By: Jianna Vasquez
It was a hot summer day in Ghana, Africa as Robyn Howzell stood in front of a classroom of nine children. “When I come back tell me what you want me to bring you from America,” Howzell told them. Not knowing what she had gotten herself into she went to her host house in Ghana for the night and quickly messaged her daughter.
“I asked these kids what they wanted me to bring back for them and I didn’t give them a limit,” Howzell told her daughter. Her daughter responded and told her that she better be prepared to buy these children whatever it was they were going to ask for.
“I wasn’t thinking when I asked the children what they wanted,” said Howzell.
Howzell had already imagined all the extravagant things these children were going to ask her for, but nonetheless when she returned the next day she stood in front of the class and asked them what it was they wanted from her.
One boy, Sam, stood up and said that he was going to speak on behalf of the whole class. Howzell asked if this was okay with the rest of the class.
“Does Sam speak for you,” she asked. They assured her that Sam spoke for all of them.
“Okay Sam, what is it that you guys want,” she asked him. He responded and said, “We just want socks.”
Howzell couldn’t hold back her emotions when these children asked for something as simple as socks when they could have asked her for anything they wanted. Moments like these are what humbles her and reminds her of why she started We Are One People- Global.
We Are One People- Global is a non-governmental organization that helps children in Ghana, Africa receive books, paper, pencils, uniforms, a balanced breakfast and an academic education.
Robyn Howzell, an NMSU graduate student and the founder and president of We Are One People- Global, traveled to Ghana, Africa for the first time in 2015.
“Education is what the children need,” she said. In Ghana, children often begin to work as fishermen instead of getting an education because fishing is the main source of money in the Village. Volunteers often go to Africa as advocates for child labor and child trafficking for the main reason of keeping children in school.
Howzell, taught a creative writing class where she asked the children to write their stories down. She instructed them to write down what it was they wanted people in America to know about them—their village, their people, their culture. She was amazed at how despite of having a limited source of books, pencils and paper they were still so excited to share their own stories, but Howzell quickly realized just how limited their resources were when they started running out of paper to write on.
Howzell had taken only a couple of notebooks that she began to tare paper out of for the children to write on.
“They only had about six pieces of construction paper, so we had to rip the construction paper in half so they could write their books,” she said. Howzell was so inspired by the eagerness of the children that she wanted to do more for them.
“I thought of pen paling,” said Howzell. She thought that not only would pen paling give the children in Ghana someone to write to, but it would also bring penmanship back to the kids in America. And so the idea of We Are One People- Global was born.
When Howzell returned to Las Cruces she applied for the We Are One People- Global organization. Her goal is to bring people together around the globe and penmanship back into the classroom.
“You can make a change in the life of one child today”
We Are One People- Global now has seven schools in Africa with children who are always eager to write to children here in the United States. The organization is also in the process of looking for a volunteer house where volunteers of the organization can stay while they are in Ghana, Africa.
“People in Ghana are so open to what I’m doing that they want people there,” said Howzell. While the volunteer house is being built, the people of Ghana have opened up their homes to any volunteers that visit.
Volunteers for We Are One People- Global can pick from affordable two-week programs to four-week programs that the organization has to offer. While staying in Ghana, volunteers will help create programs for women and children to improve their communities, teach students their favorite subjects and learn about the everyday lives and culture of the people in Ghana. Anyone with a heart and a willingness to understand a different culture can volunteer.
Going to Ghana, Africa isn’t the only way people can volunteer for We Are One People- Global, becoming a pen pal to a child in Africa is a way to help share knowledge around the globe. The organization is always looking for students who want to become a pen pal to these children. Becoming a pen pal is a simple act of kindness that uplifts the spirit of so many children in Africa.
“There’s kids who still bathe outside, there’s people who don’t have a flushing toilet, we’re talking about people who don’t have food to eat every day and kids who don’t have water or parents,” said Howzell. She reminds herself daily just how lucky and privileged we are here in America and how much we take for granted.
“Now that I know better I feel that I have an obligation to educate people and to open people’s eyes, minds and their heart about other places, not just Africa. I’m talking about around the globe,” said Howzell.
We Are One People- Global’s mission is “to bring people together around the globe through the pen pal campaign and volunteer program. To encourage children to write and to bring penmanship back to the classroom. To send volunteers to Ghana, Africa to work with students to promote education. To help stop child labor and child trafficking.”
To become Volunteer or a pen pal visit http://www.weareonepeopleglobal.com