Born in Ghana, I moved to the United States at the age of eight. I call both countries home. I went nine years without visiting Ghana before my most recent trip. This was not my intention, by any means; however due to life’s various demands, time inevitably passed. Returning home to Ghana for a philanthropic project had always been a dream of mine, but I naively imagined it to be an insurmountable task.
Needless to say, it was a dream come true to be chosen to partake in a mission trip to Ghana called Kool Doctors Giving Back. This opportunity occurred due to a partnership between my dental office, Kool Smiles, and Touch A Life.
At the end of my trip, I was asked what my expectations were prior to the trip and whether my expectations were met. As I reflected, I realized expectations can sometimes turn you for a loop. I had no idea I would leave so awakened by lessons of perseverance, vigilance, and faith after working with the children of Touch A Life.
The way the children received our dental team was warm and inspiring. The little ones rushed to give us hugs, several young boys and girls politely ran to carry our bags – the children did anything they could to make us feel welcome. They had so much generosity pouring out of them that it was easy to turn the exhaustion after the long hours of travel into fervor and motivation to get everything set up and started!
Our dental team created a makeshift dental office in a room provided to us at the Touch A Life Care Center. We brainstormed how to set up so that we could all be as efficient as possible. Luckily, our employer, Kool Smiles, who sponsored the mission trip, provided an abundance of resources for us to use for oral health education and dental treatment.
Because I was aware that the children hold a unique past of struggle and exploitation, I expected timid and depressed faces. I was pleased to see, instead, many smiling faces. The children that came in to see us each had their own glowing spirit and character. I saw character traits of sincerity, devotion, and kindness and I felt the spirit of resilience, optimism, and determination pouring out of them. Their influence on me, simply put, is sustained, unwavering dedication to give and encourage others to give.
As an immigrant to the United States from Ghana, I know that I am living the American dream, coming from meager means to having the privilege of an education to become a dentist. I hope that my influence will inspire the children to value the importance of education, to see that it is a way out of hard circumstances.
I see clearly that the Touch A Life children in Ghana can be anything they want – their spirits of vigilance and faith will take them far. They have won an unimaginable fight that many of us sitting behind our devices reading this can never comprehend. Yet, they continue to persevere.
As time inevitably passes, these boys and girls will become men and women, so we must take on the responsibility to touch their lives in any capacity we can. By touching their lives, we touch the future and leave our handprint on the world for generations to come. I urge you to give however you can to Touch A Life. Your life will be forever changed.
Abrefi Asare, DDS