by Katie Minden
About a week into my first trip to Ghana I met a young boy, Kwasi, and his cousin, Kwojo. They were about three years old. Kwasi and I connected instantly. He followed me around as I worked and would hold my hand whenever he got the chance. As I talked to some of the teenagers of the village, I began to hear bits and pieces of Kwasi’s story. Both of the boys’ parents had died and their grandmother, who was too old to really work, was now raising them, but she did her best to provide for Kwasi and Kwojo.
One day in the village, we handed out clothes to all of the children in the school. I took the two boys aside and made sure that both of them got new clothes and shoes that fit. I knew that these simple clothes donated by loving people back in the US would be the only clothes that they would have; a green shirt fit for a small child, you could tell it had been worn already by the stains down the front of it that would never go away, a pair of denim shorts that fit perfectly around the waist but fell below his knees, and a pair of Buzz Lightyear velcro sandals to protect his already worn feet that had never known shoes.
The next day my new friend Zule came up to me and said that Kwasi’s grandmother was looking for me. She began to explain what the grandmother had told her. She had seen me watching over Kwasi during the week making sure that he had new clothes and she wanted to thank me. Zule brought me over to her and the woman began to cry. In her broken English she tried her best to thank me for everything I had done for Kwasi and Kwojo. She handed me a bunch of bananas as a sign of her gratitude.
By American standards, it didn’t seem like much, but that woman gave me all that she had to thank me. I was overwhelmed by her generosity. I had gone there to help these beautiful people by building a school, but it was these small acts of love and kindness that had changed lives.
This woman and this moment have stayed with me since and will never leave me. Humbling does not come close to describe this experience. It has changed my life forever and my outlook on what happens around me. I have learned now, that often times it is the small things that really make a difference – those moments of kind words or loving actions that change lives and hearts – a hand to hold or a bunch of bananas.
Katie, age 17, is currently a senior in high school.
This summer was her second trip to Ghana.