An update from Olivia:
I’ve been to Ghana so many times over the last decade that I lost count. So I decided to count. This visit marks my sixth time landing in Accra at Kotoka International Airport and stepping onto the tarmac to be greeted by the thick warm air of the tropics. The scent too is distinct, though I’ve never found words to describe well the mixture of humidity and sweating bodies and still air that is present. If you read my writing about the first time I came to Ghana you are likely surprised I’ve traversed the Atlantic to arrive back in a place that stretched me to my limits. I’m surprised too. But here I am.
I often cycle through this question of what it is that brings me back here. What value lies in an expensive plane ticket and a long distance traveled, to arrive in a space where one doesn’t speak the language, know the customs, and is not a part of the community? Why travel so far to ‘help’ people when my own backyard is also full of opportunities to share my skills and resources. Spending time in Ghana has been one of the many things that has helped dim the black and white light of absolutes that it can be so easy to live in. I am discovering and rediscovering that there is space for both; to work as a midwife in Portland guiding women through pregnancy and birth and to work doing health education in rural Ghana to foster healthier communities. I grapple with what tangible good I am doing in Ghana, a place that is at once a second home and a far away land, where my white skin is covered in a sheen of sweat, my hair a halo or frizz and the children will always yell at me “white man with a beard” as I pass, the song in Ewe that means ‘white person’.
Yesterday afternoon we asked the Kekeli women how family planning education was going in their communities. Vicentia shared a story of a woman who wanted to use family planning but her husband didn’t support her. Vicentia talked in private to the husband and discovered his fear that birth control would make his wife sick. After Vicentia educated him about the real side effects he agreed that birth control would be acceptable and after five years with five pregnancies the woman has now gone two years without an unintended pregnancy.
Mavis shared that she educated the parents of some young women who are sexually active about the importance of using family planning. The parents were afraid that this would lead to the daughter being more sexually active. Through Mavis’ education of the risk of unintended pregnancy interrupting the daughters education and leading to worsening poverty, the parents supported her use of family planning.
These moments move me. They create a lightness in my heart I don’t often feel while I’m here.
Then we returned to the home where we are staying and were greeted by Shine. She was less than a year when I first met her and this summer she will turn 7. She runs up and greets us at the gate, grabbing my hand then shyly walking alongside me. Her dark brown eyes framed with short lashes perfectly and naturally curled gaze up at me.
So in Ghana I have a home. And I’ve become part of something special that is creating more opportunity for other people. Just like I get to do at home. The connection feeds me and I hope it creates in me a more tolerant and loving human; that is the gift to be shared with the world.