other students. This visit would be the equivalent to serving as a Career Day speaker.
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As I was preparing her to speak to the current and newly selected scholars, Placedia informed me that she had placed her advanced education on hold because she needed to raise 3000 Ghana Cedis/$670 USD — about $55 monthly in fees and tuition. So for now, she is selling water at the local markets with the hopes of furthering her education in the future.
I asked her how much was she able to make monthly selling water. The shocking response was — 35 Ghana Cedis/$8 USD. WOW!! That really hit me….when would this young woman ever be able to attain her higher education?  Girls like Placedia, when not able to continue their schooling, will end up married and/or caring for their families and elders.  With this often comes the realization that getting that additional education may never happen causing their dream to slip further and further away.

Immediately, I gave her what I had in my possession as she was leaving that day to go back to her village. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that 157 Ghana Cedis/$35 USD  was all that Placedia would earn after 19 days of selling water!

After I departed Ghana, Placedia stayed on my mind! I finally found her again, and I have since been sending her $56 a month to cover her education at Midwife College.
We write each other often (via email), and I’m learning so much about her.

I also learned that after completing her stint as a government midwife, Placedia wants to continue her education by studying to become a Physician’s Assistant at a local university.  She hails from the Village of Wiaga — part of the Builsa District in Ghana’s Upper East Region.  Placedia tells me that she is a proud tribal Builsa, and her native language is Buli.
I love writing to Placedia and discussing the enslavement of Africans. She and I recently made a connection around her history — The Bulsa people have a proud heritage of fighting against the enslavement of Africans. Historically, they have fought fiercely against enslavers, and when Babatu attacked her people in the 19th century, they were able to stand against him and turn him back!
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That event is celebrated to this day with an elaborate festival called Feok just before Christmas, and it is a passionate celebration which highlights their love of Freedom!
Lately, I’ve been talking to her about African Americans and our connection to Africa. I have taken great care in explaining to her that Blacks in America are not “White People” (a common misunderstanding on the continent) nor are all American Christians looking to do missions based work.
NOTE:  In Ghana and throughout Africa, it is very common for Africans to refer to Black Americans as White. For example, to distinguish me as an American, they would say “the white woman was looking for you.” It is often their way of  assigning class designation, and I also believe it is their way of making it clear that we are Non-African in Ghana.
These small but mighty interactions bring me much joy, and they have helped me to solidify my purpose.

Thank you Robin Joyce Tillotson for constantly reminding women to take care of ourselves and to never give up on your dreams. #thisidoforme#movintowardpositivity#wakandaforreal

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The Ultimate Travel Companion: Volunteering — By Kweli Kitwana, Guest Blogger

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  • For years, I’ve dreamed about taking a volunteer vacation.
    Volunteer vacations are called many things, including service vacations, international volunteering, volunteer travel, working vacations, gap year travel and volunteering abroad. No matter what they are called, I always knew this was something I wanted to do. Going someplace with a unique purpose is just in my blood. Don’t get me wrong, I love exotic vacations on beaches, enjoying fine dining and taking in the local sights. However, experiences of cultural immersion is an exciting honor aligned with my personal need to get involved, connect with people and hopefully, leave a footprint in someone else’s life.

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    Kweli Kitwana

    West Africa has been on my travel bucket list for some time.  I have always looked to Africa for personal reflection and creative inspiration. For my entire life, I could never pass up the opportunity to immerse myself in West African culture, spirituality, politics or arts. Knowing I’d end up there at some point, I wanted to choose my path to get there carefully.

In about a week from now, I am leaving for Ghana.  Recently, I heard that SISTAWorks was seeking a volunteer willing to go to Bogatonga, Ghana (and, surrounding rural villages) on short notice for about four weeks. SISTAWorks, a nonprofit, has as its mission to see more of Ghana’s adolescent village girls through high school, instead of languishing as menial laborers in city markets. Empowering these young women is an essential step in breaking the cycle of poverty in rural African communities. These girls would not be able to attend high school without the scholarships and support they receive directly from SISTAWorks.

Students at work in Bogatoga, Ghana

Students at work in Bogatoga, Ghana

I will be meeting these girls and their families, selecting the Scholars for the upcoming school year, providing training, and collecting/distributing their education supplies and resources to them. It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m up for the challenge.

This opportunity has been “in the works” for some time– you see, life’s opportunities are always waiting for us.

Over 10 years ago, I bought a beautiful quilt from Baba Blankets to support an African Collective, thus giving economically marginalized girls an opportunity to change their lives via education. While on a business trip in Denver, Colorado, I attended the Annual African American Art Fair. I was especially drawn to a beautiful exhibit of colorful quilts with the most familiar patterns. E. Aminata Brown, the vendor and Founder of Baba Blankets, explained that these quilts “are the exceptional work of our girls in Ghana seeking to advance their opportunities through sewing and education.”

It was this experience which inspired me to revisit my own family’s tradition of quilting — particularly my Grandma and Mama’s loving creations handed down and gifted throughout the years to our family and friends. This interest eventually led me to quilting and designing over 300 fabric designs celebrating African American culture, tradition and history, along with the creation of my online business “African American Fabrics.”

Well, here I am — full circle… I am now, honored to spend a month volunteering with Sista Works. If you know me, you know I am filled with the enlightenEd possibilities of this gift. The gift to learn from and dare to receive continued inspiration, while making a sustainable difference in girls lives is an opportunity of a lifetime.

Please take a moment and visit their website. Hopefully, you will even be inspired to make a donation to them!!
www.sistaworks.org

Or, you can help support my volunteer trip specifically by donating to my Go Fund Me campaign.

www.gofundme.com/KweliToGhana