My day begins every morning at 6:45am when I leave my hostel to head for the tro tro. What’s a tro tro? It’s the main form of public transportation in Ghana, but no it’s not a bus. It’s a big van that seats 4 rows of people; personal space does not exist, and you must be quick to get on before it leaves. After riding the tro tro for anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on traffic, I finish my commute with a 20 minute walk and am ready to start my work day at 9am.
At Street Children Empowerment Foundation (SCEF), I am a member of the Social Services team. One of the team’s responsibilities is to conduct follow up visits with some of the children. This involves traveling to the child’s home to see how they are doing as well as their parent(s) or whoever is caring for them. I, personally, have had the opportunity to accompany my supervisor during two follow up visits with Eric. Eric is one of two children SCEF is currently covering all medical expenses for. He suffers from cerebral palsy and recently received surgery on both of his legs so he can walk. The follow up visits have allowed us, the Social Services team, to see how Eric has been recovering from his surgery as he begins his physiotherapy process.
The first time I was told I was going to visit Eric, I had no idea what to expect. We left the office in the morning, and off we went – I had no idea what this visit would entail or how long it would take to get there. We began walking and quickly grabbed a taxi; however, we weren’t in the taxi for long before we switched to a tro tro. Off we drove as I sat in the tro tro observing my surroundings; busy streets, filled with people walking, selling, and hopping onto tro tros.
The entire time we were driving I honestly had to remind myself, “Cassandra you’re at work right now, this is your job”. It didn’t seem like this is what “work” should feel like, but then again, if there is one thing I have learned since being a part of the Social Service team, it’s that social work is not your average job. Social work requires you to dive right into the scene and the life of the child in order to be able to fix the problem. SCEF gives me these first-hand experiences, unlike most other internships or volunteer opportunities I have had.
After about 1.5 hours on the tro tro, we got off and got ready for the last leg of the trip – the moto ride. Yes, we rode a motorcycle to get to Eric’s house. He lives on a dirt road, so moto is the easiest and quickest way to get there. Although I was slightly scared to hop on this small moto with both the driver and my supervisor, Nancy, I was also kind of excited. Since being in Ghana, I’ve noticed motos are a pretty popular and quick mode of transportation. Getting to ride the moto really let me get the “full” experience, and turned out to be not so scary after all.
After a short moto ride we arrived at Eric’s home, where we were greeted by him and his mother. His mother was incredibly welcoming, immediately offering myself and Nancy a place to sit and something to drink. This woman has never met me before, I am a stranger in her home, yet here she was offering me water and expressing so much gratitude. It seemed odd to be so comfortable in a stranger’s home, but that’s exactly how I felt: comfortable and appreciated. And at the same time, I was also appreciative of her.Eric, a 17 year-old boy, expressed even more gratitude and joy, and I have never before seen a smile so big.
I am so grateful that working at SCEF provides me with the opportunity to take part in these types of first hand experiences. I am getting to dive right into the field of social work as it is in Ghana, while at the same time learning so much about the culture, area, communities and most importantly the lives of these children. Attending follow up visits with my supervisor, Nancy, allows me to see the ground work SCEF puts in, and truly learn about the organization and the impact it is having on these children’s lives. At SCEF, they believe that a major aspect of social work is to be familiar with the community in order to truly understand the child, and taking part in this follow up visit, as well as future visits, is allowing me to do just that.
Wilfried Laurier University, Canada