Karen and Paul LeFever, host parents to Emmanuel Mwinbong (2016; Ghana/CO) took a ten day trip to visit their exchange son in Ghana from January 15th-25th, 2017. Highlights from their trip:
- Met and traveled with Emmanuel’s family.
- Witnessed the process of making chili powder in the factory Emmanuel works part-time in.
- Visited Emmanuel’s PreK-8th grade school.
- Participated in the 2-day Africa Rising Leadership Conference.
- Attended a traditional Ghanaian church followed by eating a traditional meal.
- Toured Ashesi, a premier leadership university in Ghana.
- Journeyed through the Kakum National Forest after seeing the Cape Coast and Elmina Castle.
Each day, Karen and Paul fell more in love with Ghana and more importantly it’s people. This trip allowed them to experience the culture their new son grew up in; connecting them more deeply to him, his family, and his country. When Emmanuel arrived to the airport to start his exchange year, Ghana was no longer a dot on the map for the LeFever family. Ghana was the home of someone they loved. Now, the LeFever family has their own second home, with their own second family, in a country that will forever be in their hearts; Ghana.
The following are the daily posts made about their ten day experience in Ghana, written by Karen LeFever. Read and enjoy learning the details of their life-changing trip.
Day One –
Look who picked us up at the airport in Ghana! Emmanuel and Edmund!
Today Emmanuel, his mother and three siblings took us on a tour of their community. First we visited his cousin Matthew and his young family and saw where Emmanuel played street soccer as a young child. Next we went to the Mwinbong family home. To say our time together filled our hearts is an understatement.
Today we toured Bisaworld Limited Chili Pepper Factory in the industrial city of Tema. Emmanuel is one of the part-time employees in the factory and he, under the capable and most supportive direction of co-founders Stephen Paul Feiden, Daniel Lucero and Daniel Tuakly, toured us around the factory.
Their mission is to “reduce poverty in Ghana and rural communities, by creating jobs through a modernized farming and production process” and to “combat food-borne illness through the distribution of locally grown agricultural products that are healthy and safe to consume.” The social impact for change is tangible and we are honored to know such visionary leaders! ? ?
Today we toured TWO PreK – 8th grade schools. Similar to many US schools, equity is a significant issue to be addressed in Ghana to ensure ALL children have access to a quality education… there is a stark difference between the “public government” schools (where surprisingly all families are required to pay tuition) and the private schools – owned by proprietors in many cases. For context, tuition at the private school we visited is approx $300 per year per child. I’m not sure what it is in the public schools but will try to find out. Families do absolutely everything they can to send their children to a private school vs the public gov’t school if possible.
The private school we visited today is where Emmanuel attended as a boy (they were thrilled to see him as it has been 5 years!) Although it too was modest by US standards, the contrast in the two facilities, books, learning materials and most of all, expectations of the children was immediately evident. Both schools were filled with smart and eager young learners and adults who seemed to care – but the differences were sobering.
Tomorrow I’ll participate in a leadership conference and one of the four strands is education. But, more on that tomorrow – it is way past midnight here and I need to get some sleep! Thanks friends for your kind thoughts and comments as Paul and I experience this beautiful country and her people!
Day Five & Six:
Africa Rising Leadership Conference! Paul and I came to Ghana at this particular time not only to reunite with Emmanuel and meet his beautiful family, but to join Solomon Baddoo, Annie Feiden Baddoo and a small team of leaders to participate in the inaugural Ghana Africa Rising leadership conference.
It was such an honor and privilege to be a part of this event and I am CERTAIN new leaders will rise up and lead their country to new horizons. The purpose of the two day conference was to teach them transformational leadership and begin a dialogue around enlarging their vision so THEY can take action to create positive change and impact – be it large or small, in Ghana. We didn’t want them to come away thinking we (Americans) had all the answers on how to best do this in Ghana. They do- but we were here to give them tools and share helpful lessons.
