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Out of Africa

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
1 Corinthians 12, 5


Out of Africa

We welcome back to the diocese Amy Armstrong, who has just spent part of her gap year in Ghana. Here she tells us of her experiences.

My name is Amy Armstrong and I am part of an amazing gap year programme in Ghana.

I am based at Just Youth, a Spiritan retreat centre in Salford. There, I work in schools raising social justice issues. Part of the gap year programme means that I received a month experience in a developing country. Earlier this year, I went with two other volunteers to Ghana. We stayed with the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus.

We spent two weeks in Bolgatanga in the upper east region. We met some incredible people there. The people there are 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 have 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. Students 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 in Takoradi. The babies and mothers are very well looked after, but 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.

It was fascinating to see the differences between the north and the south of Ghana. 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 have such easy access to produce from all over the world.

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 6am 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.

Since returning from Ghana, I have been going into schools with the Just Youth team and CAFOD to tell students in Salford and Manchester about the wonderful people I met and the inspirational stories I heard. The students love hearing the stories and are fascinated about the lives of people their age in Ghana. I think that they are becoming aware that they should be grateful for what they have.