When we first arrived, I had a hard time counting how many times I have been to Ghana. Not because each trip has been indistinct; but that each trip here has been full of countless learning experiences, challenges and growth. As I reflected at the end of my first week back in Ghana, there were a few other things that really stood out to me.

As a team leader, this is the first time I was truly worried about a decision I had made for the group.  Typically, walking to a village has been an innocuous decision. In all my previous experiences, while trying to get to a “hard to reach” village can be tiring and very hot, it has never necessitated a pass through chest deep water for 100 yards. However, swimming through chest deep water ended up being the easiest part of the experience. For the next 45 min we slogged through slippery, up to our ankle, mosquito laden mud pools in an attempt to try and reach a remote village. For the first time I can recall I made the decision to stop and turn around. I made this decision as I attempted to quickly synthesize my knowledge of Ghana, tropical diseases, waterborne illness’, my teammates abilities, and our director, David’s, personality, to reach this conclusion. This is also the first time I felt the weight of where these women come from. I was able to understand a little more the lives and the environment in which they live. It was heavy and yet necessary. I was confronted with my privilege; I could make a choice to turn around and reduce my risk of exposure to disease substantially. The women we work with often do not have this choice and I found myself wondering if I was one of these women, would I make the sacrifices needed to volunteer for this program?

A beautiful first happened on Tuesday as I rode in the car from where we stay to the Kekeli teaching site, still in disbelief that I could be so sweaty at 8 am, and I felt the anticipation growing as we headed to see the Kekeli women for the first time this trip. I was going to see the women I have come to admire and love over the last six years! In addition to seeing the women I deeply care for I had the added bonus of seeing them come together for the first time with the new group of women whom they would start training. I spent the duration of the morning holding back tears as I saw the future of the program unfold and all the previous six years’ work, hope, growth, challenges, learning, and collaboration come to fruition. It was an overwhelmingly joyous occasion and a steadfast reminder of the importance of this program and the value of showing up.

We will see what week 2 brings!

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