Humans of LWR: Shaping My World View

Dzifa Binka, center, surrounded by family at her graduation.

This post is part of our Humans of LWR series, which seeks to provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who take part in our mission of ending poverty, injustice and human suffering.

I come from a place where community means everything.

Growing up in Accra, Ghana, I often heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” even though we lived in the capital city quite far from most of our relatives. Nevertheless, the idea that you were a part of a greater community and that many people contributed to your growth and development was important, even if the saying itself was a bit cliché. My father would often tell me that I had to always remember my roots, and even my high school’s motto reflected these values of community: “Knowledge in the Service of Africa.” These ideas were always at the back of my mind, growing up in a relatively privileged position in Ghana (in a gated community, going to good schools and being able to speak English and learn French) and it wasn’t until I left home for college in the United States that I really understood these things.

binka home
My home in Ghana.

I went to a small liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, NY called Vassar College and changed my major about two times before I settled on a major in Geography with a minor in French and Francophone Studies. I loved how Geography not only looked at the physical topography and borders of the Earth but also looked at the ways people interact with each other, how they affect and are a part of the places they find themselves in, and alternatives to our current world systems. I believe this is what set me on the path to LWR, as the intersection of being a Geography major and a person from a developing country made me even more aware of social injustices I had just accepted as the norm. My daily interactions with others at Vassar, and just being in a foreign country, helped shape the complex worldview that I am honestly still trying to understand, challenge and be aware of.

ma-and-i-in-the-mountains
My mother and I in the mountains near neighboring Togo.

In addition to all this, being so far away from my God-fearing mother made me realize that I needed to work on my own faith and not depend on her as much. I had to develop my own sense of spirituality. And seeing the silence, but also the action, of the church in the many difficult situations around the world (the Syrian crisis, natural disasters, brutality against civilians), I have come to realize that my faith and social justice must go hand-in-hand. This is why I was attracted to Lutheran Volunteer Corps, the program through which I am at Lutheran World Relief. Both organizations share the values of community, sustainability and faith-based work that I hoped to explore further in my career and in life. During the interview with LWR, I was excited to learn that they organization does not take away the autonomy of the local organizations and people in their work. I was also amazed that I had so much fun in the interview. It already felt like I had found my fit.

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adomi-bridge
The Adomi Bridge, which allows travel over the largest river in Ghana, in the distance.

After my time at LWR, I plan to seek a Master of Arts in Geography before working further in the nonprofit field. Things could change and I am eager to see how working at LWR for the next 11 months will inform my decisions about the future. I hope to see how sustainable development projects can be implemented while keeping the voice of local partners and people heard. I want to understand sustainable development better and to see what that means for places like my home country of Ghana in an unequal world. I want to see my faith put to action.