This blog post has taken me longer than usual, as it’s been difficult to put into words the experience I had in Ghana this month.
I could write about so many things: how some communities are much less fortunate than we are; the ‘things’ we take for granted like running water, food and safe roads; or how the smallest items like paper and pens can change lives.
Instead, I’m going to write about how the amazing people in these communities choose to live their lives, the love and respect they have for one another and how they work together to gain strength and resiliency.
This was my first experience spending time in a third-world country. The trip was organized by Plan Ireland and led by Director of LinkedIn Northern Europe, Jeff Matthews, along with 6 other absolutely incredible people that I now proudly call my friends. We traveled to Ghana to gain a deeper understanding of the daily challenges of the local people, and use our skill sets to brainstorm ideas on how to implement real change.
Despite a delayed start in 32 degree heat, the first community we met was waiting for us to arrive and greeted us with cheers, huge waves and the most incredible dancing I’ve ever seen!
We spent time with three others communities and learned about the struggles of their educational system—encouraging girls to return to school after pregnancy, the complexity of attending a school that takes hours to get to, and how access to clean water can entail hours of walking while balancing liters of water on your head.
On Sunday we were kindly invited to attend mass, a four hour ceremony consisting of warm welcomes, song, laughter, and prayer. Mass represents something different for everyone, but for us it was an opportunity to breathe and be thankful. The congregation took this time to bond, welcome back old members and say hello to new ones.
Every person I met in Ghana greeted me with a friendly smile, handshake, and sparkle in their eye. It was the time with the kids that I cherished most; from their love for Westlife and Niall Horan to their understanding of technology despite having never seen a computer or mobile phone!
Ghanaians cherish life, celebrate death, support one another and appreciate the little things: tenets we should all strive for.
It was a privilege to support Plan Ireland and see the work that they have done in these developing regions. Plan Ireland is responsible for big changes within these communities: building hospitals and schools and volunteering day in and day out.
We all lead busy lives, those of you who are self-starters especially understand the value and scarcity of time. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is that there is never a perfect time. Sometimes you just need to commit, and follow through.
To lead a company whose mission is to leverage community connections, it’s important that I tear myself away from my desk and meet people from all walks of life. I gained a greater understanding of how individuals work together, build off of each others’ strengths, and thrive. Without a doubt, what I got out of this experience is far greater than what I was able to give back.