By Dan Walton,
For most high school students, spring break usually means a lot of free time for friends and fun. For eight students from Invermere, the 2013 spring break was about helping a less-developed African community.
Because most of the worlds population cannot enjoy the standard of living experienced in North America, Me to We, a non-profit group affiliated with Free the Children, provides Canadian students the opportunity to help developing nations get up to speed, by aiding in the construction of a new public school.
After nearly a year of fundraising through Me to We, local volunteers Aleshia Maclean, Ashley Hecher, Courtney Marie Seaman, Makayla Wilder, Nicole Ivers, Rochelle Mathieu, Sarah Miller and Victoria Mailo boarded a plane in Calgary and were on their way to Ghana. During their time in Ghanas village of Nyameyekrom, the girls were accompanied by parents Janet Wilder, Al Miller and chaperone Deb Fisher.
After a tedious commute, the young humanitarians were awestruck by a lively welcome to Nyameyekrom.
It was just like in a movie, the kids all start running from their school or homes and all of a sudden theres three hundred kids surrounding the bus, screaming and yelling, blowing kisses and cheering when any of us stepped off the bus, said chaperone Deb Fisher. Ive never been so humbled, I have never been so proud.
The girls said the kindness of Ghanaians was their most distinct trait.
People say Canadians are nice, but we seem mean compared to most of the people from Ghana, Aleshia Maclean told The Pioneer. Except theyre way crazier drivers.
While spirits were high, living conditions were a big step backwards. As one example, opportunities to shower were sparse and when the girls could bathe, they were required to stagger their showers.
You realize how much water you can waste just by having a regular shower, Ms. Maclean said.
At one point during their mission, the valley volunteers assisted villagers fetching drinking water.
It was hard work, said Ashley Hecher. Africans make balancing buckets on their heads look so easy.
With extra T-shirts packed by the Invermere volunteers, the women of Nyameyekrom made carrying water easier for the Canadians.
They rolled our shirts up like doughnuts to help us balance buckets of water, Ms. Hecher said.
The Canadian girls were able to spare some clothing, because as Rochelle Mathieu explained, It didnt matter if you had clean clothes anyway, because you get so dirty and gross.
Lack of sanitization wasnt the only culture shock.
They would ask us our names, ages and how many kids we have, Ms. Hecher said, claiming Ghanaians were shocked the teenage girls were not yet mothers.
And they couldnt believe we have pigs in Canada, she said.
After helping to complete the schools foundation, the volunteers were gratified by their work, but agreed that the trip should be longer.
The time change throws your body off so much, Ms. Fisher said. And our bodies just became used to the African climate on our last days. You sweat in places you didnt know you could sweat.