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Hubbard Details Six-Week Experience in Ghana

Salem soccer player coached soccer and volunteered in the African nation.

July 22, 2012
Special Article by Stephanie Hubbard (Class of 2014)
stephghanaSanford, NC-When first arriving in Ghana on the 28th of May, I thought I would be spending the next six weeks of my life living like the native people. I wasn’t staying in a hotel and living like a tourist. I was volunteering in some of the rural and small towns with no toilet, sleeping under a mosquito net, showering out of a bucket, and eating the same three meals every day. 
Little did I know I was wrong. My living conditions may have been the same as the people that lived in the small town of Frankadua, but anyone can experience life like that for six weeks. To actually live there is a whole other story. I always had something to look forward to; I knew that in just a few weeks I would be laying on a couch in the air conditioning eating just about whatever I wanted. However, when the 16-year-old single mother who lived in the hut across from me woke up in the morning, the only thing she looked forward to was selling enough toffee at the market to feed herself and her 16-month-old daughter.
For my volunteer work I helped coach both a male and female soccer team. As an athlete in America, and even more so as a female-athlete in America, we don’t know how fortunate we are to have the resources and opportunities that we most of the times just look passed.  We wake up and put on our name brand soccer boots and walk down to our freshly mowed field already equipped with full size netted goals, ice cold water, twenty hand stitched balls, pennies, and cones. 
When coaching the kids of Ghana, we would practice either at 5:30 a.m. before they went to either work on the farm or to school, or at about 4 p.m. when they were free.  The only lawn mowers they had were machetes that they used to chop the random patches of grass that managed to grow on their beat up pitches. If they were lucky enough to own cleats, they were worn down and busted in almost every place imaginable.  The only balls they had were the ones that volunteers had brought them, and as far as goals they consisted of three pieces of bamboo nailed together with no net. 
The players had no water during practice and during games the volunteers purchased water for them. The girls’ team was only allowed to practice twice a week because they had so many chores and work to do.  None of them had cleats, in fact most of them played in sandals because they didn’t even have sneakers. I got the chance to play in a few matches with the guys team and after every match I would get asked the same questions “do girls play soccer in America?” And “are you a professional?” Every time I would shock them and say that a lot of girls play soccer in America and no I am nowhere close to being a professional.
As a female-athlete this experience has definitely been an eye-opener on the many opportunities that we are privileged with in America, and every time we step on the field we should remember that.
Most of my volunteer work was done Monday through Friday, except for the occasional weekend game. So since I was already half-way around the world I also did some traveling to see other parts of the country. I got the chance to tour a slave castle at Cape Coast, hike through a rainforest at Kukum National Park, relax on the beach at Kokrobite, feed a monkey at Tafi-atome, and admire the tallest waterfall in West Africa. When the other volunteers and I would head out for the weekend the people in the small town of Frankadua would always ask where we were headed? Eventually it became obvious that very few of the people had even left Frankadua and the thought of seeing the ocean was almost as unrealistic as them ever coming to America.
Now, six weeks later, I am sitting on my couch in the air conditioning reflecting on the amazing experience I had in Ghana and all of the wonderful people I met. I also think about the soccer players, mothers, and children who will continue to face the hardships of living in a developing country and appreciate now more than ever the little things such as a toilet, running water, and equal gender opportunities.

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