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Interdisciplinary Study Abroad in Ghana Program Makes Eleventh Voyage

Ghana

Posted Aug. 28, 2011
Reported by Emily Williams

Under the leadership of new director, Tony B. Lowe, associate professor in the School of Social Work, 13 students from across the University convened in the West African nation of Ghana for the eleventh consecutive Interdisciplinary Study Abroad in Ghana program. The program, housed in the School of Social Work, partners with universities, social service agencies and communities in Ghana to provide participants a 3-week immersion into Ghanaian life, culture, history and interdisciplinary education.

“My trip to Ghana was a very powerful experience for me—much more powerful than I had anticipated,” said Caitlin Askins, a graduate student in the College of Education and geography teacher at Loganville Middle School. “The most difficult thing for me to see was all the children who are not in school. It broke my heart every time we passed a child who was out working and not in school,” she said.

Askins and fellow students and faculty participated in the Ghanaian School Uniform and Resource Project, raising $2,600 to purchase school supplies and over 200 school uniforms for Ghanaian children in a traditional West African village in the Volta region. The Ghanaian School Uniform and Resource Project, started by Lowe 7 years ago, has purchased over 800 uniforms and other supplies over the years.

“I had an advantage in fundraising, as many of my friends and relatives are also teachers and they too understand how vital education is,” Askins said.

Askins was this year’s recipient of the study abroad program’s Horn Blower Award. The award, which was started four years ago, recognizes a student who demonstrates a commitment to raising awareness about the educational needs of children around the world. Read more: http://www.coe.uga.edu/news/2011/08/08/askins-receives-award-in-ghana-study-abroad-program/

Askins plans to incorporate her experiences from the trip into her lesson plans this year.

“Ghana is a wonderful place.  People are so welcoming and giving,” she said. “The art and culture are beautiful and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to experience their culture and to support artists by bringing home some of their items.  I often think about the people I met in Ghana, and the strong impact that nation made on me.  My hope is that when I teach my students about Ghana, they too can understand just a little of what I saw and felt,” she said.  

In each destination from Accra to Kumasi to the Cape Coast, students attended lectures from faculty at other institutions, worked on service projects in communities, toured historical sites, participated in cultural demonstrations and made site visits to various Ghanaian agencies.

Joining Lowe for the first time this year were new faculty members, David Okech, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work and Emily Blalock, an instructor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Also joining the faculty this year was College of Education Professor Bettye P. Smith, a returning veteran of the program. Lowe marked his 8th trip.   

“This year we had a couple of changes,” Lowe said. In addition to having a new director and two new faculty members, the group did not visit northern city of Tamale as they had in past years, Lowe explained. “It gave us more time to delve into deeper relationships at different agencies,” he said.

One thing that didn’t change was the signature service-learning project at the Kumasi Children’s Home, an orphanage for children age 3 months through 17 years. Students worked with the director and staff at the home to develop an instructional mural on a playground wall for the children. The students came up with and painted the alphabet with illustrations for each letter. 

Lowe is always thrilled to see the transformative, life changing experience the students go through in Ghana. “The highlight of the trip for me is always as we come toward the end,” he said. “Toward the last week you see the students really open up. They really take on part of the culture.”

The program ran May 17 through June 8 during UGA’s Maymester.