This summer, I’ll be taking five of my former English students to Accra, Ghana to continue to work on a project started a few months ago called The Ghana Sports Initiative. Sponsored and made possible by Brute Labs, this trip is the re-imagination of the summer volunteer abroad trip, and a chance for me to share my most cherished lessons and experiences in the field with college students aspiring to work in international development.
When I returned to my teaching career after a year of working in Ghana, some of my students would ask me to take them the next time I went. I dismissed these requests as typical teenager talk, but a few of them persisted well into college. Incredibly, talks of starting a small development project gained momentum in the Fall of 2010. In those initial conversations, we defined some of the core values that still govern our project today:
I had been following stories about Ghana’s lack of Olympic participation and hearing about young parents who bemoaned the lack of sporting opportunities for their children. Why was a country like Ghana, who had just beaten the United States in the World Cup, struggling to develop positive sporting opportunities for their children? Our team felt compelled to investigate this question and felt we could apply our enthusiasm, our personal experiences, and our academic training in offering solutions.
For months now, we’ve been immersing ourselves in relevant academic literature, interviewing university professors and career development workers, and establishing contacts in Ghana. This summer, we’ll be conducting interviews, building partnerships, and taking on small sports development projects in the interests of first building our own capacity.
My kids are already learning real lessons in international development, social entrepreneurship, and non-profit management. As their capacity grows, so does our initiative’s. The lessons I will enjoy passing on the most are the ones I learned in my own year abroad: it takes far more than good intentions to do good, nationals have the most interesting things to say about their own development, and that real development work is typically unglamorous and without grandiosity.
John Rue is an English teacher at Campbell Hall school in North Hollywood, CA. Learn more about this project at www.ghanasportsinitiative.org.