Sustainable & Life Changing: My Reflections on CommonBond's 2018 Trip to Ghana

Christina Martin, along with three other CommonBond members, was chosen to attend our annual Impact in Action Trip in Ghana. She's agreed to share her thoughts with our readers, as have the other CB members and employees who participated in the trip.

Family/Friend: "What's new with you? Wait, how was Ghana?"

Me: "Ghana was an incredible and very humbling experience. The trip was through Pencils of Promise, a for-purpose organization out of New York City that builds schools and supports educational progress in underdeveloped areas of Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos. Everything they do is data-driven and sustainable, which as a pharmacist, I greatly appreciate. There were so many highlights from our time there, I can't even pick a favorite moment!"

This conversation has played out many times since I returned from the Impact in Action trip to Ghana. It is still surreal that the opportunity to see firsthand the effects of CommonBond's Social Promise even exists, let alone that I was selected to be a part of it. Still, that's exactly what happenedI traveled to Ghana in mid-February 2018 with fellow CommonBond members and employees.

By training, I am a pharmacist, and I was encouraged to pursue a pharmacy career because I enjoy helping others. In 2005, a family friend encouraged me to accompany him on a two-week mission to Honduras and volunteer in a makeshift clinic pharmacy. I thought the trip would just be a one-time opportunity to expand my pharmaceutical knowledge, but the experience became a part of who I am, and I've traveled with that same group to Honduras seven times since. I keep going back because of the sustainable and life-changing parts of the work we do. From pulling rotted teeth so a patient can eat again to removing impacted ear wax so a patient can hear again, we leave a lasting impact. One day we met an elderly man who carried his adult son three hours to our clinic. The son had cerebral palsy and could not walk, so the father carried him everywhere. I remember the tears rolling down this father's cheek as our team constructed a wheelchair from a plastic chair and bicycle wheels. I hold these stories dear in my heart.

Sustainable and life-changingthese same two words describe the work I got to do with CommonBond and Pencils of Promise in Ghana. We arrived in Accra on a Friday morning and, after clearing customs and retrieving our bags, we traveled to a school in Agbakope to observe the WASH and teacher-support programs. WASH stands for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene and is dedicated not only to keeping kids healthy and in school, but also to improving hygienic habits in the community. While the full community impact is still being evaluated, we frequently heard stories of kids chiding their families and past visitors for not taking a full 20 seconds to wash their hands. Hand hygiene has been shown to save lives, so I'm confident that this sustainable recommendation can only help.

On the second day, we had an opportunity to roll up our sleeves and help a community in Adaklu Henakope construct their new school. We learned that when a site is approved for a new school build, the community is obligated to contribute at least 20 percent; their contributions often come in the form of labor and materials. Before diving in, we were greeted by the community elders and were thanked for sacrificing our time to participate in the project. One of the local politicians spoke of the socioeconomic improvements that a new school would bring to the region, but noted that the site still did not have access to clean water. As if on cue, a well-drilling rig pulled up and all of the community memberschildren, parents, and elderserupted in cheers and applause. Their elation at this new water well was an extremely humbling moment for me, as I often don't think twice about the water I use when brushing my teeth or cooking my meals. Now the schoolchildren will have access to clean water. Sustainable and life-changing.

Our final visit was to Oseikrom to participate in an inauguration ceremony for a new school opening in the community. The inauguration itself was an extremely wonderful event filled with traditional dancing and music; however, it was the wholeness of the day that left a lasting impact. We were all brought there by a common purposeto provide and support education. In the words of Malala Yousafzai, "One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world."

Many thanks to CommonBond CEO David Klein for having a "1-for-1" vision and creating a sustainable avenue for education in a world where escalating student debt seems insurmountable. Thanks to CommonBond, the money I am saving on my refinanced student loans has been used to purchase medications and supplies for those ongoing Honduras missions. Finally, I am thankful to have gained awareness of Pencils of Promise and have joined the organization as a Passport member so I can continue supporting their sustainable work. I can't wait to receive photos and videos of the children we're impacting firsthand; maybe I'll see some familiar faces! Akpe, CommonBond.

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