Rebecca Kuntz – Chicago, Illinois
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’d only been out of the country once before, to France for 2 weeks, and had no idea what to expect. I can’t pinpoint the moment when I said “I want to go to Africa for 3 months and work with children”, opportunities just presented themselves and I jumped without looking back.
I spent 3 months volunteering with Light for Children, a non-profit organization focused on HIV positive and vulnerable children in the Kumasi area of Ghana. 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 was expecting to be 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, on my first day of teaching, 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 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 LIFOC runs a free summer school for children who want to keep their studies up, or who have never attended school because they couldn’t afford it. One class I taught them all about photography and video. Time and time again they told me that they wanted to learn more about subjects besides math, english, and social studies. 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 returned from Ghana in September 2011 and started college. After a semester I knew it wasn’t the school for me, so I decided to spend the spring semester on a service-learning college gap semester trip in East Africa (Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania) through Carpe Diem Education. Throughout my semesters, the children of Ghana were constantly on my mind. The Light for Children staff and I emailed back and forth on the idea of an “Education Center” and I decided to dedicate my passion, love, resources, and life to this project.
The Education Center will be mainly a computer lab and library with lots of smaller programs branching off. We will have a lab with 30 computers where schools in the area will bring the ICT (Information Communication Technology) classes. We expect to have over 500 students per week coming to the Center for these ICT classes.
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.
The second aspect of our center will be the library. There is currently 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, medical clinic, environmental club, art classes, summer camps, vegetable garden, income generating women’s craft group, chicken project, 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, prosper, 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.
I just returned from 4 weeks in Ghana where we officially were granted land, finalized the building plan, added up the budget, met with school headmasters and officials, and broke ground!
The cost of the entire project is $50,000. To build and construct the physical structure it will cost $20,000. $20,000 will build the foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows, porches, toilets, and offices. We estimate another $20,000 to install electricity and internet, furnish and decorate, buy computers, and ship books from the US. The remaining $10,000 will be emergency funds, as well as operating funds for 1 year.
I will be the first person to admit that $50,000 is A LOT of money, but I am determined to raise every last penny for the children who hold my heart and the community I am in love with. I want to raise the $50,000 by June 2013, as we hope to open the center coinciding with the 2013-2014 school year.
On top of that, I need to raise more money because…I’m moving to Ghana in June 2013 (pending a few things) to run the Center full time. I’m following my heart and passion and realized that I can no longer be in Ghana every 6 months, I need to be there permanently and full time. I’m not exactly sure how the funds to move will come about, but I have a whole lot of faith that they will.
You don’t hear about Ghana on the nightly news. Most people couldn’t easily locate Ghana on a map. Some people have never even heard of the country. If I don’t take this leap and build the Education Center and move to Ghana, who will?
But I can’t do this all alone, I need your help!
You can read more about the Education Center and my life in Africa here: www.together-we-are.com
If you would like to donate to the Education Center: www.together-we-are.com/donate
If you would like to donate, and would like a tax-deductible receipt: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/education-center-for-ghanaian-youth/
You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to hear from you!