Writing a final blog post is always hard. In many ways, I don’t feel like this blog was able to do justice to the amazing place that is Challenging Heights and CH Hovde House. My blog has been filled with entertaining stories of my personal struggles with teaching and my new experiences here. It’s important to remember, however, that these blog posts and blogs in general are censored versions of our everyday lives. I am an open person, but I am not going to give out all my private thoughts and feelings for the world.

But here is the honest truth about working at the shelter. I loved it and it was also incredibly hard to work there in a way I have never experienced. Leaving the kids in Ghana has also been one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

Whatever you think about volunteering, voluntourism, working abroad, working abroad as a white person, politics, and all those things, I ask you to put those aside for the next minute or so as you read this. I grapple with questions of volunteering all the time, but this is not the time for me to go into that. I only ask that you take my experience for what it is and try not to judge me too harshly or apply preconceived notions of what you think my experience was like.

Because the fact is that these kids became my family this summer and leaving them, knowing that I would likely never see them again, hurt. In so many ways I felt like I was abandoning them – not because I think I could add something greater to their lives but because I wish I could go with every one of them to their families to make sure they stay in school, are treated well, and are always given reasons to smile.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I don’t think that this blog has even remotely captured the experiences I have had here. The strength of the kids and the staff is incomparable. The experience of working with a five year old girl knowing that she had spent two years working on the Volta Lakes. Seeing her laugh and smile while knowing what she has been through made me fundamentally question how others and I see the world. It has made me question my perception of myself, the way I act, and my role as simply a human being.

Now comes the egocentric bit. Coming out of this internship, I am more confident and the strongest I have ever been. I know that I will never forget the kids and staff at the shelter. I know that they have fundamentally changed who I am today.

All I can say, in the end, all I can really do, is say thank you.