Tag Archives: goodbye

Tree of Life

Shoutout to our homies, last blog comin’ atcha,

Although we thought this trip would never come to an end, here we are. Today we finished our last day of teaching at Heritage Academy, and let us just say its bittersweet. Many of us wrapped up our lessons with final projects and presentations. Today had a familiar “last day of school” feeling: taking pictures with students, giving out addresses, and saying our goodbyes. At the end of the day we attended a school-wide assembly in which we sang the Ghanaian national anthem with all the students we had met over the week. Each of us shared a lesson we learned at Heritage, including the values of creativity, friendship, and role models, and gave our sincerest thanks to everyone at the school for giving us such an amazing experience.

Along with goodbyes came promises to students to keep in touch. We personally take these very seriously and are committed to writing to the kids, but we also worked hard to impress on the students the limits of our communication abilities. The pen pal system at Heritage can take about 4 months for a letter to be exchanged, leaving a student feeling forgotten or as if our relationship wasn’t genuine. We expressed our dedication to the kids, and discussed in our reflection the way that keeping in touch with these amazing students will be a constant reminder of our time here and also help us be mindful in our home lives.

Speaking of being mindful, your four current blog writers cannot forget to be thankful for the opportunity that F&M has provided to us to come on this trip through the Marshall Scholarship Program. The Marshall Scholarship creates a fund that can be used by students to perform community service or research projects. As recipients of this scholarship, throughout the trip we have been thinking critically of service and our role as volunteers, and we wanted to be sure we were using this award thoughtfully and as it was intended. As two weeks have now past, we can see in our experiences and reflections of stepping outside our comfort zone that we have truly grown as people and learned more than we can say. We acknowledge the apprehensions that go along with service trips, and in some ways we agree with the self-interested nature. However, due to this group’s awareness of this flaw, we try not to be passive participants and constantly question the appropriateness of the role we are playing. This mindfulness has contributed to an experience that undoubtedly made the most of our winter break.

When we first arrived at the guesthouse, our jet-lagged and relatively unacquainted group took a walk down the road and discovered what could only be described as the Tree of Life. We all stared in amazement and took an excruciatingly awkward first photo (choosing to pose as trees instead of actually touching each other). Today, we ceremoniously returned to this epic vertical hunk of wood, this time in our Heritage Academy dresses (and one shirt for Kyle) and students in tow. The picture from this afternoon lacks any awkwardness, and instead shows the true friends we have become over the course of the trip.

Thanks for seeing us through to the end,

Carey, Chloe, Erika, Jen, and everyone else

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Bittersweet Goodbyes

Today was really bittersweet as it was our last day at Heritage. It was probably our most extreme day of highs and lows. Each of us had a touching moment that reminded us of the work we had done with our students, but it also pained us to say goodbye to the kids we had built such strong relationships with, even in only 8 days.

Our last day in the classroom was very different from our previous seven. We all wanted to have fun with our students today, so some of us chose to play games while others had the students take a turn teaching the teachers. Today was as much about sharing culture and experiences as it was about continuing to share our educational interests. Sydney had a great time playing partner tag with her first class, Jennie had us all laughing when she told us about her game of “Red Light, Green Light,” and Jake and Teresa were impressed by the students’ choices of challenging words while they played Hangman. On the other hand, Sydney’s second class demanded to be taught, and they were able to grasp the Fibonacci sequence and the concept of infinity in one 50-minute class.

In our last reading periods, we noticed how far our students had come after reading one-on-one with us for the past week. We were shocked by their growth, and we’re optimistic that their improvement will continue. Anne had consistently used the same technique to help her students self-correct errors while reading aloud, and she was happy to notice today that her kids were helping each other using the same method. Teresa, who has been working with a student named Isaac for the last week, noticed significant improvement in his reading skills, making her feel like she has really made an impact at Heritage.

Despite these amazing highs, we all experienced some of our lowest lows. It was in the back of our minds throughout the day that this was our last day here. At the end of every other class, we had said “See you tomorrow!” but today, several of us had to catch ourselves and simply say “Good-bye.” One of Jennie’s students asked her throughout the day, “Are you leaving yet?” She was able to reassure him for most of the day that she would still be there for a few more hours, but eventually, the time came when she had to say yes.

At the end of the day, the school surprised us by holding a small assembly in our honor. We had an official chance to say thank you and good-bye to all of the students and teachers who had welcomed us to their school. We all had a chance to speak individually, but Mike blew all of us away with his eloquent and heartfelt speech thanking the kids and encouraging them to continue working hard in school (Lilah cried). DeGraft, the school’s headmaster, presented us all with traditionally wood-carved stools. They represented the strength of the relationship between Heritage and F&M, a relationship we all hope continues.

Looking back on our 8 days with our classes and reading groups, we all feel like we grew along with our students. We hope to continue the relationships we’ve made, both personally through written letters, and institutionally through future trips and support of the academy. We are excited to have two more days to explore Ghana, but we all recognize that the main purpose of our trip has come to a close. However, we know we will continue to learn and grow from these experiences with our students long after we return home.

Love,
Anne, Greg, and Alexis

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