During West Virginia University’s winter break, two WVU students traveled to Ghana to help build the nation’s second library.
The students were so moved by the people and the experience that they helped raise an additional $1,500, while in rural Ghana, to help complete the library.
“What’s so amazing is that the students were able to request donations from friends and family back in the U.S. while they were in country with very limited Internet access,” said Anna Phillips, Amizade outreach coordinator.
The students traveled to Ghana as part of Amizade’s service learning program. Amizade is a non-profit study abroad organization at WVU that partners with the Center for Civic Engagement and Office of International Programs to offer affordable study abroad opportunities to students.
The group was comprised of two students from WVU: Brittany Erskine, a senior pursuing a double major in international studies and multidisciplinary studies from Charleston and Brian Gardner, a sophomore majoring in psychology from Keyser. They were accompanied by two other students attending school in Boston.
The students spent two weeks in Ghana, where they spent time painting and cleaning up trash, getting to know local community members, taking field trips and having class discussions about their experiences.
Upon arrival in Ghana, the group stayed for two days in the country’s capital Accra, which has a population of over 3 million people. There, the students learned about Accra’s history as a harbor for slave trading in the 1800s.
After their short stay in Accra, the group went to the small town of Jukwa, where they spent the next 10 days assisting with building the library.
The students stayed in a compound with a local family. In Ghana, Gardner said, family is very important. In the house they stayed in Jukwa, not only did the parents and children reside together, but also aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family.
“The people really brought us into their family and the students related very deeply to the family setting. It was wonderful because that family oriented mentality carried over to their work,” Phillips said.
The group of students was the first to raise money for a service project while they were in country. They sent e-mails home asking for donations of $40 to buy a set of table and chairs and received over 20 donations.
“We raised so much money that we may be able to bring Internet to the library for the first time,” Gardner said.
Gardner describes his trip to Ghana as a “life changing experience,” and plans to return in the future with his family.
For more information about Amizade, visit http://www.amizade.org .
For more information about opportunities offered through WVU’s Office of International Programs, visit http://internationalprograms.wvu.edu .
By Elyse Petroni
WVU News and Information Services
CONTACT: Anna Phillips, Amizade Global Service-Learning & Volunteer Programs