When a transformative African childhood results in a benefit to children halfway around the world in Maine, USA, it’s news.
We generally expect volunteering abroad to be directed towards Africa from outside, rather than within and away from the continent. The work of organizations like Mmofra Foundation may be changing that perception.
How does the Mmofra Foundation experience touch the world through children who have read, played, listened, moved and learned in its simple and unique outdoor environment model?
The Ghana-based NGO “opens the world of ideas to children through books, the arts, experiential learning, sustainable living and cultural grounding”. Its mission is to help “create capable and creative changemakers for a better world”.
Child by child, these methods appear to be working. Today’s young adults who came up through Mmofra’s programs beginning in 1997, are answering this question by paying forward the cultural advantages which have helped to shape them.
At Bates College in Maine, USA, Economics major David Longdon ’14 exemplifies the confidence and grounding of many students who have grown up with good opportunities in African countries – in his case, Ghana.
Amongst those opportunities, David includes his early childhood years as a member of Mmofra Foundation’s language club and his exposure to a unique green oasis in the city of Accra where an open air cultural enrichment program of books, storytelling, music, dance, art and drama made an indelible mark on him.
Especially memorable was the organic urban garden associated with the space which his mother, an innovative and successful horticulturist, started.
Years later and not by coincidence, David is seriously considering sustainable agriculture and agro-business as a career option for himself.
His 2011 summer volunteer assignment as a leadership intern and community-based research fellow with the Nutrition Center of Maine’s Lots To Gardens program has literally given him much food for thought.
Lots to Gardens is a youth-focused organization that uses sustainable urban agriculture to create access to fresh healthy organic food for the community in Lewiston, Maine.
An integral part of David’s experience was to learn how to work outside a classroom setting and to bridge the gap between staff and youth – responsibilities for which he already had an instinctive grasp. You could say he has had a lifetime of preparation for just such a skill set.
When he is back in Accra, David finds his U.S. experience to be useful as well. He has a lot more to offer there as a Mmofra volunteer, now that he sees the potential that an urban garden offers for nutrition-based learning through hands-on activity.
The image of a young African volunteer surrounded by American children may soon be nothing to write home about.
Fresh and Healthy is a short video of David’s summer internship at Lots to Gardens in his own words.
Story and images by kind courtesy of Bates College Communications Office.