Who: Erin Lawless
When: Summer 2012
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? I learned about people on my trip to Ghana. I learned how interrelated we all really are. We all have hopes and dreams; we all have flaws and worries. During my trip I was able to talk and connect with many different people. This was truly one of my favorite things about traveling to Ghana. People were very open to sharing their life experiences and were very interested in learning about my life. I was amazed how much I had in common with the people I met. I grew in my understanding of the world and the people in it.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa. Was this true for you? If so, how? Africa taught me to dream bigger than myself. My trip to Ghana not only changed my perspective of the world, but it inspired me to reach for dreams I didn't even know that I had. I traveled to Ghana as part of a University of Georgia study abroad program. The main project I worked on was the Ghana Community Trade Program. We met with different female entrepreneurs such as jewelry makers, master seamstresses and textile designers. We learned about their trade and purchased items to be sold in select boutiques in Athens, Georgia. Our main goal was to provide the entrepreneurs with new opportunities in which to sell their products and, hopefully, create a sustainable relationship with the boutiques in Athens. I went into the program looking to learn from the women and possibly help them strengthen their businesses, I didn't realize how impacted I would be. Seeing how hardworking, determined, and creative the women have to be to successfully run their businesses was truly amazing. They produced beautiful products with limited resources.
My experiences in Ghana inspired me to pursue a Masters degree in Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors at the University of Georgia. I studied Fabric Design for undergrad, and I was interested in learning more specifically about the textile trade and how it impacts people globally. My experiences from Ghana fuel my research and passion for this industry.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? One of the first people that comes to mind is a boy named Edward that I met at a children’s orphanage in Kumasi. We were helping to repaint the playground for the children, and we spent the day playing and talking with them. Edward was one of the older kids at the home, and he offered to help paint. He and I became fast friends and ended up spending the day painting together. We talked about his life dreams; he was about to graduate from high school and wanted to go to college for graphic design. He loved to sing; he taught me some local songs and we sang some songs together that we both new. My group ended up taking him and his friend to a local soccer match where we all had a great time. I learned so much about Edward’s life in that short period of time and I will never forget him. We come from two different worlds but we became friends so easily. He is the same age as my brother and it was crazy to see both the similarities and differences of their lives.