Inspirations, we all have them, and everyone seems to blog about what theirs is, and the point when the switch went off and they wanted to turn their inspirations into action. I can’t say that I had an amazing revelation that told me I needed to go to Africa and make a documentary, but I can say that the decision for this trip wasn’t made overnight.
I was first offered the opportunity by Sebastian Lindstrom, founder of the What Took You So Long Foundation. I had been interning for the What Took You So Long Foundation for a couple of months as an “on the ground” intern and was asking Sebastian if he knew any good African non-profits to volunteer with over the upcoming summer. He told me all about Light for Children and how it began when he first traveled to Ghana and met two Ghanian fathers, Mike and Yaw, both of whom had HIV positive children. From the ground up he started Light for Children which has now become a very successful and well known Ghanaian non-profit. I admired his ambition and his unending passion for the people of a country he had just traveled to. I immediately loved what Light for Children stood for and looked further into possibly volunteering with them for a short period of time post high school graduation and pre college. I shopped around for other possible destinations but found none quite like Light for Children. I thought that I wanted to stay in Ghana for just a few weeks, possibly two or three, then come back home to the States and have enough time with my friends to make some memories, pack for college, and say goodbye.
At the moment, I was enveloped in the idea of living in Ghana for three weeks but in the back of my mind hid a pocket of fear. The high school I attend is one of the best in the suburbs, but is also very straight-minded. To say it simply, most students just don’t go and live in Africa after graduation. They spend their summers vacationing with family, shopping for college, and spending every possible second with their friends before they leave. I felt the pressure to mingle in with this crowd and take a little leave but then return home and jump right back into what my friends were doing. Fears of others opinions, thoughts and ideas seemed to be making the decision on length of my stay in for me.
With these ideas still fresh in my mind, I decided that my senior class should try to raise money for Light for Children and their campaign to support 50 HIV positive children for an entire year. And thus, The Power of One at Lyons Township High School was born. My ideas were turning into solidified plans and actions, but my summer trip still wasn’t decided on. I was trying to explain to my peers why we should raise money for this cause that I was becoming so passionate about. They really liked the idea of Light for Children but one of the students asked why this organization was different than any other African non-profit. I explained to him the back story and about my potential trip. He was shocked that I was possibly going to Ghana and what an amazing opportunity it was. He said that I probably will come back feeling good knowing that I spend a few weeks of my summer bettering the world. The conversation concluded and life went on as normal but I still was stuck.
I constantly seemed to reflect upon the fact that I was trying to explain why students at my school should get involved, yet I myself wasn’t putting my all into my trip. I was settling, taking the easy way out, pleasing both parties. I wanted to travel to Ghana and volunteer, but at the time I also wanted to have a summer with my friends. I was fearful of the unknown. The unknown was taking a leap of faith and leaving all that I knew behind. Over the course of a week I set up a fundraising plan at school, finished researching on volunteering with Light for Children, and decided I would spend three whole months in Ghana.
And from that point on, I have never looked back.
Here I am now less than three months away from embarking on my three month journey to Africa. I realized that week that what I have been trying to do for so long is to repress what I truly believe in due to fear and judgement. Peers may say that I am crazy for going to Ghana for three months because I will return just a few days before I start college, my friends aren’t the happiest that I’m “missing” the whole summer, and my parents are constantly worried about my safety.
Because just like the story of the founding of Light for Children and Sebastian inspired me, I hope to inspire others as well.