BASICS International is a faith based charity organization located in Ghana, West Africa, with its headquarters in New York City, whose mission is “…to assist the United Nations…to see extreme poverty halved by 2015.” Executive Director, Patricia Wilkins, had the course of her life – and as it turns out, the lives of many other people – changed by a trip to Africa. Pat tells the story herself:
My passion to travel and also my passion to help others merged in 2000, when I decided to seek volunteer work in Africa. I chose Ghana, as it was noted as a peaceful, war-free, and English-speaking African nation. However it still had a need for volunteers due to social and economic problems. I committed to six months to a year to work with any organization that needed help. What I didn’t know is that when I said any organization, it would end of being the organization that I founded only six months after my arrival.
I have since committed myself to end the cycle of illiteracy and poverty in Ghana, by providing sponsorships and after-school programs to children in villages and deprived communities. Most children in these villages are the first to there read, write, or speak English, and certainly the first to attend school. I work in communities where most do not want to go, places that have been listed and categorized as densely populated and impoverished. But what each writer, statistic taker, and national disaster report fails to mention, is you will find some of the happiest people here. People here always find a reason to laugh, sing, dance or celebrate. The streets light up each night, resembling a Caribbean carnival, with vendors selling food to the locals, who eat hand to mouth (as is a norm). There is always music playing, and sounds coming from churches, mosques and traditional shrines. My work brings a new day—every day. It brings laughter, smiles, sorrow, tears, and most of all it brings hope.
Many ask, what has kept a New York City girl in Ghana for 14 years? Well, Ghana is a mesmerizing place, despite the open gutters that I got acquainted with on my first day (I fell into a 3 foot gutter and was covered with soiled water) and the inconsistency of lights or water. Like many, I found myself adjusting by going to sleep at 7pm, when lights were shut off, and using buckets to take a bath. Here, you learn to conserve what we have just in case the tap doesn’t flow tomorrow.
Each time someone asks me what has kept me in Ghana, I think hard, and the answer is always the same: MY WORK. This is the place that I now call home. Fourteen years have passed since I said I would volunteer for a few months. I stopped complaining long ago about the lights going off, or the shortage of water. I have learned to conserve water, and use lights only when it is necessary. As I sit in the dark, I think of the children. Despite their odds, they have hope. So do I. I encourage everyone to embark on a trip of lifetime, because it might turn out to be just that – a lifetime!
Posted on 05/12/2014 at 06:33:00 PM