Lexi Mittelstadt, a senior at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, poses with children from a village in Ghana where she spent two weeks teaching this summer. Submitted photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue High School senior Lexi Mittelstadt of Wilton spent two weeks this summer in a small village in Ghana and is now trying to make the lives of the children she worked with better.

Lexi Mittelstadt, left, spent two weeks in Ghana this summer through a Global Leadership Adventures program. She and another American participant stand with a child from the village where she stayed. Submitted photo

Mittelstadt is collecting art supplies, clothing and used soccer equipment for the children. She is also accepting money to help with shipping costs.

“Anything will make these kids happy,” she said. “Girls would come to the park wearing the same underwear for five days straight. That was really hard for me to see.

“We had to make a belt for one boy. The button on his pants was broken and he didn’t have a belt. Things that people haven’t used in years. They might not be perfect, worn a little or stained. The kids will be excited.”

She recalled one boy who loved to draw.

“Art is underappreciated where I was in Ghana,” she said. “The boy gave me his art book. He wanted me to make him famous in the states. He begged me for pens and markers. Small packs of crayons, notebooks would be helpful.”

Lexi Mittelstadt is seen with Sampson, and his sister, Ester. Lexi said Sampson was her hardest goodbye when she ended a two-week teaching trip to Ghana this summer. Submitted photo

Those wishing to donate items may leave them for Mittelstadt at the Mt. Blue High School main office or email her at [email protected] to arrange a time to meet.

Mittelstadt spent two weeks in a village two to three hours away from the city of Accra, serving through a Global Leadership Adventures program. Her application was accepted and she chose Ghana from the many locations available after talking with someone in the Peace Corps who had spent time there.

“It just made me fall in love with the place before I even got there,” she said. “Ghana exceeded my expectations. There’s not a doubt in my mind I’ll be back there some day.”

She said Ghana is known as the Land of Smiles.

“I realized it was true as soon as I landed, stepped outside,” she said. “Everyone was smiling at us. Everywhere you go you feel so welcome. When we got to our village everyone wanted to know who we were, what we were doing and if we were from the states.

“There was always a smile everywhere we went. Driving down the road, drivers are honking and not because they are mad. All you hear while driving is honk after honk. Everyone is just saying hello.

“It’s really awesome how they navigate through life. It’s all happiness.”

Lexi Mittelstadt, a senior at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, poses with one of the children of the village in Ghana she spent two weeks with this summer. She is collecting art supplies, clothing, soccer equipment and funds to ship the items to the village children. Submitted photo

Mittelstadt has been to China  and her family has hosted students from China.

“I’ve always wanted to volunteer in a different country. It’s been a dream of mine,” she said. “I’ve always thought global exchange is a very important part to life. There needs to be more of that, whether it is through voluntourism, studying abroad for a semester, or hosting a student from a different country.

“I think it’s a very important part of life to just experience different cultures, different diversities. It’s a big part of my life and I see myself doing more of this stuff in the future.”

During her two weeks in Ghana, Mittelstadt taught children, mostly 4- and 5-year-olds, at the local nursery school. She helped the students learn nouns, vowels and consonants. They went over the alphabet and did simple math. For the younger students, she also helped prepare and feed them lunch.

The last day she spent in the classroom the children talked about the weather and did nursery rhymes.

While staying in a village in Ghana this summer, Lexi Mittelstadt had to help feed and prepare meals for the younger children in the primary school such as the pair seen here. Submitted photo

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “There were 90 kids there. We did face-painting, played sports, danced, which is a big part of their culture.”

Mittelstadt said she was told on the first day that she couldn’t play soccer because she was a girl.

“Every day at 4 p.m. we’d go to a park, a big field with two goals made from old logs that were set in the ground,” she said. “Some children played soccer, some did other activities with their mentors.

“It was cool to break that stereotype and show that girls can also play sports. We played soccer for two hours straight every day.”

Mittelstadt said most of the other mentors wanted to play with the littlest kids. She wanted to play soccer, spend time with the older kids.

“Sampson, a 6-year-old boy, was trying to play soccer with the 15-16-year-olds. It was the funniest thing ever,” she said. “I went over, tried to play with him, show him what to do.

In the village in Ghana where Lexi Mittelstadt stayed this summer, the students wore uniforms at the private nursery school. Submitted photo

“After that, he wouldn’t leave my hip. I was with him for the duration of the trip. I got to meet his family, went to his house, even gave him a goodbye gift when I left. He was my hardest goodbye. I’ve called him six or seven times since I’ve been home.”

Mittelstadt plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse at Mt. Blue. Next year she will attend UMaine Orono to play basketball.

She said she is not planning on a career in teaching.

Mittelstadt said the hardest and most surprising thing for her to grasp during her trip was the use of corporal punishment.

“Even on the first day, I walk in, am trying to get settled into the classroom and within five minutes I see a young boy getting caned,” she said. “It happened once every five minutes throughout the day. It was really hard for me to watch the kids being injured. They were upset, traumatized by it, often times would cry afterwards.”

She said, “It was a big change for me. It was also hard when a teacher I taught with told me, ‘If a kid makes you mad, here’s the cane.’ I was like I’m fine, I don’t want to do that.

“It was hard for me to stay focused, hard to see them get caned while I was teaching,” she said. “I was teaching a very young age, so it was especially difficult.”

Mittelstadt said the thing she enjoyed most about her trip was staying with a family in the village.

“Most trips like these, the students stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, don’t get the full cultural experience,” she said. “When we got there we were completely engulfed in the culture.

“We stayed with a well-known family in the village,” she said. “We had people from the village cook for us every night. We got to cook with them, help them prepare it.”

She said one day she got to the marketplace where more than 1,000 vendors were set up. “You can negotiate prices for vegetables, fruit, cloth, anything you can imagine. We bought food, brought it home and cooked it.

“We didn’t eat at a restaurant once. We completely got the food experience,” she said.

“Definitely my favorite part was being so culturally involved,” she said.

Farming and marketing were the two major industries in the village where Mittelstadt stayed.

“Everything was grown literally a mile from you,” she said. “Chicken, meats were raised two minutes down the road. Everything is 100% natural. There was a big difference in taste.”

Mittelstadt said the weather is generally very hot, but she was there during the rainy period when it is cooler than average. Dresses, long skirts or pants had to be worn most of the time and she couldn’t wear shorts above the knee.

Mittelstadt said there was a lot of discussion about leadership and what it means to voluntour in a different country, and just what voluntourism means. By definition, it’s a form of tourism in which travelers participate in voluntary work.

“Those discussions made me have a different perspective, realize there’s a correct way and an incorrect way to voluntour in a country,” she said. “We debated this topic. Some people go on these trips to build themselves up. They sometimes forget they’re there to teach the kids, help the community. We talked about not bringing the phone while teaching, being completely involved with the kids.”

Her advice for those planning a voluntourism trip: “Be fully engaged with the kids, with what you’re trying to build while there. Make sure you’re doing it for them, not just for yourself.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.