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online highlights

www.aajavoices.org Explore AAJA’s Voices 20th anniversary interactive timeline and see how the program has evolved over the years. Watch a video of a night at Garden Bowl, the oldest and only bowling alley in properDetroit. The city boasts the highest number of registered bowlers in the U.S. Listen to some beats from Asian-American hip-hop artists and learn more about Detroit’s local musicians.

aaja voices august 11, 2011 online: aajavoices.org

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VOICES FROM VOICES

Despite Ghanaian poverty, smiles can brighten the days After refereeing a children’s soccer match for hours under the scorching African sun, my Ghanaian friend Matthew and I sprawled out on the cool concrete steps of the Challenging Heights school building, hailey sipping on pineapple juice boxes. lee “This reminds me of childhood,â€? I said, chuckling. “During elementary school, my mum put a Mott’s apple juice box in my lunch bag HYHU\GD\%\Ă€IWKJUDGH,ZDVVRVLFNRI them.â€? Matthew took a sip from his juice box DQGUHSOLHG´7KLVGHĂ€QLWHO\EULQJVPH back, too. I got pineapple juice boxes as Christmas presents.â€? Silence. How could a juice box be considered a luxury? Interactions such as this one during my four-week volunteer trip to Challenging Heights in Winneba, Ghana, opened my eyes to the omnipresence of poverty in one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. I arrived at Challenging Heights in July, galvanized by the intention of making a difference in the lives of the hundreds of rescued child laborers at the school. +HDGPDVWHU-DPHV.RĂ€$QQDQZKR was enslaved as a child for nearly a deFDGHZRUNLQJIRUWKHĂ€VKLQJLQGXVWU\RQ the banks of Lake Volta, founded Challenging Heights after earning an education and working as a bank manager at one of the largest banks in Ghana. He used his success to establish the school, which resFXHVDQGHGXFDWHVWUDIĂ€FNHGFKLOGVODYHV and ensures the welfare of at-risk children. Initially, I was easily affected by the poverty I witnessed. Every day, I would QDYLJDWHWKHPD]HRIWUDVKĂ€OOHGVWUHHWV and makeshift vendors in Winneba on my way to and from the school. My body would shiver at the sight of smiling children in rags – if they wore any clothes at all – running up to me, hands outstretched, oblivious that only an ocean away, there were children just like them enjoying hot dogs and clean water from drinking fountains. Two weeks later, I caught myself accepting impoverishment as the new norm. Seeing 4-year-old Elizabeth walk around Challenging Heights barefoot was no longer a novelty. She was hardly the only

HELEN DRIFTMIER | Special to Voices

Hailey Lee, a sophomore at Wellesley College in Boston, spent a month as a volunteer at a school for rescued child workers.

one missing shoes. But was that all it took for me to become accustomed to the poverty around me? Two weeks? Similar to my regression of empathy, the coverage on African poverty in Western news stations has been reduced to abstract misery. People see the proverbial footage of starving children, dilapidated mud shacks and dirt roads lined with open sewers. These stories no longer make lasting impressions on desensitized Westerners; they merely shake their heads and go back to sipping their morning coffee. It’s irrevocably important to continue spreading awareness about the social injustices and inequality in Africa, yet these archetypal stories fail to recognize the positives of the continent. The encouraging outlook of these Ghanaians – young and old – made a longer, lasting impact on me. I will never forget the optimism and resilience of the rescued children. On the streets, nobody was ever too busy to wave, chat and

online today

www.aajavoices.org Ghana Unscripted: Off the Beaten Path View a photo diary on www.aajavoices.org by Voices reporter Hailey Lee on her experience at Challenging Heights school in Winneba, Ghana, an organization that actively combats child trafficking and child labor.

invite you to share a meal. I certainly felt more welcome as an outsider in Winneba than I did strolling in my own hometown of Edina, Minn. In retrospect, I gained more from the Ghanaians I met than I have been able to give back to them. Back in the U.S., I ÀQGLWQDWXUDOWRFKHHULO\JUHHWVWUDQJHUV hoping to brighten a person’s day with a smile – just like the Ghanaians did every day for me. Follow Hailey Lee @haileylee.

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Voices, Volume 20, Edition 2

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