Over 80% of the world's chocolate comes from West Africa. I got the chance to go there last summer and it deeply affected me.
"It's pretty crazy to think of where my chocolate bar has led me over the years. "
From July 11 to August 1, I was in Ghana.
Maybe you are thinking - why Ghana? Well, I wanted to experience Africa.
I was tired of hearing and seeing what the media wants society to believe. I wanted to see everything first-hand. Live it, breathe it, and experience it myself.
And my doings in chocolate played a huge role in my curiosity. Not only have great people I admire such as Robert Linxe encouraged me to be passionate about life, but with my research in child labor issues in cacao plantations, it fueled my interest in going to Africa.
As I found out through research, the child labor situation is much more complicated than one would imagine. Because these children live in a completely different culture, it was hard for me to understand why the problem has not been solved. Therefore, I wanted to experience what their daily activities consisted of. However, since the Ivory Coast (which is where a large amount of child labor is thought to be) is not the safest place to visit, I asked for advice. I was referred to Ghana, by many people including Maricel Presilla and Bernard Duclos, as the place to experience Africa. Not only are the people so warm and welcoming, but cacao is a major industry in Ghana.
Well, now I'm back and want to share my experience and pictures with you. The time I spent in Ghana was so rewarding and so much different than what I expected. Through the program (Global Leadership Adventures) I was on, I was able to volunteer at an orphanage for fifty children called Bright Future.
For three weeks, my group and I engaged with the children. We were able to play, teach, and learn from all of them.
It was so remarkable to see how little they have and yet how happy and content they are with life. The few requests we did receive were for school supplies- like notebooks, pens, paper, all things I take for granted.
It truly made me happy to watch how excited the kids got reading and writing. And I believe education is the only way out of poverty, giving everyone the chance to become whatever they want.
While in Ghana, I got to walk the marketplaces of the towns, the canopy of the forests, and the Cape Coast (slave) Castle where Obama had just walked a week before.
The only place I wasn't able to experience, because of scheduling, was the cacao plantations. You can imagine my disappointment at that! But in the end, my journey was all about the children.
I see these children, and with a simple smile I connect with them.
I see the pain and the suffering they have experienced in their short lives.
But I also see the strength and courage they have to keep going just one day at a time.
I see the passion they all have for learning and becoming well educated. So in the end, what I really see when I look into their eyes is a "Bright Future"
So I have been to Ghana, now what? I want to be part of the CHANGE everyone is talking about. That positive transformation to bring happiness, peace and education everywhere. I think one of the most effective things we can do is help kids get educated so they can become the future leaders of their own country.
Please support my t-shirt initiative. It's a small start, but hopefully it will grow. Right now, they can't afford to build dorms, so up to 50 children are sleeping on the floor of the founder's home in another town. Every morning they are bused an hour away to attend school. And because the bus is small, it takes multiple trips to get all the children and teachers to the school. Although they're so eager to gain knowledge, just getting to school is such a long process that it takes away from the time spent learning.