Meet our team member Lydia Marfo and her journey to America…
What is your position? Sometimes I’m a cook, sometimes I’m team leader, and sometimes I do the regular stuff [in the dietary department] – I’m everywhere!
How long have you worked at The Selfhelp Home? Four years!
Where were you born and how old were you when you came to America? I was born in Ghana. I turned 18 here, so I was 17 when I came here. I’m 23 now. I came alone. I knew a family friend, so he is the one I’m still staying with.
So all of your family is still in Ghana? Yes. I have three sisters and my parents.
Why did you decide to come to Chicago? Actually, it was an opportunity. I won the American [visa] lottery.
Do you remember what your first impression of America was? Back home, we have this term that ‘America is heaven’…I saw that I would get a lot of opportunities. Back home I really wanted to be a doctor, so even the program I did in high school is science, so when I was coming here I was like ‘Oh, it’s a great opportunity for me to continue.’
What do you like the most about Chicago? What I like most is basically the life here. Although I know it’s hard here, it has taught me to be brave and smarter.
What is the biggest difference between Ghana and America? The weather. It’s really hot down there. It’s sometimes cold but not as cold as here!
What are you studying in school now, and is there a difference between school in Ghana and school in the US? I’m studying to be a CNA. Right now I’m doing LPN courses, but I want to be a doctor. Yes, there’s a great difference, which is that in Ghana we mostly do theory. Here we do the practicals, the clinicals…so it makes it easier here. Back home we had to memorize everything.
When you were in primary school, were boys and girls together, or separate? Yes, they were together. Well actually, after 8th grade, you choose where you want to go – either a mixed school or a single sex school. So I went to a mixed high school.
Is English an official language in Ghana? Do you speak a Ghanaian language as well? English is becoming an official language. I studied English from Kindergarten and up and then you choose between French or Spanish, so I did French. The only Ghanaian language I speak is Twi.
What do you miss most about Ghana? Especially the food! We have this food called banku with spicy pepper and fried fish. It has this kind of taste – although we have some here [in Chicago], the taste is kind of different.
What do you like about working at Selfhelp Home? When I started working here what I liked was how flexible Sofie, the Dietary Director was with my schedule. She made it very easy for me because I was in school and I was working. It was hard for me but when I told her she adjusted the schedule for me. Also, I meet a lot of people here, especially the nurses on the 7th , 8th , and 6th floors – I’m a nursing student so I sometimes ask them, ‘Oh, how is the work? How do I do this?’ That’s what I like here.
What do you like to do in your free time? I watch Korean dramas and listen to K-pop music.
What else would you like people to know about you? I think a lot of people know that I want to be a doctor – a neurosurgeon.