Just 24 hours after graduating high school in June 2011 I hopped on a plane to Ghana, West Africa to embark on the journey of a lifetime. I spent 3 months volunteering with Light for Children, a non profit focused on HIV positive and vulnerable children in the Kumasi area. During my stay I lived with a local host family, ran a sexual assault prevention program, taught at a free summer school, worked in orphanages, sought sponsorship for HIV positive children, filmed and photographed, produced my own documentary, and most of all, fell in love with Africa.
During the second month of my stay I was asked to teach a basic computer class at a primary school in the next village over. I was rather knowledgeable about computers and looked over the curriculum for the class and knew it would be no problem. I was to teach the students about Microsoft Word and review the parts of a computer. I made a lesson plan for the first day and packed some small candies for students who answered questions correctly. I hopped on the tro tro to the village and was expecting to greeted by hundreds of smiling faces and promptly be ushered to the computer lab, where I would teach a 30 student class who had the textbooks for the class and journals to scribble down extra notes in.
Instead I was greeted with hundreds of smiling faces and ushered to a room with 20 benches, a few windows, an old chalkboard, and 60 wide-eyed children ready to learn. No books. No computers. No electricity.
I threw my lesson plans out the window and decided to see how much the students know and go from there. I was blown away at their knowledge of computers. They knew every part, function, program, and tool on a PC. I asked them where they learned so much and they said, “Our old teacher had a book on computers and everyday after class we would copy page by page then go home at night and study it. We want to know as much as we can because we hope to enter university one day. Technology is very important but we are from a small village that has no computers”.
I spent the next month reviewing the material they’d already learned, taking turns typing on my tiny laptop, and trips to the internet cafe down the road so everyone could get signed up for an email address. Their faces lit up when they were learning and I saw every single student grow so much. They had so much passion and enthusiasm but simply lacked the resources to continue their computer studies. I needed to do something.
During my third month of volunteering with Light for Children I was assigned to teach at the LFC Summer School. From July to September LFC runs a free summer school in Atonsu for children who want to keep their studies up, or who have never attended school because they couldn’t afford it. I taught Design & Technology and Computers to Junior High School students. One unit in the Design & Tech class I taught them all about photography and video. They learned how to use my camera and by the end of the class they were shooting video and snapping photos like pros. Time and time again they told me that they wanted to learn more about subjects besides math, english, and science. They wanted to read about new subjects in books but there was no library to do so. They took me to their school “library”, which really was a closet with a few shelves and ratty books. They had an overflowing desire to learn but no resources to do so. I needed to do something.
I finished my stay in Ghana, came back to the US and started college, but I thought regularly about my computer class in the village. I shared my experiences with other Light for Children volunteers from the summer and all agreed that a computer and library center was a much needed resource. We decided to take a huge leap and build a Center for these kids.
We went into high gear and in a few short weeks we had prepared a budget, proposals, write-ups, and got our project on Global Giving.
The Education Center will be mainly a computer lab and library with lots of smaller programs branching off from them. We will have computer classes for the schools in our area, where they bring the ICT (Information Communication Technology) classes to us and their teachers teach the government curriculum. We will also have adult computer classes in the evenings and weekend for anyone who wants to attend. A Ghanaian teacher will teach the ICT classes with international volunteers coming in and out as assistants.
We are all about empowering locals. The fathers of the children in our sponsorship program will help with reconstruction and maintenance. The mothers of our sponsorship kids will sew the curtains and seat cushions. All our main staff will be locals with volunteers coming in and out. We want to help create jobs for our families because they are so dedicated and passionate about Light for Children.
The second aspect of our center will be the library. There currently is no library in the area and most Ghanaian libraries lack a wide range of books at varied levels and subjects. We want to create a community library with books of all types, subjects, levels, and styles so that anyone in the villages can come and find books that suits and interests them. Along with this we would love to have adult english and literacy classes, writing classes, and book clubs!
Besides the computer lab and library we also have dreams of an eco friendly/recycled playground, art classes, summer camps, childrens home, womens group, chicken project, farming, feeding program, after school club, and so many more. Our ideas are huge, our childrens’ smiles are powerful, and we are more than determined to make all our dreams come true.
We want to create a space for kids to be kids. We want to allow our children and community to grow, proser, love, laugh, inspire, live, and create. We know they have the power and dedication to change the world, but are just lacking the resources to do so. We believe in the inspiring education, and infectious laughter, and overflowing love.
We believe in dreaming big.
Our total budget for the center is $50,000 (will build, equip, open, and operate Center for 1 year) and we need YOUR help to get there. Please consider donating any amount of money to the education center here.
Please email me at email@example.com if you are interested in helping me fundraise for the Center, or have any questions, comments, or concerns!