by Grace Sall
Few things have a universality to them, common to countries and diverse cultures around the world. Love, laughter and family are a few. But all children seem to know exactly what to do when a ball is bounced their way, and the children of the eastern region of Ghana are no exception.
Junior Katie Harris realized this fact on her summer service trip through Global Leadership Adventures. In July of 2017, Harris traveled to the Krobo speaking area of East Ghana to help refurbish schools, teach English classes and learn about the culture of Ghana for two weeks.
“We helped refurbish their schools but the most rewarding part was seeing their smiles and playing with them, not that we were amazing but just getting to be with them,” Harris said.
When the children had recess, Harris would play casual soccer games with the kids, often with nothing more than a worn down soccer ball.
Growing up, Harris had lived overseas in various countries, seeing firsthand the effects of poverty on younger generations. She had always wanted to help the children she encountered, but it often was too ambitious for her young age. But at 17, and after seeing the conditions of play for the kids in Ghana, Harris saw her opportunity.
“Each time I travel, the children I meet impact me in so many ways. Visiting third world countries is the best way to see your blessings. There are many people in our country who do not understand the severity of how some of these children live. We take many things for granted- even something as simple as a toothbrush and toothpaste,” Harris said.
One of the things that Harris noticed that the children in Ghana did not have was adequate equipment or any programs, despite it being such a vibrant region for sports. Harris said any type of equipment, even deflated soccer balls, were gifts for the children. This began her own non-profit program, Gear for Ghana.
Gear for Ghana hopes to collect donations in the form of sports equipment, such as used cleats, balls, shin guards, basketball shorts, sports shirts and foldable goals. Twice a year her organization will ship the donations to Ghana through local contacts.
Harris began this non-profit completely independently, using some of her own savings and filling out paperwork for the IRS and applications for nonprofits. She found a contact in Virginia who is willing to help ship the donations for a reduced price. She has also kept in contact with a correspondent
who she met in Ghana to distribute the donations.
“Honestly, the kids in Ghana are pretty different from the kids in the U.S. They don’t have iPads or phones to keep them busy so they play outside all day. They form so many friendships through sports which is why I felt that this used equipment would benefit them so much. They also are always happy, which was really amazing to see. It has shown me that you can be happy even when you don’t have much,” Harris said.
Two kids that Harris met in Ghana left a mark on her heart long after leaving the country. Two sisters named Charity and Abigail became her friends, one was 3 years old and the other 11. Abigail knew fragments of English, which helped Harris bond with her even more.
For now, Harris will not be returning to Ghana soon, but she said the project will keep her connected with international service. In the next two years, she hopes to travel with the shipments and take photos and videos for the non-profit. She is most excited to see all the donations put to good use by some deserving kids.