In November 2008, Janaan Decker (Student Services Coordinator for the Meijer Honors College) traveled to Ghana, Africa to gain hands-on experiences to help foster study abroad and international service learning programs for honors students. A program in Ghana is a way for students to engage in cultural exchange and immersion, which offers learning on a more profound level as well as promote academic and personal growth for a stronger community.
Many honors students have become passionate about making a difference in Ghana. They are creating a tradition of sending Meijer Honors College students each year to participate in service activities with a goal of helping Ghanaians help themselves develop thriving, sustainable communities.
Last summer, students worked at the Redemption Children’s Home in Damongo, which is in the northern region. There are about 50 children from all ages. Just like a family, the older children help care for the younger children and babies. Students painted the children’s rooms, read to children, participated in the Sunday services, practiced drumming, and lost playing soccer with the children! We became members of their extended family. Sadly, children in Ghana cannot be adopted because of the fear that they will be trafficked into slavery.
Students also connected with high school students from the
Village of Larabunga (about 45 minutes from Damongo). When we
visited their village, we were greeted with open arms and we
were introduced to their chief (who is 101 years old). They
showed us their water source that was murky and filthy, along
with crocodiles. They desperately want clean water.
For the next 21 days, we were in the southern region in the Village of Winneba to work with the Free the Slaves organization. Students will participate in outreach programs for families who were victims of child slavery at Challenging Heights.
The Program/Project Officer, Frederick Dadzie gave us the opportunity to help teach the Millennial Development Goals at a school in the Village of Senya. Most of these children had been victims of child slavery. We also taught math and reading at the Challenging Heights School in Winneba. The classrooms were separated by boards for three classes with about 30 students per class. One of the students, Peter, is 30 to 35 years old. He does not remember his childhood or his age because he was a victim of child slavery at the age of 5. He is now in the 5th grade.
During this summer’s trip, students will continue to work with the children at the Redemption Children’s Home, and participate in outreach programs at Challenging Heights. They also plan to connect with the Ghanaians in the Village of Larabunga to continue talking about ways in which we can work together on their clean water project. We will be spending time in Cape Coast to meet with Ross Ezinga, an honors engineering student, who is working with Dr. Sam Kofi on various engineering projects. Mark Schaub and Becca Hambleton of the Padnos International Center met wtih Dr. Kofi during a visit to the University of Cape Coast. Dr. Kofi expressed his desire to collaborate with students on developing sustainable technologies that utilize locally available materials.
Students will also connect with Annie Hakim and Uma Mishra to help install the water filters in the Village of Atekyedo (near Winneba).Thirty Hydraid BioSand water filters manufactured by Cascade Engineering have been shipped to Ghana. Their arrival date is mid-July.
In order to create a sustainable and economical filtration system, Annie is developing a health care education initiative that focuses on community-wide comprehensive and preventative care with the village chief and elders. She is working with local primary and high schools, afterschool children’s rights clubs, and evening adult education programs.
Students received a grant from Grand Valley's Sustainable Community Development Initiative, which helps to offset their travel expenses.