Amy’s African Adventure

Introduction to Amy’s Story

I first met Amy at one of the early Chocolate Shows in New York demonstrating how to make chocolate from beans using home kitchen appliances she’d modified herself. Amy started making chocolate for a school project even when she was told she would not be able to succeed. Amy took these words as a challenge, not a deterrent, and managed to enlist the aid of some new friends – Pierrick Chouard, Maricel Presilla, and Jacques Torres.

As I was working on the first incarnation of The Chocolate Chronicles (back in September, 2009), I received the first e-mail from Amy in over a year, telling me about her trip to Ghana. The timing of my receiving Amy’s e-mail could not have been coincidental and I took it to mean that I had to do something with it to let others know about The Chocolate Life of this remarkable young lady.

With a wee bit of editing, here is the e-mail she sent me. I think you’ll be just as inspired by this young lady as I have been for some time.

Yours in pursuit of The Chocolate Life,
Clay Gordon

Hi Clay:

How are you? I hope all is well with you. I haven’t written to you in a while and you’re probably wondering what ever happened to me. I’ll be a senior in high school this year and am looking forward to college next year. Sadly, I never did talk my parents into letting me do a presentation at the Miami Chocolate Festival, but this summer (after plenty of lobbying) I did manage to travel even further away and for me it was a deeply moving experience that I can share with you here.

This is from my personal journal:

July 10, 2009:
“I am about to embark on a journey to Ghana. Not only am I leaping out of my comfort zone, I’m doing it without anyone by my side. It is a bit scary, but it is much more empowering and is giving me a sense of great independence. The unknown, the un-experienced, makes me get butterflies in my stomach and chills down my back. I still can’t believe it is really happening. It is so surreal and beyond my wildest dreams. GHANA- really?! It’s pretty crazy to think of where my chocolate bar has led me over the years. I’m kind of impressed with my ability to pull this off. I want the next three weeks to go in slow motion! I am ready to leave my mark (or at least the first of many) and become a citizen of the world.”

Now that you are completely confused, let me explain. From July 11 to August 1, I was in Ghana.

Arrival in Ghana

Maybe you are thinking – why Ghana? (second rate forastero beans?) Well, I wanted to experience Africa.

I was tired of hearing and seeing what the media wants society to believe. I wanted to see everything first-hand. Live it, breathe it, and experience it myself.

And my doings in chocolate played a huge role in my curiosity. Not only have great people I admire such as Robert Linxe encouraged me to be passionate about life, but with my research in child labor issues in cacao plantations, it fueled my interest in going to Africa.

As I found out through research, the child labor situation is much more complicated than one would imagine. Because these children live in a completely different culture, it was hard for me to understand why the problem has not been solved. Therefore, I wanted to experience what their daily activities consisted of. However, since the Ivory Coast (which is where a large amount of child labor is thought to be) is not the safest place to visit, I asked for advice. I was referred to Ghana, by many people including Maricel Presilla and Bernard Duclos, as the place to experience Africa. Not only are the people so warm and welcoming, but the cacao industry is one of the largest in Ghana.

Well, now I’m back and want to share my experience and pictures with you. The time I spent in Ghana was so rewarding and so much different than what I expected. Through the program (Global Leadership Adventures) I was on, I was able to volunteer at an orphanage for fifty children called Bright Future.

For three weeks, my group and I engaged with the children. We were able to play, teach, and learn from all of them.

It was so remarkable to see how little they have and yet how happy and content they are with life. The few requests we did receive were for school supplies – like notebooks, pens, paper, all things I take for granted.

It truly made me happy to watch how excited the kids got reading and writing. And I believe education is the only way out of poverty, giving everyone the chance to become whatever they want.

While in Ghana, I got to walk the marketplaces of the towns, the canopy of the forests, and the Cape Coast (slave) Castle where Obama had just walked a week before.

The only places I wasn’t able to experience, because of scheduling, were the cacao plantations. You can imagine my disappointment at that!

But in the end, my journey was all about the children.

I see these children, and with a simple smile I connect with them.

I see the pain and the suffering they have experienced in their short lives.

But I also see the strength and courage they have to keep going just one day at a time.

I see the passion they all have for learning and becoming well educated. So in the end, what I really see when I look into their eyes is a “Bright Future.”

So I have been to Ghana, now what?

I want to be part of the CHANGE everyone is talking about. That positive transformation to bring happiness, peace and education everywhere. So in whatever manner I can accomplish this, I will try to make a difference.

In any case, that’s my big experience. Thank you for all your encouragement throughout the years. I cannot even express how much I truly appreciate it. You are such an inspiration to me and it makes me so happy to know we are friends. And I definitely want to continue this friendship in the future!

Warm chocolate wishes,

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