As an assignment for my courses I was asked to read the BYU devotional by Sister Euban, the worldwide director of LDS charities. At the end of her forum she discusses a topic which she titles “you are the gift”. Throughout my six week program I have been pondering her ideas and how I can make the most out of this humanitarian trip personally. To be able to participate in the program I had to raise a lot of money and donate it to Unite for Sight. I started to feel like my money was the reason the program needed me, although this was not the case. After reading and listening to her speech I realized that the true service I was going to give on the trip was the help I would provide myself. Yes, the money was definitely needed here to help the patients receive affordable eye care, but anyone could have given them money. The real reason I was supposed to go on this trip was to make a difference on individuals lives. My whole group, that came with me here to Ghana was asked to read this talk, so we were all on the same page about making the most out of this experience. As a group of BYU students we had a reputation put on our shoulders to be honest, kind, and hard working volunteers. We did everything we could to fulfill that expectation. Everyone in my group was awesome, and I can truly say we really did make an impact here in Ghana. Not only for the patients we served but the people we worked with as well.
We had the opportunities to work closely with doctors and staff members and as a group we all wanted to truly serve them as well. This service we desired to fulfill could have been anything from making their workload easier so they could finally have time off with their families, to just being a light in their lives. In her talk she discusses how relationships and friendships are a great way to encapture the idea of being the gift. We became really close with the staff members and would discuss with them all kinds of ideas and listen to theirs as well. I think this really allowed them to trust us as friends, which made the trip so much better. I think as a group we decided we wanted to lighten the doctors lives. So as BYU students we would often sing in the car for them, from church hymns to songs they enjoyed. They really enjoyed this after a long day of work. We would also offer to buy them food and drinks while working or pick them up dinner. We wanted them to truly feel like we cared, because we did. We made it a goal to always offer our service and friendship to them, and because of this we were able to really create great friendships. I truly felt this was a great service we offered the doctors we were able to work with.
Along with serving the staff members, we also helped a lot of people all over Ghana. Going into this experience I sometimes felt inadequate to be able to actually help. I felt that I was only a student and I wouldn't be able to really make a difference. This was not the case, the people all over the country no matter where we went were so thankful for our service and we were able to truly help. We were able to do simple things such as helping them understand how they were supposed to use eye drops or explain medication that made a huge difference in their lives. Before coming on this trip I also feared I wouldn't be able to connect with the people. I soon learned the people loved us and really trusted us. They wanted to know everything about us and become friends and even keep in contact. A lot of people thought it was awesome what we were doing and would ask us why we wanted to leave America and come to Ghana. I would always respond I love helping people and that serving others makes me happy. Some of them did not understand, but they were always impressed with how willing we were to help. I think developing friendships and talking to people everyday and brightening their day was a true service we were able to provide. Sometimes I would catch mothers watching us play with their kids and showing them new games, and the smile on their face was priceless. The people truly did love us and looked up to us because we were Americans.
The service we were able to provide extended a lot more than just working everyday on the job. The people we were and how we acted as volunteers is what truly made a difference. I learned it is important to realize we can be the gift in others lives and it is really important to serve others with all your heart.
A favorite scripture of mine says, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). I know that by doing even just small and simple acts to serve others we are showing our love for God. I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been able to have in this trip to help others, and because I have been able to do so, I am truly happy myself.
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