It was a long awaited emotional trip that I began a few weeks ago, filled with all the uncertainty of living and doing work in a new village. I was warmly welcomed in Keta as I had been welcomed in Ghana for the past 28 years. The faces were all different but the opportunity in front of me was only too familiar.
I was all too often reminded that I was in a land where their needs are vast and overwhelming, a level of need that cannot be appreciated until you have lived in Ghana. This is Ghana, where even young children tell me “we are suffering” and I understand. Still their smile is infectious.
My path to building a library and computer lab was paved for me hugely because of the partnership I created with a Ghanaian friend Platini. Platini is a human rights advocate and an outspoken child rights advocate who himself has created a small school for 40 children that is a model school against institutional corporal punishment. He personally pays for all expenses at the school with the little he has himself. His life is about the rights of children and creating opportunity for the children of Ghana. Simply put Platini should win the Nobel Peace Prize but never will be recognized for what he tirelessly does everyday. He was the perfect person for me to collaborate with on this project and I look forward to working with him in the future.
Within a day of my arrival in Keta a team was put together to transform an empty office space within a primary school of 900 students into a learning center that would house a library and computer lab. Within a couple of weeks a mason broke down a wall to create a single space out of two; an electrician brought electricity to the site from a source at the opposite end of the school compound and also installed fans and beautiful lighting to this room; a carpenter swiftly built tables, bookshelves and computer desks; a welder created a burglar proof shield over all windows and the doorway; and a painter repainted the entire interior and exterior of the learning center. At the same time in Platini’s school, new desks, tables, chairs and blackboards were being created.
To add to all the excitement as all of this was starting a television journalist from TV Africa interviewed me. Here is an unedited excerpt from the interview that was later aired on television throughout Ghana.
Finally when the building was completed hundreds of books lined the bookshelves and new Dell computers were brought in from the capital, Accra, to set up a computer lab. Loaded onto the computers are Encyclopedia Britannica (always a favorite) and World Book Encyclopedia as well as tons of software for reading, math, science, typing and art. The excitement in this new learning center was indescribable.
From the sea of faces at the school emerged many individual students who I got to know and love on a personal level. James is a 21 year old primary class 6 student (year prior to junior high school) who gravitated to the work site each day, so I got to know him and his beautiful story very well. Though his family could never send him to school as a young boy they rather chose that he would work on the farm to help his family sustain itself. But starving for an education James found his way to this school at the age of 18, knowing that if he wanted to become something in this world he needed an education. His determination inspires me every day.
While in Ghana for 3 weeks I was reminded each day of why I had come there. Children and young adults like James are hungry for education and starving for a future. I am so proud of the library and computer lab I leave behind, as I believe that it will provide hope and great opportunity in Ghana for years to come. Please listen to the words of Desmond, the teacher who will manage the library, as he speaks of what this gift means to the children in Keta.
This library and computer lab is the gift from so many generous donors here in America, a gift so gratefully appreciated by hundreds of children today. As the voice of these Ghanaian children I thank all those who have contributed to my mission. Many have donated money, but contributions of books, shoes, pens, bookbags and even toothpaste and toothbrushes were delivered to many smiling faces. I am already looking forward to the next chapter of Hope for Ghana’s mission to bring opportunity through education to the children in Ghana. Please continue to share the word of this mission as I continue to raise funds for the next library and computer lab in Ghana.