Fear, I have discovered is not a bad thing if used well. It’s normal to have an amount of fear when embarking on a new adventure but the secret is to use fear as motivation and to keep moving until it disappears.
Not long after I had published my children’s books ‘Dokono the Donkey’ and ‘Koku the Cockerel’ and could now call myself a sort of writer, I was approached by Professor Takyiwa Manu. She was working with the Maastrict University and a team headed by Professor Valentina Mazzucato who were conducting research on the effects of migration on families. I was I admit, a little afraid.
The workshop was in Aburi and I got the chance to coach the children, separated in a myriad of ways from their parents. Some had been sent down to Ghana to shape up and others whose parents left when they were babies, had never experienced their parents in their lives. It was a highly emotional workshop and proof that creative writing has a healing touch and can draw out experiences that have been buried deep inside hearts. I will never, ever forget those children their stories, if not their adult faces are embedded in my heart.
Years later in my café, a young man approached me in my office. He wore a black blazer with a polo neck upon which hung a gleaming gold chain. Although he smiled at me, I could not place him.
“Ms Franka?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied. I was still unsure where I knew him.
“Remember the workshop in Aburi that you did?”
“Yes, I said,” memories of two young lads from England coming to the fore, “Were you one of the UK boys? You were with your cousin?”
His smile broadened and so did mine.
“How are you?” I asked.
“I am fine,” he replied. “I am actually on my way to the airport. I’m done with university and leaving to join my family now.”
“You went to university here?”
It was more out of delight and pride that I asked this question again. Happy that despite everything, this young man had stuck it out here in Ghana away from his family and acquired a degree and some great friends one of whom was with him. He’d found his roots and was going back to his second home – England. I felt so proud to have been a little part of his story and more understanding of the importance attached to the research being done by the Maastricht University in collaboration with Ghanaian academics. Indeed, how many of us take the time to think how migration has affected our own families and indeed what the impact is on our young folk? As refugees poured into Ghana from war torn countries years ago, I doubt if we took a minute to think of how the move would impact them.
This year, I was approached again by the Maastricht University to conduct another workshop. Initially I thought that it was going to be in Ghana again. I was pretty blown away by the fact that it was going to be held in Maastrich, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Getting an appointment date for my visa was a nightmare but by Gods’ grace it went through. Having worked on the workshop, the input of the academics was crucial.
The workshop was entitled ‘Finding Your Voice’ and we wanted to use writing as a form of therapy for the young ones, and to encourage them to find themselves and speak their truth wherever they were in the world. As part of the course materials, the young ones were given a small booklet that had photos and bios of 25 inspiring Ghanaians. This list was carefully curated with names like the late Esther Ocloo, industrialist, Kofi Kingston the Ghanaian World Wrestling Champion, Ozwald Boateng, the Designer based in the UK, Kofi Annan and Farida Bedwei. Held at the beautiful Chateau Bethlehem, the three days in that idyllic setting brought out some awesome stories. At the end of it all there was a sense of community amongst the young folk, a strong sense of not being alone in the world. I was so pleased to have been a part of this and even more sure of how academia can work hand in hand with creatives to make this world a better, happier place for all.