When I think of Africa in general my mind always drifts directly to Safaris, the Pyramids of Giza, and Nelson Mandela. Africa has always been a country that greatly interests me as it has such a rich history and such amazing landscape. Of course there is always a downside; the horrors that we have seen with apartheids, starvation, and diseases. This is a continent that has a lot of instability. Its countries are at war within and with each other and they are always looking for more power. The weaker countries loose to such rebel forces and its citizens live in fear.
In 1999 the World Special Olympics were hosted in the state of North Carolina. Since this was such a big event there were different host towns for different countries. My town took on the task of hosting Ghana and Namibia. It was a life changing event. These children were from nothing, especially those from Ghana which is where our two were from, and yet they were still happy and carefree kids. We had a boy and a girl that stayed with us and they were two of the sweetest people that I have ever met to this day. What hurt so much when we sent them back was what we knew we were sending them back to. We had heard their story and it wasn’t pretty.
The girl lived in an orphanage. She was raised by people who didn’t care about her. She was raised that it was okay for other people to bully her because she was different. We took her shopping, we made her desserts, we took her hiking; it was all new to her. She was used to having to defend herself not accept gifts. When they left we found everything we had bought her hidden in different places of the house. We found whole pieces of cake tucked deep into my closet. This is the life she was used to living because nobody in her government cared (or could) to do anything to help her.
The boy was different. He was a little older and had less of a mental disorder than she did. He was caring and willing to learn. He learned how to ride a bike with us, play soccer and how we give shots to our animals to keep them healthy, I remember this because he was fascinated. He had a family but a family that took advantage of the situation. After they left we received a letter thanking us for letting him stay with us from his parents but also asking for a video camera, tractor and bicycle, just to name a few.
Their way of life is so much different than how we grew up. They were brought up in a country full of civil war, unsteady governments and rebels. According to the text, “West Africa is in the midst of an oil boom today, but, unfortunately, too many corrupt elite benefit, instead of improving the masses.” This is the type of environment we were sending these poor children grew up in and didn’t know how to react to the ways and culture of the USA. It is heart breaking to see the way that some cultures may be extremely interesting while still being neglected with things that we see as a luxury such as bottled water and they are struggling to get clean drinking water. I will forever hold a special place in my heart of these children and pray that they have the best life possible.
Our little town is still very proud of this even though its 18 years later.
Moran, Robert T.; Abramson, Neil Remington; Moran, Sarah V.. Managing Cultural Differences (p. 519). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.