My name is Kayla Witkowski, a nursing intern with The Sankofa Center, and I’m writing to discuss my experiences here in Ghana. Below is a beautiful picture of the compound that I captured upon my arrival.
I feel it is only appropriate to begin my blog with the Polaroid picture below, which I took on the day I first heard about volunteering with The Sankofa Center. I took this because I was confident that this unique organization would be a part of my future. Now, over a year and a half later, I am sitting in the compound listening to the rain and reflecting on the outreaches I will talk about shortly.
Although this is my first time traveling abroad, I’ve felt very much at home. Here are Ronnie and Aaron welcoming me on my first day:
In just the first week that I’ve been here, I’ve learned several African traditional dances, HIV testing protocol, HIV 101 education, and the prep associated with outreaches. Here, I am learning Gota, a dance drama conveying the importance of condom use:
Below is our first outreach to Ankwa Dobro L/A Primary School, where we educated over 400 students over the course of three days! Each day, we performed dances followed by varying aspects of the HIV curriculum. In addition to teaching at the assembly, we had the chance to break into small groups and answer all questions that the students had. During our last day, the students displayed their new-found knowledge in a boys vs. girls competition!
Here is a picture of the Ankwa Dobro Primary Staff and I:
Exclusive to this town is that as opposed to having a chief, there is a Queen Mother. I found this interesting because I noticed the girls to be more outspoken and confident. For example, while teaching, this 18 year-old student was especially attentive and interactive. After some conversation, we determined that she was a good candidate for a one-on-one session. So after our teaching for the day, I was able to learn more about this wonderful girl well as we opened up about the nature of sexual experiences and how to remain safe from HIV. I found this to be a very touching experience and it only reinforces the chances you have as a volunteer to impact the lives of Ghanaians and experience perpetual relationships.
Below is Monica with our beautiful impromptu model, Belty, in the child’s vintage skirt. Monica calls me her daughter and, as you can see, is always taking on a motherly role. Every morning I come outside and am greeted by her and the other seamstresses joking and laughing with one another. One of the joys I’ve witnessed here is seeing the delight on their faces even when they are working for long hours. It is a heartwarming feeling to see the end-product of the women’s work when I know about their lives, families, likes and dislikes, and what went into making girls like Belty smile.
In the many villages The Sankofa Center visits, the people are very engrossed in the hustles of everyday life. This makes it very rewarding to see the community captivated by our performance and eased into our critical education on HIV/AIDS. Here in Ghana, there lies a heavy stigma towards HIV/AIDS which makes the people hesitant to not only seek education and treatment, but even discuss the matter. In a village named Samsam, this issue was beautifully captured by a grateful citizen.
By: Kayla Witkowski