The breakout sessions included education, medicine, and business development/ entrepreneurship. A group of roughly 100 eager and spirited Ghanaians came with a deep hunger and desire to learn about leadership. They desire to challenge the status quo and embrace the responsibility before them. I was struck at how deeply they craved mentorship and guidance as they want to apply their convictions for change in Ghana.
Solomon challenged them to “Be part of the change” that is desperately needed and Niki Tshibaka encouraged them to “See beyond the horizon” and to ” take hold of the pen and write their own history” rather than allowing others to write it for them.
“Life is not a ladder we climb. It is a path we walk.” These two days forged a brand new path for many of the participants and I can hardly wait to see what is yet to come from these emerging Ghanaian leaders! And, while Paul and I came to give to others, what we are receiving and learning is deeper than I could have even begun to imagine. I am so very humbled.
Today is Sunday and we had the privilege to join parishioners at a Four Square church pastored by Nathaniel- Solomon Baddoo’s close relative. Paul and I have never attended a Four Square church so this was very interesting for us. The church was filled with passionate men, women and children. They exuded love for one another and for the Lord and eagerly and warmly welcomed Paul and I as family too. Here they make and take time for worship and don’t feel any urgency to adhere to a strict timetable to end at a set time.
The church is located in what I believe is a traditional Ghanaian family complex where multiple homes are built around a central quad for gathering. Community is literally built into their lives and it is a model for how to live with and take care of others. We loved it!
After a relaxing afternoon and leisurely nap, we went to the beach and bought two paintings from a talented local artist and indulged in a traditional meal of “Red Red” and rice at The Palm Beach Hotel. Our Ghanaian friends Michael and Sam had a type of fish stew/soup and as is customary here, ate the soup with their hands. The waiter brings a small stand and places a bowl of water on top and puts it next to them so they can wash their hands before and after the meal.
As we enjoyed our meal, the skies opened up, the rain poured down, and the lightening lit up the sky and ocean for two hours. Another spectacular day here in wonderful and beautiful Ghana. ??
We are falling in love with this place and more importantly, the people! ❤??
Yesterday we drove up into the hills through the small village of Berekuso to tour the premiere University in Ghana – Ashesi (if you haven’t heard of it yet, you will soon – look it up.) The drive up was fantastic.
Once at the university, we saw the mission of Ashesi in action. They strive to educate ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa who will help transform the continent. We met with three of the senior leaders of the university and left inspired for what lies ahead for not only the students and alumni of Ashesi, but for Ghana and Africa as a result of their unwavering dedication to ethical and transformational leadership and an outstanding liberal arts education.
The Cape Coast, Elmina Castle and the Kakum National Forest. This particular day was a gift as it was spent with our Ghanaian family, who we came to love and treasure even more dearly and deeply this week.
At 5:30 am Emmanuel, Edmund, Evelyn, and their mom Rebecca piled into a van and drove 3 hours to the Cape Coast. We shared moments filled with deep laughter and quiet reflection. Collectively, and for the first time for all of us, we experienced two castles where the transatlantic slave trade occurred. Side by side we walked through dreadful dungeons, dark and humid cells and through the door of “no return” where surviving captives were ripped away from Africa- from their families- from their freedom. It is unimaginable.
We also toured the Kakum rainforest canopy and courageously ventured across 7 suspended rope and plank bridges high above the forest floor.
It was a day that changed us all. We are woven together. ❤
Day Ten: Our Journey Home
AKWAABA ….. it means WELCOME.
If you vicariously joined our trip to Ghana, you know by now that we were genuinely welcomed by the people of Ghana during our stay. ??
American friends, you will be welcomed as well when you visit. And to our new Ghanaian friends and family, we will extend the same and with open arms say, “Akwaaba” to you when you come to our country. Until we meet again- God Speed.
“Akwaaba” an international exchange student into your home and open the world to your family. Host a World Link exchange student!