Alumni Spotlight: Aleksei Kaminski

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Aleksei Kaminski volunteered in Ghana with Cross Cultural Solutions from June 21st to July 19th of 2014. Aleksei Kaminski is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and goes to a Performing and Creative Arts School in Downtown Pittsburgh. He enjoys biking, traveling abroad, painting, and trying foreign foods.

Why did you choose this program?

I decided to enroll with Cross Cultural Solutions in Ghana, for many reasons. Since I was very young I’ve always had the urge and love to travel abroad. I’ve been abroad many times before I went to Ghana with CCS. I’ve also had a deep desire to travel to Africa and particularly Ghana, from learning about West African Art in my ceramics and painting class.

I also volunteer in my local community and I felt that volunteering abroad would be eye opening and absolutely life changing, especially in Africa. I finally decided that I wanted to travel and volunteer in West Africa, so I began to look at many different organizations.

Since I am a teenager, I was only able to find Global Leadership Adventures and Cross Cultural Solutions. From looking through several organizations I thought Cross Cultural Solutions was the real deal because, it seemed to focus on the main values that I had wanted to experience. 1, adventure; 2, impacting the local community; 3, immersing with the local culture. In the end, after months of trying to make my decision I chose to go with CCS in Ghana for a month.

What was your most memorable moment of the trip?

I actually have several memorable moments of my trip. One that was absolutely life changing was teaching Kindergarten-1 to a local school/ orphanage in the local community that I lived in. I especially connected with the kids that I taught one on one, and I will continue to remain in contact with many of the kids.

I also remember learning some Ewe, the local language in the South-Eastern Ghana which I managed to converse with the local people. It was absolutely wonderful. I also climbed the highest mountain in Ghana, Mt. Afadjato. The hike was absolutely intense and it took an hour and a half to climb to the top of the mountain. We hiked through the deep tropical forest of Ghana, having to grab on to tree branches and also slide down the entire way down.

Overall even just driving through the rural countryside of Ghana was absolutely mystical, looking at the palm trees and pineapple farms off of the sides on the road.

Tell us about one person you met, who you will never forget.

In all honestly, I will never forgot the friends that I made in Ghana whether they are a CCS Staff member, a local, or one of my fellow volunteers. When I arrived in Ghana, I was absolutely excited, feeling that this was the beginning of a whole new journey.

After finishing a 10 hour flight to Ghana from New York and taking 45 minutes to go through Ghanaian Customs and claiming my bags, I met my driver Julius who took my bags for me and immediately welcomed me to Ghana by saying, “Akwaaba” which means welcome in, Twi.

From there I left the airport with Julius and we had 8 hours to spare before the other volunteer’s arrival in the evening who was coming from California. We hung out at a local café were I was able to adapt the African heat, and see what we could to know each other very well.

We went to see the new mall in Accra, and we went back to the airport in the evening were I met one of my best friends, Maddie. After just being 8 hours in Ghana, I felt welcome and open-minded about the developing world. Julius hired a private van service for all us.

It was a 5-hour drive from the Airport in Accra to our Home-Base in Hohoe, we drove the rural countryside throughout the middle of the night. It was exciting and exhausting, and I will never forget Julius and Maddie from that adventure.

Do you feel like you made an impact on the local community? Why or why not?

From my perspective, I definitely feel that I had an impact on the local community, and especially on the children that I taught and connected with at my volunteer assignment. While you’re in Ghana, you feel the sense that you’re welcomed by everyone that you walk past and many of the locals are very curious and happy to see foreigners come to their country to explore, and immerse in their culture.

It gives you the sign that the entire community is happy to see you, especially the children. When my fellow volunteers and I would walk through the town, many of children would jump up and down yelling “Yayvo!” It actually means, “white person” but not in a negative way.

If you would walk up to the children they would instantly hug you and would desire to play with you, even if they didn’t understand anything that you said. I had this happen to me everyday and it made me so happy to know that I made each one of the children’s faces brighten everyday.

At my volunteer placement I connected very closely with a lot of the students and children, so on my last day it was very sad. I still write letters back and forth to the children so I know that I will always remember them and that I will be back one day soon.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Overall, my time in Ghana with Cross Cultural Solutions has impacted me entirely in many ways. After returning home I’ve gained a ton of perspective of how lucky I am to live with more than enough necessities to survive throughout life.

While I was Ghana, many of the children that I was teaching were becoming very ill due to drinking water from the local river, which is the only available water source that they have. It really broke my heart to see many of the kids that I bonded with to be gone for days being in pain, and only having very limited medical resources.

I actually was able to visit the local hospital in our community, which was entirely different then a typical hospital here in the US. The sanitation of the hospital facilities were very bad, and there was only one doctor and several nurses available, while there were over 100 patients in critical and minor care units. I incredibly shocked after my visit to the hospital.

From my entire experience in Ghana, I hope to pursue a career that I can involve myself with helping people, and communities that are struggling in developing countries such as Ghana.