On Yo Ghana's Facebook page we are having a discussion between students at Portland State University and the University of Education, Winneba, on growing up and responsibility in various cultures, especially the U.S. and Ghana. Others are welcome to participate. We hope it is a fun way to learn about and from each other.
People who travel to Africa and spend much time with Africans often report that they are unprepared for two surprises. First, most of Africa is a complex mix of traditional and modern. It's different from the U.S., but different in ways that most first-time visitors don't expect. Second, you are almost certain to meet people who are incredibly dedicated and optimistic, women and men who are throwing themselves into some good cause and seem joyful, rather than burned out, about it. As a young woman at Ashesi University put it to me two years ago, when I asked her why she was so determined to serve others: "You've got to give back. You've got to give back. You've got to give back." Or a friend who, when I asked him where he found the money to found his organization to help struggling students, replied: "I took the money I was spending on graduate school and gave it to them for their school fees."
Queen of Katwe is the first Hollywood film to capture those two realities, the rich complexity of African cultures and the extravagant dedication of so many of their people. And it's all about Africans, not white seekers in Africa. If you are interested in getting a sense of what urban Africa is like and be inspired by realistically rendered Africans, don't miss it.
A few months ago Elizabeth, Wendy, and I had the honor of meeting Miss Farida at ECG School in Tamale. Farida had recently lost her father and seemed very sad. But the school has a fund for such students that was helping her to stay in school.
A few days ago Mr. Joseph, our fine coordinator at ECG, sent us a photo of her with her new books. It's good to see her smile.
I have some friends in developing countries who believe that the only way to get people in the West to pay attention to their problems is to feature children who look forlorn and hopeless. Certainly I have been tempted to use such tactics when trying to raise money that Yo Ghana! uses to help such schools.
But the reality is that Miss Farida, her family, and ECG School are doing the hard work here. She is determined in school and refusing to let sadness overwhelm her life. Her family, despite losing its main wage earner, is paying most of her school fees. Her school had a fund for helping such families long before Yo Ghana! came along to contribute to it.
And it's really not accurate to say that Yo Ghana! came to ECG School. Rather, Yo Ghana! has emerged from ECG and other schools in Ghana and the Pacific Northwest, a family of inspiring people and institutions. There's not really a "we" and "them" here.
Farida is as much a part of Yo Ghana! as anyone else, and her determination and smile are an inspirational gift to us all.
Most of the entries will be from Dr. David Peterson del Mar, the President and co-founder of Yo Ghana!