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.
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!
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.