By DAVID GREEN
In America, we hear stories from the older generation about how they trudged long distances through the snow to reach school every morning.
Peter York’s story has some similarities, and maybe some day he’ll be the older generation who tells tales of hardship to his children and grandchildren.
As of today, his stories are still the daily reality in his native country of Ghana.
As a youngster growing up in rural Ghana, Peter arose in the dark and got busy with a variety of chores such as fetching water. Then he joined other children in the long walk to school—about 14 kilometers or 8.6 miles.
“We were gone all day,” he said. “We only saw our parents early in the morning and again in the evening.”
The kids walked together, often passing through the forest and spotting scorpions and snakes. They sang songs to keep their attention focused on the long walk and to make the time pass faster.
“When you go in a group,” Peter said, “you don’t feel the pain of walking.”
They chewed sugar cane during their walk and that was often their only food for the morning.
The concept of leisure time didn’t exist for children in the village. It’s a luxury that millions of people around the world don’t understand.
Peter’s life changed when he was eight years old. An uncle took him to the city to attend school.
“When I went to the city, I started over,” he said. “About 10 years ago I began to discover who I was.”
He developed hobbies and interests and had the opportunity to dream about a future for himself.
His initial trip to the city of Accra was astounding.
“I never knew you could see so many lights, that there could be so many big houses and so many people,” Peter said. “It was a very strange place for me, but that’s where I was able to develop myself.”
He hopes to dispel notions of Africa as a slave nation, always at war.
“Africa is a good place to be,” Peter said, while acknowledging the problems of the continent.
Helping people realize their dreams and lifting them out of poverty could bring an end to the fighting that goes on in many areas, he said.
Peter describes Ghana as a beautiful country and Africa’s first constitutional democracy, a status achieved in 1957.
The country’s flag—red for the blood of it struggle for freedom, yellow for the rich minerals including gold, and green for the leading industry of agriculture—is highlighted by a black star.
“This not only depicts our black heritage, but it’s a star for all of Africa,” Peter said. “We were the first to gain independence and the star gave hope to the remainder of Africa.”
The nation remains very poor. When Peter was asked about medical facilities, he told students that clinics are scattered here and there. From his village, you often need to carry a person on your back to walk to a clinic and sometimes they die along the way.
Peter showed two objects from home and explained their significance to the students. He also spoke about his clothing and showed a robe worn at his high school.
His time in America will be used to enhance his skills, knowledge and experience, and to take a good look at how the country functions.
“I want to learn about what makes your country so rich, what makes it one people.”
All the while, his home will remain close to his heart.
“I don’t life in Africa,” Peter says, “but Africa lives in me.”