Student Spotlight: Internship with Patriots Ghana/Cheerful Hearts Foundation

I have had the amazing opportunity to intern with Patriots Ghana/ Cheerful Hearts Foundation on the Child labor and trafficking project. This Non-profit organization is located in the Central region of Ghana to raise awareness to end child labor within the 3 fishing communities in Ghana, called Senya, Fetteh, and Nyanyano. These regions are located on the seashore. Their efforts to end child labor include conducting educational school talks, completing interviews with sponsored students who were rescued from child labor, and office work that encompassed intense deliberation and planning for events that would be conducive for the community.

During this internship, the educational school talks were directed to students from primary and junior high school (elementary and middle school students). We surpassed our goal of speaking to 1,000 students at 16 schools within all three regions. Our days would consist of traveling from Kasoa, which is where the Cheerful Hearts Office is located, and journey to either Senya or Fetteh which are about 1-2 hours away. Once we reached the destination we would have to hunt down the headmaster (school principal) to allow them to gather all the students. An educational school talk that stood out the most was when my team and I were caught in a thunderstorm. The taxi driver could not drive us up to the hill to the school because it was too muddy and we would all get stuck. As a result, he dropped us off at the side of a local orphanage. No one on the team had an umbrella or raincoat. After waiting an hour for the rain to pass, which it did not, we had to make run for it. We ran in the rain up a muddy hill to the school without any rain protective gear. Reluctantly, I was the only with an umbrella and raincoat. When we all finally reached the school my whole team was drenched except for me because I am always prepared. That day was the highlight of all our school talks because it was the funniest and most memorable.

I acquired more skills than I anticipated during my time in Ghana those include negotiation and communication skills, risk management, personal organization, and a sense of humor. I pride myself in having a great sense of humor when the workload was strenuous or the office felt dull. I would have a blast during my work by maintaining a positive attitude and cracking jokes, which allowed us to laugh. Laughter naturally releases any stress that may be due to a stern environment. I have always been a great communicator but due to language and cultural barriers it was more difficult to communicate with the management team. It is easy to understand our ideas for ourselves but others may not comprehend the same way. I learned to take my time when explaining things, not in a way to make someone feel like an imbecile but so that all of our thoughts can be fully understood. Lastly, is the risk management being in a third world country requires us to always be prepared. Before leaving for work I made sure to pack everything I needed to be successful in the office or on the field from packing my hand wipes, hand sanitizer, laptop, and even an umbrella. Although many people did not find it necessary to carry all those things around, I did because there will be a time when it is needed.

This experience has changed my entire outlook on life. I am extremely blessed to live in America because some people do not have the basic luxuries that we have from air conditioning, hot running water, unlimited WIFI, consistent electricity, or even a washer and dryer. Although America has many problems I am thankful for our industrialization and development. We have paved roads and sidewalks, booming businesses, great jobs, and free basic education.  These are just a few of the many things that Ghana is lacking in. I learned a lot from their culture. Ghanaians have a strong love for people from all backgrounds and religions, they are very family-oriented and help whenever they can. There are bad people everywhere but in this country, most people are genuinely kind and helpful. They are people who have so little but are grateful for the things they do have, such as their rich culture, many languages, and their amazing personalities. If there is one thing I will miss from Ghana it is the people. I appreciate the Gilman scholarship for funding my entire trip. They did not only pay for my internship but they invested in the woman I will become in the future and that is priceless.

Modelyne Saintelus is a third-year student at Florida State University majoring in International Affairs.

The featured image is from Linkedin.

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