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So What is Operation Groundswell Exactly?

Written by Jangwon Park, 2014 West Africa Grassroots Education.

So what has Operation Groundswell done for me in the past 6 weeks? More fundamentally, what is OG to begin with? As the final and overall reflection of the 2014 OG West Africa Grassroots Education program, I come back to this simple question in an attempt to answer it clearly, which will naturally unwrap the story of my 40-day journey in Ghana and Togo. So here it goes…
2014 West Africa Grassroots Education team photo
In the beginning, there was the “insanity”. It hit me much faster than I imagined when the first step out of my flight in Accra was greeted by the incomparable heat and humidity of the great capital. And yes, I believed that I finally set foot on a land so distant and so foreign. Into the town I went where I confronted the core of the city; it bustled and boiled with people, cars, honking taxis, stinky gutters, aggressive Ghanaian street sellers, tro-tros (mini-buses) that barely missed hitting me on my elbows, markets selling fruits, vegetables, biscuits, sunglasses, leather belts, jerseys, jeans, flip-flops, toothpastes, shampoos, and numerous other items… and finally, the locals yelling “China” after me as I walked by (I am Korean). In such large cultural centres like Accra or Kumasi, all of these at once was too overwhelming and I did not know where or how to begin digesting this new culture and way of living.

Quite contrary to the insanity that the city life presented to me, I discovered beauty and serenity in the corners of the countries. The rich forests and mountains on our 3-day hike from Togo to Ghana, the isolated community of Wli Todzi in the mountains by the East border, the astounding Wli Waterfalls in the Volta Region, the unexpected adventure to the cave in Kuma Adame, the inviting hearts of the boys at the Horizons Children’s Centre (HCC) in Sandema, the majestic Lake Bosomtwe in Kumasi, and the simply magical scenery of Princess Town seen from the German castle are just some examples of the beauties and wonders of Ghana and Togo. I will also never forget the breathtaking starry night sky of the Maranatha Beach in Ada Foah on our third day. Totally mind-blasting!

2014 West Africa Grassroots Education at Wli Waterfalls

Then there was the enlightenment throughout the journey. There were the people – the most pure-hearted and remarkable men I have ever witnessed in my 20 years. Yaw of Wli Todzi whose great love for his community enables him to complete the first local health clinic in his village; Yaw of Kadema who, despite his need to depend on others for help in every daily activity such as dressing, runs the school to teach English to the village’s little children; Gilbert of the Sandema Disability Centre who firmly believes that his physical disabilities which forced him into his tricycle for life will never hinder him from realizing his dream of serving other disabled people to realize theirs; Joe from HCC who spends his days and nights assisting and caring for the boys and girls with no families or from vulnerable families so that they may grow up to be good contributors of society…

Hanging out with Yaw

Every time I see these people, I am amazed by the degree of genuineness that their expressions radiate and how humble and grateful they are. As such, I return home with an unexpected gift and learning that I could have never imagined on the first day of this program.

So after all this… what exactly is OG? What is it all about? I believe that OG is about the introduction to the local culture and the nature of the traveled countries. I believe it is about the self-growth and learning which are fostered by the in-depth and honest reflections and discussions (we call them “hoopla” or “poola”). Above all, however, I believe OG is the absolute beginning – this experience has empowered me to continue to ponder about the things that my eyes saw, my ears heard, and my heart felt so that the real volunteer and contributions begin once I go back home.

Last but certainly not the least, OG is the medium for a “chemical reaction”; it realizes and catalyzes change. However, this now I believe is not so much in the traveled country itself as I had first thought, as it is in the traveler himself…myself! So thank you Operation Groundswell  for the marvelous opportunity. I will not forget this journey for the rest of my life.

Jangwon Park
2014 West Africa Grassroots Education

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