Before joining CommonBond, I knew the company had a Social Promise component that involves granting educational access to people around the world. That made CommonBond unique to me, and since I've worked here, I've heard great things from people who previously went on the trip. This year, I finally had the chance to be part of it. The experience exceeded all of my expectations and seeing our impact in action, as well as meeting so many wonderful people, really touched my heart. I've put together this photojournal to share some of my favorite moments from an unforgettable trip.
Day 1: School Programs & Scouting Day
After our plane landed at 8 AM, we hopped right onto a bus and headed straight to Agbakope to visit the first school. Waiting upon our arrival were a group of children with the sweetest smiles I've ever seen. The collapsing chapel in the background of this picture was their old classroom.
The staff from Pencils of Promise escorted us around the new school and invited us into the classrooms to observe the lessons. Although the children were interested in their visitors, they still participated in class, and encouraged each other, clapping and cheering with joy every time a classmate got an answer right. Then, the staff from Pencils of Promise explained the thorough process of how they decide to build schools in specific communities—these communities are usually picked because every member is willing to help with the children's educations however they can.
Teachers usually start off the class with a morning icebreaker. They encourage the students to gather around and sing, clap, and tell each other what they did the night before. This exercise is meant to help improve the students' social skills and build in them a sense of belonging to the group.
Day 2: Construction Day
The next day, we were brought to Adaklu Henakope, a new community that has been chosen to host a school build. The picture above shows the old classroom, which was long overdue for an upgrade. The locals told us they tend to have more time for school-building activities during the dry season. During the regular season, they have to spend their time working on the farm.
After a warm greeting from the local community, we took part in building the new school. We were taught how to make bricks for the walls. We also helped lay sand to set up the foundation for the school's hallway. Even though it was hard work, it was a really fun and rewarding experience. We actually danced and laughed as we were carrying giant pans of sand on our heads.
Our local hosts did whatever they could to show their appreciation. They offered us fresh coconut water and started to play music on their handmade drums. We all found ourselves joining them for an hour-long dance.
Day 3: Seeing Ghana Day
The picture above is from our visit to the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. These are Mona monkeys, which are not shy around humans at all. The locals have reported that sometimes while cooking in the kitchen, the monkeys will come in just to sit there and watch you and your food.
If you hold a banana in your hands and try to feed the monkeys, they will gently climb onto your shoulder. They're not aggressive and won't scratch your hands. Surprisingly, they won't even try to snatch the banana away when you're not paying attention!
After a nice half-hour hike into the woods, we came to admire the beauty of Ghana's tallest waterfall, Wli Falls. A breathtaking site, people are allowed to go under the waterfall and swim in the refreshing pool.
Day 4: Inauguration Day
The last day of our trip was the day that brought everything we saw together. We attended a school inauguration in Oseikrom. Everyone from the community showed up for the ceremony, including government officials, the elders, the chief of the village, the building committee of the school, and the teachers and children whom we came to love.
During the inauguration, there were lots of inspiring speeches and traditional dances. One speech that struck me the most was a student's reflection on the relationship between her dreams and what's now become reality. In her speech, she said, "Because you built the school, I no longer have to dream about the school that I saw on TV."
After the ribbon cutting, the children rushed into their new classrooms. They were very excited to be in such a beautiful new school. As they waved and cheered together in appreciation, I was also filled with gratitude to be there.