Hi. My name is Rhoda Agilinko and I am the founder of Homeland Ghana Educational Foundation. Homeland Ghana is focused on helping to improve the standards of education for students in communities that have some of the lowest literacy and employment figures in Ghana. Both my resolve and interest in working to reduce poverty among the youth by helping them to acquire skills through education can be traced back to my own family background and upbringing in Ghana. I have heard it said that, “everyone has a story. It might or might not be a love story. It could be a story of dreams, friendship, hope, survival or even death. And every story is worth telling,” this is mine.
1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT HAVE YOUR PARENTS TOLD YOU ABOUT YOU AS A CHILD?
I was born on May 14th 1996, in Old Tafo, Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Ghana. My parents are from two remote villages in the Upper East region, my mum being from Wiaga and my father from Siniensi. I was told that my dad first spotted my mum at a youth conference and her reaction to his initial “toast” was a resounding no because he was a “little chubby.” Chubby or not, I came along years later, the only girl and I have little doubt that I am their greatest blessing. In the words of my mother, “You were so cute, small, you were extremely tiny (here she uses her fingers to illustrate or should I say over-exaggerate the truth). You wouldn’t believe the amount of fun I had always dressing you up. Whenever, I got really busy doing other things, I could leave you playing by yourself and like a good little girl you would stay put and mind your business.”
2. WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU FIND STRANGE/INTERESTING ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF CHILDHOOD?
I’ve asked myself, “What is it that is most appealing about children? Is it their beauty?” In my view, children are beautiful because they possess something that we at one time or another lose – the quality of innocence. To not grasp imaginatively that death will come. To be ignorant of sex, colour, race. To believe in the irrational – Santa Claus, fairies, monsters under the bed. And, of course, the myth of the inFinite power and goodness of others. What I thought I had once lost, I found in the establishment of Homeland Ghana and the support we receive from you all. You make me believe in the good of humanity, day in and day out. Thank you.
3. DO YOU HAVE ANY SIBLINGS AND IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY LIKE?
I grew up surrounded by all males. I have four annoying brothers. I say they are annoying because they tease me about almost everything from the size of my forehead, to the size of my hands and feet, to my hairstyles. Although I don’t remember much about my childhood, it is still interesting being an only girl. I asked my older brothers to tell me a little about what I was like when I was younger. Apparently, (I still need more evidence) I was small. I was mouthy and always demanding to have my own way. I was bossy with no real power to enforce anything.
4. DESCRIBE YOUR CHILDHOOD HOME AND THE NEIGHBOURHOOD YOU GREW UP IN
I can honestly say that at the age of five (5) life was a party to be thrown and all I cared about were lollipops and dollies. I grew up on an estate, two floors shaped like an upside down letter L. We occupied two small rooms, one my mum overly decorated as our living room and the other the shared family bedroom with one floor mattress, a corner for our clothing packed into many suitcases, a small brown table covered with cosmetic products and that was it. Our kitchen was not a recognisable space, we just made do with the compound veranda downstairs. The common bathroom we all shared was across the compound and typical of most Ghanaian estates at the time. There were no toilets, you would have to travel to the community “bomber/dump” site with your loo roll about 15 minutes away. Inconsistent or what?
5. WHAT IS YOUR FIRST, MOST VIVID MEMORY?
I can honestly say these were some of the best years of my life. I would confidently follow my older brothers to the football park behind our estate and referee their game of football (blowing my whistle for just about any stupid thing) and eventually get chased away. It was at this age that I remember my first “bloody” accident. I had gotten involved in a game of throwing stones from afar and dodging. A stone landed on top of my right eye and I have the scar today. When I get too cocky, it reminds me of a different life I had altogether. Mum was livid, I had one eye for almost a month.
6. WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU MISS ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD?
At the end of each day, I would have done so much, covered so much ground in search of fun but at no point in time would mum worry that I had been kidnapped or lost. That’s the uniqueness of childhood in Ghana – freedom.
Watch out for the second part of this interview.