NYU Steinhardt News

A Letter from Ghana

by Catherine Rinko-Gay

When most people think of studying abroad, they imagine doing their homework on a quiet spot beside the Right Bank of the Seine, or passing St. Paul's Cathedral as they walk home from class. For me, after my class in the Ghanian language of Twi given by professor Kofi Saah, there is nothing I like more then to walk down the red-dirt path past a pineapple seller and a woman who fries plantains, to the Osu Children's Home.

More photos from Catherine's trip to Ghana

I'm a junior in the Department of Teaching and Learning, studying childhood education and special education at the NYU Center in Ghana. I chose to study in Ghana because I wanted to be able to volunteer with children at a place where my help was really needed. Osu Children's Home is a community for orphaned, abandoned, and needy children from birth to 18 years old.

My official job is helping in the nursery, feeding babies, and changing diapers. When I began volunteering, I noticed right away that the older children were fascinated with my camera. So I lent it to them, and when they returned, I noticed that they photographed very different subjects and scenes than I would. Where I saw a world of hopeless poverty, they saw a life filled with highs and lows, joys and sorrows. I saw children who don't have underwear to call their own, whose toys are often are empty water bottles and rocks; the children saw the good times - like a soccer game or a friend goofing off.

I lend them my camera all the time - they return it usually while I'm bottle-feeding a baby - and they take pictures of every little thing that brings them joy. This could be a sticker I gave them or a car that drives by. An amazing part of my experience abroad is learning how children view their own world, and seeing that world through their eyes. The children of the Osu Children's Home don't want people to feel sorry for them. They want the same things all kids want - to spend good times with their friends, to be cool, to feel loved.