“On July 31, 2014 the team took our first adventure into the villages outside of Accra. When we arrived in Akrmaman, the children ran to the preschool where the bus was driving us. Shortly after, the kids started arriving and peeking their heads out from behind the walls of the school. They were all shy at first and talking to Auntie Debi, but eventually they warmed up to us and we started playing.
Children kept showing up, and we eventually made a very large circle and played, “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Then, “Duck, Duck, Goose” turned into full-blown nursery rhyme session. The children and the team all held hands, sang, and made funny motions to the songs. A while later, everyone was doing their own thing, playing on swings, slide, catching chickens; a little bit of everything basically. I was playing with a little girl called Christiana. She kept trying to catch me while I ran from her. I looked behind me to see if she was still following, and there were a few more kids. I look over my shoulder a few moments later, and about a dozen and a half kids are chasing me! And man were they fast! As they were chasing me, I accidentally ran through the soccer…oh, no football field and got pegged in the back with a football then kept running, and inevitably slipped on the mud and fell. Christiana and I took about a million photos on my phone, and then sadly it was time to leave. On the bus ride home all I could think about was seeing the kids the next day, and wanting to come back to Ghana again next year.
I woke up the next morning with a smile on my face. I was so excited to go see the kids I jumped out of bed and got ready! And I NEVER jump out of bed! After we ate breakfast, we drove over an hour to the village on a very squished tro-tro. The kids once again ran after the bus, and met us at the school. When I saw Christiana and Nora, their faces lit up probably half as much as mine. I was ready to jump back in and play with them, but there was work to be done. We organized all the supplies, and got pencil cases, and Dr. Seuss bags ready for the ready camp kids. Then, we had training, and were taught how to teach the kids. Finally, after training, we got to play with the kids again, and they chased Aaron, Evan, and myself this time. Going into the village and getting to be with the children is definitely one of the best memories I have, and will ever have!”
Zach Neumann – We can all make a difference
“I’ve honestly never really believed that I make a difference. There are times when I have convinced myself that maybe I helped someone or was there for someone when they needed a shoulder but….make a difference? That’s a pretty big stretch.
This is my 6th trip to Ghana and fifth time bringing students along. Today we went out to Akramaman to set up for reading camp, which starts Monday. We passed through several village and towns to get to Akramaman, all of which are typical Ghanaian villages…small, dirty, busy, with lots of goats and chickens, lots of smoke, and lots and lots of children running around. As we passed through one of the villages, there were several children waving at the oburunis (white folk) in the trotro. Suddenly, I head above the din of hawkers, our trotro, sand trucks, and the other children’s voices, “HEEEYYYYYY…..UNCLE ZACH!” One of my children from a previous reading camp saw me. I smiled and enthusiastically waved back. Oh my gosh…..he remembered me. He was so overjoyed to see me again, even if just in a passing trotro. We continued on and soon entered another village. More chickens. More goats. More children. More trucks. “HEYYYYYY……UNCLE ZACH!!!!” Two more of my children saw me. Their smiles would light up an endless midnight. Why the excitement, why the smiles, why the joy?
We come each year to these dear ones to teach reading, but we come with a deeper, more profound and lasting mission: to love. We come to love the children the world overlooks and forgets. I might be the only person who smiles at Richard when he draws a green cow in his poetry book. I might be the only one who hugs Sarah just because I want to. I might be the only person who ever swings Deborah and Nora from my arms. And I can guarantee I am the only one who comes to this village to beatbox with my throat (but the children love it). And they remember. They remember and they know that we have come from far away to spend time with them, to play with them, to hug them; and, I love them. When Elena rounded the corner of the school, she paused. Then she saw me……..her face lit up and she ran to me and jumped into my arms, burying her face in my shoulder and holding on. “I love you Uncle Zach…….thank you for coming back”. We can all make a difference and change the world, one child at a time with a hug, a smile, or a letter. If I can do it, anyone can.”