I return from Ghana with great excitement about what Hope for Ghana has left behind in the small village of Tegbi. Amidst the overwhelming warm welcome of the Ghanaian people much was accomplished at Tegbi Agbedrafor Basic School, home of The Elena Haasen Library dedicated on March 11, 2015. The assistant headmaster informed me that the school census has grown from 600 to 700 students, with new students attracted to Hope for Ghana’s latest library. He promises me that the reading level of his students is going up, as children fill the library, eager to read story books, encyclopedias and reference books never before available to them. Teachers use The Elena Haasen Library to do their own research and to prepare the next day’s lessons for their students. And with my own eyes each day I proudly saw what we have done together as I watched The Elena Haasen Library fill to capacity with students overjoyed to have the chance to read. It was a great reminder of why I had made the long journey.
Within a few days of my arrival a computer lab was established in the library, with a brand new Dell computer system brought in from the capital city, Accra. Over 50 learning software programs were downloaded onto the computer, ranging from elementary reading and spelling programs to more advanced math and science programs. Two online encyclopedias serve as reference material on every imaginable subject, where students can search any subject of interest, watch videos, scan atlases and reference the world around them. Several days were spent at Accra’s largest book stores, bringing back to the library hundreds of new books, including the library’s 3rd full encyclopedia set. It was a joy to see the students immerse themselves in all the computer learning programs and books, eager to put there hands on a computer and hungry for new ways of learning.
My days in Ghana were filled with so many emotions, inspired by amazing people and stories too difficult to even summarize, but a few very special moments must be told.
Hamburg, Germany’s professional football team, FC St. Pauli, and its fanclub have been very generous donors towards Hope for Ghana’s mission, as Elena Haasen had been an avid member of the team’s fan club, the Ragazzi. The Hamburg team donated 20 football jerseys and shorts to the football team at the school in Tegbi that I was privileged to deliver. Few schools in Ghana have their own jerseys so you can only imagine how thrilled the students were to be wearing professional jerseys with great pride. In an impromptu assembly of the student body, the football players paraded out in their new uniforms in front of the assembled students while the headmaster and I gave a speech of encouragement to the football players and great thanks to FC St. Pauli.
On October 1, 2015, the first anniversary of Elena Haasen’s death, the school held a special worship service to honor and remember Elena. It was one of the most emotional and memorable moments I’ve spent in Ghana in almost 30 years. I was honored to deliver a speech remembering the life of Elena and reflect on the impact of the library named in her honor. It was evident that day that Elena had truly made an impact on the entire school and community. Elena’s family and friends will be proud that her ideals live on in this small village in Ghana.
The day before I left Ghana I had an unexpected meeting with 2 journalists from ZTV in Accra who happened to be in Tegbi visiting family. When they heard of Hope for Ghana and the recent creation of The Elena Haasen Library they immediately wanted to visit the library and hear more about the mission. Overwhelmed at what they saw, they instantly produced a television segment about The Elena Haasen Library and the work of Hope for Ghana that aired the next day throughout the country. I thank ZTV for their thorough coverage in this beautiful television segment.
I leave the small village of Tegbi knowing that The Elena Haasen Library will provide educational tools to the children in Ghana for years to come. The future looks bright at Tegbi Agbedrafor Basic School as one can feel the palpable excitement from students hungry for education and opportunity. Community members, from locals to Assemblymen, greet me to thank me for what has been left behind, knowing that few schools in West Africa have such a resource. I remind them that this is the gift of donors all over the world who believe in these children and their future.
To all those who have joined me on this journey I thank you again for allowing the vision of Hope for Ghana to come to life through your support and generosity. As the voice of these grateful Ghanaian children I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
With much gratitude,