January 28, 2016
I had never felt that I was wrong for being in a place before. It’s a distinct feeling – different from feeling uncomfortable, different from feeling like an outsider – it’s somehow feeling that you are not only intruding, but looking, glaring. Arriving in Agbogbloshie on Monday, it felt like a place I had no right to visit.
But on Thursday, things were different. We were shooting the end of our footage, and needed to interview burn victims. We hoped to get their stories, asking simple descriptive questions about the time and place of their burns. But for the last question, we asked “What advice do you want to give to the workers here about burns?” Many replies were about wearing shoes and long sleeves, both of which are excellent protective practices. But we also heard about how “the people of Agbogbloshie need to educate themselves” and need the materials to do that. And these are the materials that IST Ghana hopes to provide.
We talked most to Chairman (Ibraham), the head of the copper burners. His voice both croaks and grumbles as he replies to our questions, looking directly into the camera in each interview. He tells us of his burns, and how he protects himself. He demonstrates the application of “ink,” or gentian violet, for one of our videos. He delivers the last line of the video “Listen to these tips, protect yourselves and each other, and make Agbogbloshie a better place for us all.” And we are all, together, trying to do that. Chairman is smart, as are Kareem, Harun, and the other workers on site. We have the tools to share their knowledge, and to give them voice. What’s more, we have the resources to contribute our own knowledge, and build upon their own. I still do not feel “right” being in Agbogbloshie. I do not feel that I belong, or that I have been accepted into the community. But I realized then that our presence is wanted. I realized that what we are doing matters. And as I remarked to my teammate Zak, I feel better at Agbogbloshie than anywhere else we’ve been this trip. At Agbogbloshie, I know what I’m doing, and I am trying to do good.