“Journey to Africa” December 28, 2009

Our plane was due to leave Logan at 8:00 pm on Sunday night. We had a 4 hour delay which worked great for me because I still was unpacked a few hours prior to departure.

Our check in process was uneventful. We learned from last year and we bought sturdy Sterlite plastic bins to transport our supplies. We have 11 extra bins over and above our allowed luggage limits. We are restricted by the 50 pound weight limit. You would be amazed at how many supplies the students were able to collect either via donations or purchased with donated funds. In all we are carrying 22 boxes filled with baby formula, adult and child multivitamins, prescription and non-prescription meds, first aid supplies, kids toys, shoes and books, just to name a few. The hard part is distributing when we arrive. They are all so needy that we need to distribute in a fair and equitable manner.

Packing for myself was also a huge task. I have learned what I needed and now my task is to try and fit it in my suitcases. My large suitcase is over the weight limit but I gladly pay the extra fee because that suitcase contains my peanut butter and other food stuffs for the trip. I have some books I am bringing to donate and also have an assortment of gifts to give out when I arrive. I know when I come home the luggage will weigh much less.

I have also brought along a netbook. My goal is to journal my experiences in a WORD file and then upload at the internet caf’. I also have some small reference texts that I may need during the clinics.

Our plane is getting ready to board. We are told that the security coming home to the USA will be much stricter due to the recent terrorist incident in Detroit.


More to come from Africa.

Valerie’s Story

So the journey begins again for me. I am again traveling to Ghana Africa. Many of my close friends and family wonder at my decision to return. I made the journey last year and it was an incredible experience but not without some challenges. The assumption last year for my friends, family and yes even for me was that I would probably not return. For me it was’ been there, done that.’

As time elapsed after my trip I had a chance to reflect upon my experience there was a seed that was planted and it grew very slowly. That seed was ‘are you going to go again?” I will be honest with you and tell you that I did not nurture that seed. I hoped that someone else would take that seed from me but like a dandelion weed, even when deprived of water and nourishment seems to grow.

So after some soul searching and I decided to return to Africa. I feel that we (UMass Lowell) made a commitment to the people of Kpando and surrounding villages that we would return. If I returned with the new group of students we would be fulfilling our commitment to them.

Last year I vividly recall a ceremony with some of the village elders (the Chiefs) of Nkonya. It was a very symbolic moment marked by speeches by the chiefs and a UML student and the ritualistic consumption of Schnapps. Their comments to us were that many groups have come to their village but not too many return. I saw that ceremony with us as their effort to solidify the relationship and encourage a long term relationship.

This has stayed with me and this is one of the big reasons that I return. I will have new stories and insight this year. Part of me is dreading some of the living conditions because it is not the nice comfortable life I live in at home. The other part of me is looking forward to seeing how this trip can be even better than last year. It was life changing for me and the students last year and I don’t expect this year to be any different.

I sent email reports back to family and friends about my experiences. This helped me sort thru my emotions that I was going thru and was a great way for me to document my trip. The recipients of the email stories told me that they read each entry with interest and requested that I do the same thing this year. I have decided that a more efficient way to do this is the have a BLOG (which you are reading now).

This will be like my personal journal and I am sure throughout this journey you may see me in a different light depending on my words and recollections. Comments are welcome but please note that they will be read by anyone who reads the BLOG. I also hope to be able to download some photos to go along with my stories. The internet accessibility and speed is not very good here. Lastly, I try to give a title or theme to each of my entries. Last year I had ‘Toto I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore’ or ‘Mr Toad’s Wild Ride’. It helps me to keep my creative juices going and I had a blast trying to think up the themes or titles.

wanted to thank all my friends and family for their support during the planning
process and now while we are away. I
hope to say a bit more in a later entry about some of our generous donors and
their stories. Thanks for being
interested in the BLOG. Feel free to
forward the link to anyone whom you think might have interest The link to the site is http:// www.blog.uml.edu/nswb