The blue lightbulb hanging from the ceiling illuminated the small room with an eery glow. It was sweltering hot. The memory foam consumed my sweaty, dirty body as a I laid there wishing myself to sleep. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t calm my mind. The emotions poured over me.
I was sad, angry and frustrated about the poor living conditions in Senase, a village in the Ashanti region of Ghana, where I and 26 other people from Semester at Sea did a homestay for two nights. Most people of the village do not have electricity or clean water, and there’s no health clinic nearby.
There’s a small school called Akatim Ric Primary School that’s located about 30 minutes from Senase. Most of the classrooms are fashioned out of tree limbs, wooden boards and sheets of steel.
Many of the children who attend Akatim have to walk an hour and a half to and from school. Sometimes the teachers who come in from Senase bring bagged lunches with them, but most days the children go without food or water.
I felt guilty for feeling gross from not showering for a couple of days when the people of Senase bathe with buckets of water. It was hard not to think about how nice it was going to be once I got back to the ship. And, as I laid in that bed in a home in a village in the middle of Ghana, I was overwhelmed with shame because I had the means to leave in the end.
I felt embarrassed to be White. The Senase children stared at us with idolizing eyes as if we were some sort of celebrities walking through their village. They followed us everywhere. They fought over our hands, grabbed at our arms and legs, and wrapped around us as if they could squeeze into our bodies if they tried hard enough. A group of girls around 12 years old surrounded me at one point. They caressed my skin and pet my hair. They kept calling me “beautiful girl.” When it was time to eat, we were given food first, and after dinner one night, a group of boys scraped clean the pot of leftover rice.
Now, I’m grateful to have been born in America. My stay in Senase was a difficult experience that I thought I was more prepared to handle because of my previous exposure to the conditions in Haiti. However, it reopened my eyes to the very harsh and often unfair realities of the world. We can complain about America until we’re blue in the face, but the truth is, it’s a privilege be an American. I can’t help but feel so lucky to have been born in a stable environment in a country that allows growth and provides a level of security that other countries don’t have.
The Senase homestay was made possible by a 22-year-old man named Fredrick “Fred” Benneh who grew up in Senase. He started the company Can Do Land Tours a few years ago after meeting some students from Semester at Sea (SAS) who wanted to do more to help people in Ghana. Since then, SAS participants have helped to provide enough funds for school uniforms for the children of Senase, a building for Akatim Ric Primary School and a clean water tank that will help to alleviate the laborious task of pumping water from a well. The next project is to renovate a building in the village that will become a health clinic.
Fred is studying international relations at a university in Turkey. His goal is to continue giving back to his village. He is a humble and an inspirational person with a pure heart.
He and the people of Senase are seeking any kind of help and/or advice as they continue to make progress in their village. Please contact Fred via email with any questions and/or suggestions (medical, academic, etc.): can.do55. Also, visit the Senase Project on Facebook to learn more about the village and how you can help.
Today, I am hopeful for the future of Senase because “God is in control.”