Maymester in Ghana brings strangers together

Cortney Sanders and Ignacio Cruz

GHANA — Who would have thought that we would step into a royal palace in the middle of West Africa? This past Friday, our Maymester cohort was welcomed to the village of Agogo, located in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, by Nana Ama Serwaa Afrakoma Kusi Oboadum, the Queen Mother of Agogo. Palms began to sweat as we made our way into the palace courtyard. The rhythm of drums and traditional dancing welcomed us as we followed the Queen Mother to her royal stool. Shades of red, gold and green adorned her robe. As is the custom, we greeted a host of regional chiefs and other queen mothers that were in attendance at this durber (meaning celebration in Twi, the local language). "Akwaaba" (meaning welcome) followed every handshake and "medase" (meaning thank you) followed every step we took. The young children of the village welcomed us with the traditional African dances called kete and adowa, and within minutes our entire group was moving to the beat of the drums.

The words of the Queen Mother, “Welcome home, my brothers and sisters,” still resonate with us as the durber continues. Some of the key components of the celebration began, such as the pouring of libations, a ritual that acknowledges ancestors of the living dead through prayer. Later, we stated our mission to the village. The 2014 Ghana Maymester’s mission for the village of Agogo is to continue the annual reforestation efforts and build relationships with community members such as the local junior high school in the region.

Our purpose for going on this trip was to gain an experience that we could not find in our own backyards. We had the chance to come together with the people and experience Ghanaian roots in a village. We had the chance to be one.

Cruz is a corporate communication senior from Mission. Sanders is a recent government graduate from Houston. Cruz and Sanders are currently studying abroad through the Maymester Social and Community Development led by social work professor Dorie Gilbert.

Correction: The print version of this article, which ran Monday, misspelled certain Twi words and misidentified the Queen Mother.