“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves”. (Paulo Coelho)
Akorlikope was fun, it was experiential, it was engaging, it was hands-on, and it was heartwarming. The Akorlikope service learning experience embodied, the philosophy of the IB programme: “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect… [and] encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences can also be right” (International Baccalaureate 2015). The heuristic nature of the trip challenged the students to explore the limits of their capabilities and readiness to adapt to unfamiliar environments. The students had to take on risks; to cook on a traditional three-stone cooking fire, with firewood as the fuel, to carry cement blocks, and to mix mortar. The students knew that “the biggest risk is not taking a risk”, and they proved that they are not risk-averse students.
Close to taking risks while in Akorlikope was the need to be open-minded about accepting people and their way of doing things. To be able to harmoniously live with the people at Akorlikope, even for a day, the students had to accept and respect the different ways of doing things in Akorlikope. They had to respect that the students at Akorlikope cannot speak English as fluent as they (TIS students) can, and that does not make the Akorlikope students any less humans. The TIS students had to also accept and respect the fact that, even though the students at Akorlikope lack some basic living necessities, their contentment for what they have is enough. Instead of looking down on the Akorlikope students or ostracizing them, TIS students showed empathy for the Akorlikope students, knowing that, the students at Akorlikope “deserve love and affection” (Mahatma Gandhi) to “at least make the world safe for diversity” (John F. Kennedy).
The students showed resilience and a daring commitment to complete the task at hand. Students were divided into teams and committees, Arts therapy, Cooking, Editorial Board for the magazine, Teaching, Building and Construction teams. Teams were incredible and hardworking. Especially, the construction team as they worked tirelessly on the second phase of the school building. After the three days stay in Akorlikope, the students was able to raise the three-unit building (the headmaster’s office, the library and an additional classroom) which was about five-course high to the lintel level. Other project teams made various donations and presentations ranging from clothes, shoes, stationary and food items.
The Eco Stove team also donated 30 Econofire Wood Cookstoves to the community. Before the donation, the team demonstrated to a section of the women in the community how the stove works and the benefits of using it against their traditional three-stone cooking fire.
The Happy Feet team donated three large sized boxes of foot wear to the community. The foot wear ranged in different sizes.
The Feed a Child team, prepared sumptuous meal of Gizzard jollof rice with spaghetti for the students at Graceland and our very own TIS students enjoyed Kenkey and Abolo a native dish by the people of Akorlikope and its environs. In all, the show of care by the students can be summed up in the lyrics of the legendary American artiste, Michael Jackson.
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making We’re saving our own lives
Its true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me”
“The experience is always a new one every time and I see the students develop in different ways within the period of stay and sharing themselves with the community. Always a pleasure.” (Mr. Elikem Kunutsor _ Head, Creative Arts Department)
“Last year when I heard that we were going to Akorlikope, I had mixed feelings, along with some of my grade mates. But when we got there and I saw what the school has doing there, I was really touched and put all my fears aside. I put aside the fact that this is not the best or ideal place I will want to be and opened up to assist is any way I could. On this second trip to Akorlikope, I was so enthusiastic about it due my first experience. During the first visit, I made some good friends, Christopher and Foster, and coming back to see them was just awesome. Seeing those little children smile makes me happy. And that is what this who trip is about; putting smiles on people’s faces, offering a helping hand to build a community, being there for others, knowing that life isn’t always about you, and others also matter.” (Karen Donkor _ Grade 11)
“Akorlikope from the very beginning has been a very exciting experience for me. Last year I was in the Literacy group and I helped out in the classroom, playing with the kids
and bonding with them. That experience helped me to appreciate how different people live. On this second trip, I was in the cooking teamJ. I helped prepare food on all the days, and also helped to serve the children. I am very glad that I came to Akorlikope; the lessons learnt are priceless. I encourage people to step out of their immediate environments and see how different the world is from your reality. Knowing other people’s perspectives helps you to appreciate yourself better. (Anna-Maria Poku _ Grade 11)
“Akorlikope has been an amazing experience for me. From our first visit last year till this year, I have grown tremendously, and have made so many discoveries. The entire Akorlikope experience has been a learning curve for me; it has helped me to really explore myself and understand life in a broader spectrum”. (Mifatu Gadzekpo _ Grade 11)
“Akorlikope is changing, thanks to you. TIS is changing Akorlikope and we are very grateful. To all the staff members and all the students, we say God bless you. The children here are happy, and I pray that with all these support, they will be able to grow beyond the limits of this small village”. (Pastor Steve – Headmaster, Graceland Academy, Akorlikope)