A reflection from HA: Ghana volunteer Warren Tidwell


Yesterday I was caught off guard in an interview.

These women are stronger than most people I know. They are so matter of fact about their circumstances that it often lulls you into a false sense of the matter – that is to say you become the tiniest bit numb to their plight. In doing this work and immersing myself into the data collection I've had to do like anyone else and find a balance. You can't wallow in their misery or become numb to it either. Neither is beneficial to progress with our work here in helping the women of the camps.

As I was writing about the needs of 50-year-old Pooni Dajoha she told us in her quiet, measured voice that her biggest need is the associated school expenses for her son. Most say food or clothing but this was the only thing she wanted. Her son is 19 and had to leave the high school. As I was writing I realized Ms. Dajoha was crying. She became quite emotional as she described her hopes and dreams for her child. In Ghana. this is only possible by completing an education. School is beginning soon and she faces the prospect of seeing him watch another year go by without returning. We haven't seen any crying in our entire time in Kukuo and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I'm a father. I want a better life for my son. As parents we all do. My heart broke for her because I completely identified with her pain.

There are moments like this interspersed in the laughs and serious conversation that are so touching. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything is going to be ok. I don't know that but I am going to do what I can to help her.

Some people think it's strange that a 37-year-old man with a family is working as a volunteer in Western Africa for a year. Most do this as a part of their job as an NGO or at a younger or older age. I'm glad I'm here now. A younger me wouldn't have been able to handle what I've seen and an older me may not even be here. In dreaming of a better life for my son, I want to be an example to him that anything is possible and we should live good, meaningful lives. Ms. Dajoha and I are alike in many, many ways.

Warren Alan Tidwell is a lifelong Alabama resident. Since the advent of the internet, Warren has used blogs and social media to organize thousands of volunteers and secure millions in financial and material donations for disaster relief and recovery efforts. He worked as a volunteer in rural Hancock County, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and drove over 11,000 miles in 12 weeks to create a network of small non-profits in the southeastern United States after the 2011 tornado Super Outbreak. As a result of these extensive networking efforts, Warren was also able to help set up operations when subsequent tornado outbreaks affected Joplin, Missouri and Piedmont, Oklahoma. Warren sparked a worldwide movement when he started 26 Acts of Kindness after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.