A school isn’t always a classroom filled with desks, computers and textbooks in rural Ghana. Sometimes, it is nothing more than a quiet spot under a tree or an empty building in a remote countryside.
In rural Ghana, a school isn’t always a classroom filled with desks, computers and textbooks. Sometimes, it is nothing more than a quiet spot under a tree or an empty building in a remote countryside.
Education is not always a requirement in Ghana, and many families struggle to find the resources to send their kids to school. The University of Indianapolis community has found a way to address this gap through a powerful mix of networking, service learning and compassion.
The Precious Words Project, started in 2011 by Jodie Ferise, associate provost for international engagement and shared governance at the University, provides students and alumni the opportunity to experience a new culture during service-learning trips to Ghana. The group hosts fundraisers for educational projects such as a new kindergarten, junior high school, a computer lab and several libraries (including one with more than 8,000 books and a full-time librarian).
The first school to benefit from the project was the Precious Kids Academy in southeastern Ghana, where volunteers encountered Rosemary, a young girl who made a lasting impression and would serve as inspiration for many years that followed.
Ferise put out the call through her UIndy network. Alumna Gabriella Fangman ’12 (business education) and her father, Greyhound men’s track coach Scott Fangman, stepped up to fund Rosemary’s high school education. This year, Rosemary graduated at the top of her class and plans to go to engineering school.
“Seeing the way of life in Ghana was something that was completely different than anything I ever imagined,” said Ashley Steiner, a second-year graduate student in UIndy’s physical therapy program. “We were able to help people by giving them tools to have a better life … and in the process I met people who would become some of my best friends at UIndy.”
Alumnus David Schlecht ‘15 (marketing) looks back on his journey as an important benchmark in his life, personally and professionally. “I had never seen poverty like this, with people struggling, but they had smiles on their faces everyday. I’m now more grateful for what we have, and it has expanded my perspective on life in the U.S. I’m a better person because of it.”
The 2017 Precious Words project raised funds to build and furnish a local school in Ghana. A donor covered the cost of building the school while volunteers raised $7,000 to provide electricity, desks, chairs, shelving and books.
James Ringer ’15 (MBA) visited Ghana three times as a student and continues to support initiatives there.
Building local, sustainable partnerships is an integral part of the work. The University works with Ghana Christian Mission to determine which communities are most in need of specific resources.
UIndy’s commitment is leading to long-term change in Ghana. One of the students who participated in this year’s project, Laura Ledgerwood ’18 (applied psychology), decided to do her capstone project to address the high attrition rate at a local school, a common problem in Ghana because parents cannot afford the annual tuition.
“In the first school we served, the kids did not even have their basic needs met, such as food and water. And $30 per year (tuition) is preventing many children from a chance at an education,” said Ledgerwood. “I don’t have to wait for graduation to start making an impact and bringing about change in the world!”