Children of Ghana

Child of Ghana

I can still see their faces, vividly clear in my mind. The bright, glowing smiles. The youthful energy and excitement. Their yearning for a better future. The children I’ve interacted with in the various rural villages of Ghana all exude the same positiveness and ambition. They want to be educated in what they know to be “good schools.” It appears that throughout their entire lives, they’ve been told that the schools they attend are subpar. They’ve heard stories of other kids who went to “good schools” and how the higher quality education led to markedly improved life outcomes. Yet the abject poverty that surrounds them relegates these children to realities far from their dreams.

The mindset of the youth in Ghana starkly contrasts what I’ve observed from American youth living in the poorest communities. These children are afforded opportunities to receive free education, typically including free transportation and in some cases subsidized or free meals. They are essentially “privileged” in comparison to youth in developing nations. Surprisingly, in my conversations with American youth, I’ve observed a lack focus on a vision for the future. I guess this could be considered a basic dilemma of the “haves” and “have nots.” Will things ever change? Only time will tell.

Africa’s Growing Middle Class

This article is a repost from a past contribution I made on In The Black 2020. The story of Africa’s growing middle class is still relevant today, especially considering the unique challenges that have arisen. Let me know what you think.

Accra MallA recent article in The Guardian highlighted a study from the African Development Bank, titled The Middle of the Pyramid: Dynamics of the Middle Class in Africa. The results of the study led to the conclusion that one out of every three Africans can now be considered middle class. As a business researcher and scholar, I found the results of study particularly interesting. With these results in mind, I think we can now call the American Dream the (insert your favorite African nation here) Dream. I think its about time that Africa is recognized for something more than a continent of hopelessness and despair. No longer should Africa be the place where governments and individuals seek to give handouts for tax breaks. Despite the fact that the continent has a long journey ahead, there are examples of prosperity across the board. Recently, Economy Watch named the West-African nation of Ghana as the fastest growing economy on the planet for 2011, with half of the top 12 countries on list belonging from Africa. Maybe with this type of news, the global media will start focusing on the numerous positive attributes of the Motherland instead of the negative stereotypes that have been portrayed for generations. I also hope that the government leaders on the continent focus on sustaining the growth of the middle class, instead of squandering opportunities due to greed and arrogance. If they were smart, they would concentrate on growing their small business sectors, butI’ll save that for another blog post. For now, we’ll just have to see what the future holds. Until then, Africa and her people should enjoy the ride.

My Sources of Influence

I initially created this blog while thinking about the various sources of influence in my life that have shaped me to become the man that I am. After thinking about those influences, I thought it would be good to share them with the hope of enlightening others. Through this blog, it is my hope that we all determine the purpose of our existence and lead lives of fulfillment and meaning.

The effort to identify my sources of influence stemmed from my frustration with the point I reached in life a few years ago. At the age of 25, I had achieved what many would call the “American Dream.” I attained engineering degrees which would provide great earning potential, was employed with a multinational Fortune 500 corporation with a promising career, had purchased a house and car, and was married to my college sweetheart. Those close to me were pleased with the level of success I achieved so early in life and thought I was fulfilling a pre-destined dream. I did too, until one day I woke up feeling depressed, unhappy, and miserable deep down inside. At that time, the only source of happiness came from my lovely wife and supportive family and friends. Had there been different sources of influence early on in my life, I would have probably been content with my current state of being, but that was not the case.

As far back as I can remember I have always seemed to have a different outlook on life in comparison to those around me. Often, I would wonder if something was wrong with me because I though about the world in a certain way which deviated from the views of my peers. My state of mind can be linked to my childhood and how my parents raised me. Originally from Ghana, West Africa, my parents immigrated to the U.S. to seek a better life for themselves and their respective families. Both my mother and father were raised in rural villages in the Volta Region of Ghana and were relatively poor. Despite having the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, the Western world would have viewed their standard of living as impoverished. Through faith, hard work and perseverance my parents were able to escape the clutches of poverty and achieve the “American Dream” while simultaneously reaching back to help other family members to do the same.

Being the oldest child, the memories of my parent’s efforts to help others date back to my early childhood. We always had a guest or two living with us, and I was instructed to refer to them as Uncle or Auntie. By the time I reached the age of 10, I wondered how was it possible for my parents to have so many siblings. Little did I know that Uncle/Auntie were the common Ghanaian terms of endearment for any elder, and that these guests were following the same path taken by my parents upon arrival in America. As I began to mature, my desire to help others in any way became more evident. Obviously this was learned behavior from my childhood that became apart of my character, which also shed light on the frustration with my current place in life.

It was not until my first trip back home (Ghana) that I began to fully understand my parent’s struggle against immense odds. Ghana (a country the size of Oregon with a population similar to Texas) being one of the better developed places in West Africa faced dire economic times during the 70’s which eventually led to a mass-exodus of its citizens to Europe and North America. The search for a better life was the main motivation for my parents, as well as most other Ghanaians, to leave their homeland and settle in foreign territory. Because of the success they achieved in lieu of the many adversities they faced, my parents made sure to impress upon my siblings and I the ability we had to live a privileged life. The cultural teachings and values that they passed onto me was the single greatest influence on my life. Knowing what my life could have been had my parents not left Ghana, allows me to be appreciative for the life I’ve been blessed with. And because of that, I decided to selflessly help others in poverty instead of selfishly resting on my parent’s laurels.

Understanding who I was at heart was essential in pinpointing the cause of my unhappiness with my achievements. After reflecting on my personal sources of influence, the proverbial light bulb switched on and things began to make sense. Simply put, the life that I was currently living was more about spending my time working on things “destined for the dump” instead of working on things that are meaningful and everlasting. I realized that the career path I had chosen did not yield the reward and satisfaction I anticipated. I found myself being confined to a cubicle or lab space toiling away at something that had little to no impact on the plight of those less fortunate, which is of utmost concern to me given my family background. It was then that I realized that something had to change or I was headed for an unfulfilled life.

Since that time I have made a few adjustments (company, geographic location, etc.) in my life that are allowing me to inch closer towards working within my passions and purpose. The journey is far from over, but constant prayer and soul-searching have allowed me to chart a new course. Now that I’m a few weeks away from turning 29, I definitely feel good about the progress I’ve made towards living a life of fulfillment. What I went through during the period of reflection was my quest to figure out the purpose of my existence. At this point, I’ve understood it to be a constant search in finding ways to use my talents to benefit the lives of the less fortunate citizens of the world. Hopefully reading about my experience will cause you to also reflect on your life. I hope yours is one of purpose and meaning, but if not, there’s always time to make a change. Stay tuned as I chronicle my journey from focusing on things “destined for the dump” to that which matters most to me….those that are “lost and forgotten“……..