By JayJay D. Segbefia, NAV
I’d like to introduce you to Nii Amate.
Nii Amate has participated in almost every BraveHearts Expeditions’ Abseil adventure since the firm rolled out the first-ever commercial abseil project in 2015, taking on challenges between 20 and 50 metres of vertical space every time.
On the BraveHearts Expeditions #NoLimits4Kids Abseil adventure on July 6 this year, Nii Amate, scrambling light-footed over rocks to the top of the abseil rig mentioned to Clients Services Manager Ellen Lokko when she asked if he wouldn’t need her help, “I might need some help,” stressing on the point that he would be willing to receive help only if he found himself wanting, but not for a lack of effort.
Nii Amate is a 4-year old pupil of the Trinity Montessori School in Dzorwulu, whose dream is to become a Super Hero, an Astronaut and a Doctor. And, at the age of 4, he has achieved the mindset-shift and the intellectual resonance of unapologetic greatness that 75 percent of the Ghanaian population will not achieve until they turn 40. Fifteen minutes after the above conversation with Ellen, Nii Amate made history as the first under-five year old to abseil the Mogo Rock of the Shai Hills Reserve unaccompanied by an adult.
The experience of Nii Amate, and the increasing number of kids who face the challenges of the Ghanaian outdoors, is one that is pregnant with lessons towards creating a new generation of young people who have boundless imaginations and believe in their mental capacity to undo the crass mediocrity handed down to us by Ghanaians of the pre-1957 to 1979 stock. It starts by breaking down the chains of mental slavery that have been handed down to us from Ghanaian generations dating as far back as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade era.
And the path to complete intellectual emancipation of the Ghanaian starts with the interaction of Ghana’s Children with the great Ghanaian Outdoors.
Outdoor Adventure is good for Kids
Increasing evidence demonstrates the many benefits of the outdoors on children’s psychological, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical well-being, including reduced stress, greater physical health, more creativity and improved concentration. Beyond the health and cognitive benefits children gain from free and mentally-unrestricted play in the outdoors, nature also provides them with a sense of wonder and a deeper understanding of our responsibility to take care of the Earth. How exactly can a kid develop a sense of wonder when they are reduced to playing Pokemon Go?
Another study by the North Carolina State University’s College of Design outlines eleven amazing benefits of introducing kids into the outdoors. Outdoor adventure supports multiple development domains, supports creativity and problem solving, enhances cognitive abilities, improves academic performance, reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms, increases physical activity, improves nutrition, improves eyesight (reduces rates of myopia in children and adolescents, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology), improves social relations, improves self-discipline, and reduces stress.
Summing up, Hewes and McEwan (2005), quoted in this Children in the Outdoors Literature, are happy to note, “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?”
The same work quotes the natural environment as representing “dynamic and rough playscapes… The topography, like slopes and rocks, afford natural obstacles that children have to cope with. The vegetation provides shelters and trees for climbing. The meadows are for running and tumbling.”
What Ghana Needs is a Change in Mind-set
Human beings start out as beings of action, mature into beings of thought, and evolve into both. I am no fan of Ghana’s first President, but I am a firm believer in his quote: “Revolutions are brought about by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought.”
Central to the Action & Thought evolution is the Power of Questioning, which is the foundation of change and problem-solving. And, all little children ever do is ask WHY? This is why young children are the key to Ghana’s development challenges. As stressed by Theologian, Ghanaian Author and International Speaker, Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, “The why question has given birth to many inventions. You cannot start solving Africa’s problems, unless you ask why. You must carefully diagnose the problem. Don’t give solutions until you know why. Once you diagnose a problem [it becomes] half the problem solved.”
Invariably, children are half-way through solving societal problems by their natural disposition to posing the why question. Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why doesn’t Mommy go to school? Why can’t I use the girl’s washroom? Why can’t I drive? Why does Daddy have the biggest portion of meat? Why do we have dumsor?
And these are questions that demand answers… the answers that are difficult for us sometimes to provide but cannot run away from all the same.
Such as my good friend Nuerki A-B’s interesting attempt to answer a simple question posed by her daughter as quoted below:
Daughter: Wow, look over there, Mommy. Many cows.
Nuerki: Very observant, Ace-Ann. Let’s learn a new word for next time you see so many. Use cattle instead of cows. It is more accurate.
Daughter: But cows is a word…
Nuerki: Yes, but it is largely used for females. Females are girls. What you saw back there was a mix.
Daughter: Okay…so, what are the boy cows called?
Silence for 3mins.
Daughter: What do the girls look like?
Nuerki: (Picks up the phone as a point of escape)
But in the outdoors, when we push them beyond their limits of mental endurance, they may find the answers to their questions and more, for the lesson book of nature is exhaustless, and calls forth the powers of the most contemplative elements of the human mind in her quiet majesty and unspoken Greatness.
Like Nii Amate, kids have no fears. We simply must refuse to pass ours on to them.
This we can do by signing them up to hiking, trekking, abseiling, canoeing, rock-climbing, camping, and many other outdoor adventure activities that would not only improve their physical well-being but, more important, shape their mental faculties in the direction we all will be proud of, in a country that is bogged down with so much mediocrity it cannot solve its own energy needs in a sub-region inundated with solar and ocean power-generating potential.
No limits for Kids, I say!