Five years ago, I was a sophomore in college living what I knew would be some of the best years of my life. I loved being in an academic environment that encourages curiosity and allows me to explore different interests and meet new people. I was living in my own small world, having a great time learning and living with friends. Through all the fun, one of my best friends, Devon Leondis, would often tell me about how she loves her time at school, but that her heart is in Ghana.
To a 19-year-old who rarely left the country other than a few family vacations, this notion felt foreign. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to leave school, let alone the U.S. for an African country. Devon heard a call from God to help children in Africa when she was a young girl. By the time we graduated just two years later, she had accomplished funding and building an orphanage in Ghana through her non-profit organization, Project Nyame Nsa (“PNN”).
When Devon first moved to Ghana, PNN had rescued 18 children. One of those children was Flora, who Devon would say reminds her of me. I immediately felt connected to this 12-year-old girl living across the world in a country I knew little about outside of my relationship with Devon. She is studious, driven, a natural leader, and dreams of one day becoming a doctor, and I am very invested in her future.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Village of Hope, Project Nyame Nsa’s site in Ghana, for the organization’s annual “Vision Trip”. I instantly understood the love that Devon had for the country’s culture and beautiful people, and why she so strongly felt the need to pursue God’s work there. My life was made brighter by the connections I made with the children of PNN. I was able to meet Flora, who’s maturity, intelligence, and love for the other children made me feel proud that Devon would think of me in comparison. We laughed as she taught me some of the four languages she speaks fluently (while I could only offer to teach her a few Italian phrases I remembered from high school). We talked about her dream to become a doctor to be able to help others with the opportunities Project Nyame Nsa gave her, and I was blown away by her selflessness in a world where she was given so little.
Soon after my trip, I learned that Flora was top of her class and was accepted into one of the most prestigious Christian boarding schools in Accra, Ghana’s capital. I’m so proud of what she has accomplished, and I often think about her bright future, hoping that one day she too can have the exciting, stimulating, and path-altering college experience that I was blessed to have. Project Nyame Nsa is offering her and now other 42 children at PNN (and growing!) a loving childhood, safety, opportunities, and so much more that they would not have received given the circumstances they were born into.
I left Ghana feeling as though the children left the greatest impact on me, inspired me to be my most compassionate self and to ask God how I can best serve Him to help others in need. I believe that God introduced me to RiseUp Malawi soon after my life-altering experience in Ghana to show me to a way I can further pursue my love for children and desire to help others, especially those who lack access to education.
The future of African countries like Ghana and Malawi will be in the hands of its children, and these children like Flora deserve the opportunity to flourish. With the right resources, organizations like RiseUp Malawi and Project Nyame Nsa are boosting the youth of Africa today to become the future leaders of tomorrow.