Oregon Journalism & Media Students in Ghana Robbed of $25,000 in Electronics, ‘Years of Memories’

Bandits in the dead of night recently cut through barbed wire, scooted over a cement fence, sneaked through an open side window, eluded a security officer and stole $25,000 in mostly electronics from University of Oregon journalism and media students stationed in Ghana.

As Eder Campuzano reports for the Emerald at UO, the burglars’ haul: “Eight laptops. Five iPhones. Two cameras. Two backpacks.” 

The other items now missing, according to a participant in the UO j-school’s Media in Ghana summer program (nicknamed The Real World: Ghana), encompass “years of intangible memories, pictures, music, portfolio pieces and schoolwork that can never be replaced. You can’t put a dollar amount on the magnitude of things that were stolen from the bedrooms of my roommates while they peacefully slept. It was difficult to watch the members of my new family desperately reach for their personal belongings that were no longer there.”

As a separate program participant shares with Campuzano, “I sat down in the living room with a few others and the feeling of helplessness set in. Just hours earlier, somebody had invaded our personal home — and even more frightening, been within inches of us while we slept — and there was absolutely nothing we could do to change that.”

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Interestingly, the next morning a local investigator told the students it was at least partially their fault.

“This is not your home,” the investigator said. “This is not your country. This is Ghana. You come here with your white skin. … What did you expect?”

On the program’s blog, student participants shared a range of emotions and reactions to their techno-loss, accompanying loss of security and, conversely, the new perspectives they have gained.

For example, among many other things that vanished when his MacBook Pro was snatched, UO grad student Carson York lost the thesis he needed to complete so he could earn his master’s degree.

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Yet, in a blog post headlined “What You Learn About Life When Your Life Gets Stolen,” York’s reflection is admirably not all Ghanian doom and gloom. In his words:

“When you start looking for the evil and all you find is the good, a country full of people eager to help, smile, and say hi to strangers, you learn about the human spirit. When you try to justify theft with the poverty at each turn and realize that in the face of poverty these people are genuinely happy, you learn about the human spirit. When you buy a mango in your neighborhood and the lady, who earns a few dollars a day selling fruit, nearly cries in her attempt to espouse her sympathy, you learn about the human spirit. When you go to work and the office queues to apologize on behalf of their country, all speaking in the first person as if they had robbed you, you learn about the human spirit. When the other students on this adventure, who have all had pieces of their life stolen, sit in the living room and together refuse to let it define this life changing experience, you learn about the human spirit. When that same group becomes closer and smiles more, you learn about the human spirit.

“Without being robbed and losing a lot of physical property, I may have never learned what I came here to try and understand. I would have never gained real insights into what it means to be human and what is really important within the human experience. …

“Thank you to Ghana for reminding me what matters in life, even if you did steal a few pieces of it in the process.”

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