There are so many memories that I took back with me from Africa, but there are several that stand out in particular.
On our overnight flight to Kenya, I remember spending three hours on a layover in the Nairobi airport. This was our first taste of Africa, and it really seemed like a “third world” place at first glance. What amazed me was how when we returned to Nairobi 10 days later, the airport seemed so different; it was if we had been desensitized.
Our flight to Ghana was followed by a bus trip to the Coconut Grove Beach Resort, where we were staying. This ride was surreal, as we got our first glance at the streets of Ghana; roadside stand after roadside stand, and women walking with their cargo on top of their heads. When we finally arrived at the resort, it was very cool to find ourselves swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.
The culture shocks continued, as we enjoyed fresh coconut juice for our rum drinks, and later found it crazy to think that in 2012, people still carve boats out of large tree trunks. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
After another long bus journey deep into Ghana we arrived at the main village. It was great to see how welcomed we were; the people of Ghana were so happy and genuinely glad to see us. I am sure they suspected we would be there to help. We also met Ike from World Joy, who was our Ghana coordinator.
After a 45-mile ride into an area that has no electric power at all, we arrived at the school were our project was to take place. The project was to install a people-powered merry-go-round that’s designed to work like a windmill, so as the kids played and pushed each other ‘round and ‘round, they would be creating electricity. The electricity would then charge 48 portable lanterns that the children would bring home at night. Prior to this day they had to burn kerosene in their homes for light.
When we first arrived, we took a look around at some of the classrooms. It was jarring to see what they were learning; in the first classroom they were studying science and learning photosynthesis. In the second classroom they were learning the role of the parents and children.
We were blessed to be able to attend Ash Wednesday Mass with the townspeople. Later that day, we witnessed some local lumberjacks making lumber with a handheld chainsaw.
Then the real fun began. It was quite a scene to see when the kids first jumped on the merry-go-round, with maybe 50 children spinning faster and faster till some of the little ones were tossed off, and then the stampede when one of the pushers would fall and the others would run right over them. After a little while and some instruction from their elders, they were generating electricity in a safe and fun manner.
It is impossible to describe the feeling we all had from completing our mission that day. These kids had no idea the change that was about to occur in their lives; no more kerosene burning to light their homes at night. They can now bring a book home and teach their parents how to read.
The ceremony the village put on for us in appreciation was awesome. All the elders came out in their finest dress cloths.
Then we were off to our safari, taking a bus to Ghana airport, and a flight to Kenya airport. It was a bus ride to a tiny airport with tiny planes.
At last we arrived at the Finch Hatten resort, and our accommodations were great but unusual: An outdoor tent raised about six feet to keep the hippos, crocs and lions out. At night you would hear the animals walking right by our place from the nearby water hole. “Crazy” doesn’t begin to describe it.
On safari, there was nothing better than spotting your first giraffe, but after a short while the giraffes and zebra were a dime a dozen. But the elephants were by far the highlight of the trip, especially when we almost got charged by one!
With continent number two of seven down, Viridian once again proved what the core of this company is all about. The first trip to Brazil was incredible at the time, and will continue to be awesome as we see the trees we planted grow and the rainforest rejuvenate itself over the next 20 years. Africa was instant gratification, and the projects we worked on will have immediate results. Our purpose here was not to westernize this culture, but to provide them such a simple, everyday luxury like electricity, and the benefits it provides.
Thank you Michael Fallquist and everyone involved for allowing me a chance to do something I would never in a million years have been able to do on my own. It was great experiencing this trip with my two brothers Ed and Brenden, and my nephew Mike. It was something we’ll never forget!
My name is Jim Kenny, and I am Generation V.