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22.03.2009 Social News

Connection across continents

By theghanaianjournal

'Amina in Ghana' is the title of a children's book about life in a Ghanean village. It is my four-year-old granddaughter Katrina's nighttime story. With simple black and white pictures it tells the story of the daily life of the African girl Amina. At age 12 she takes care of her siblings, helps with cooking and farming in the small village in Northern Ghana where she lives.

This is Katrina's favourite book. Every night she sits with the book, looking at the pictures. When I told her that I was going to Ghana on a short trip, her response was immediate: "Say hello to Amina from me," she said. As I was scheduled to spend only a week in Ghana and only a few days up in the Northern rural part of the country, I didn't give it much thought.

And yet, two weeks later I find myself in a village in Northern Ghana talking to a Danish aid volunteer whom I happen to tell the story.

I am astonished when she tells me that she knows the book, and furthermore that Amina comes from the neighbouring village. She is no longer 12 years old but 22. She is attending a technical college in Tamale, the main town in the region. Would I like to meet her? Would I ever! The following day everything was set up and right after lunch a charming young woman came to greet me: “Hello, I am Amina.”

Amina is one of the few girls in her village who ever got an education, because of a sponsorship from the authors of the children's book. She is now finishing her fashion and sewing course at the local polytechnic. I tell the story about her four-year-old Danish fan Katrina. She tells me about how much the book had meant to her because the scholarship gave her the education that none of the others girls in the village had got.

Thinking that the inconceivable seemed to be possible I took out my mobile phone and called my little granddaughter in Europe. I got hold of her, Katrina and Amina had a short conversation. Short because Katrina was completely overwhelmed emotionally. All of a sudden, a character in her favourite book calls her on the phone.

Amina was sweet and generous with the little Danish girl at the other end of the world and I felt as touched by the connection as Katrina did. In six months Amina will get married. Before we parted, I asked her what she wanted for a wedding gift. A sewing machine, she said.

"We have very little in my village, and I would like to be able to design and sew dresses, But sewing machines are very expensive and it will be many years before I can save enough for one." "How much does it cost?" I asked: 85 cedi (60 US dollars) she said. I found an envelope, put 60 dollars in it and wrote on the outside: Wedding gift for Amina from Katrina.

The author is a grandfather and professor of international relations.