Amy Armstrong from St Luke’s Parish in Whiston is part of a gap year programme with Cafod, although based in Salford she has just returned from working in Ghana and reflects on her experiences.
I am based at Just Youth, a Spiritan retreat centre, in Salford, Greater Manchester. There, I work in schools raising social justice issues. Part of the gap year programme, means that I received a month’s experience in a developing country. Earlier this year I went with two other volunteers to Ghana where we stayed with the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus.
We spent two weeks in Bolgatanga in the upper east region of the country and met some incredible people there; quite possibly the happiest people in the world. I think that is what struck me the most about Ghanaian people: they might not have much, but they are incredibly happy. We worked in two schools in Bolgatanga, where many of the students inspired me greatly. We met students who have to work before and after school in order to pay the £15 for their education. Students who have to walk for miles to get access to clean water and others who have to care for their younger brothers and sisters due to the absence of their parents.
In the final two weeks, we went to Takoradi and Cape Coast in the south. We visited a neo-natal hospital and nursing school there. It was astounding to discover that they hired gentlemen to carry women up the stairs in the hospital after giving birth because the lift was broken. The babies and mothers are very well looked after, and it is clear to see that the hospital keeps to the Millennium Development Goals on mother and baby health.
It was fascinating to see the differences between the north and the south of Ghana: differences, not only between wealth, education and resources, but also in climate. Sister Martha SHCJ, said that there has most definitely been a noticeable change in climate in recent years. People rely on the rain for their crops to grow, and often the rains can come at irregular times. So they have to decide: plant on the first rain and hope it continues to rain for the rest of the season, or plant towards the end and hope for a growth spurt. It's unreal to witness people living their lives like this, especially when we have such easy access to produce from all over the world. The work done by Cafod in supporting people with climate issues will certainly make a difference to their lives.
Faith is most certainly alive in Ghana. Mass can be up to two and a half hours long. Long, but truly amazing and worth getting up at 6.00 am for. The people that I met believe that God gave them their way of life for a reason, they truly believe that God has intentions for all of them, and they are grateful for everything that He has given them. They believe that He is looking after them. Some of the young people that we met said that if they didn't have their faith, they would just give up. One teacher I met said that students are fully aware that ‘nothing good comes easy’ in life. They are all truly inspiring.
I have learnt to live everyday as it comes. There are people out there who work incredibly hard to receive the things that we just take for granted. Count your blessings every day: someone else's life could have very easily been ours.
I am grateful to Cafod for offering me this amazing opportunity. I have learnt so much from this experience. And a huge thank you to all those who do support Cafod: your support really does go a long way.
Pictured: Amy with Blessing in Ghana.