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Ghana 2013 Highlights

Posted December 3, 2013
by Laurie Anderson

In May 2013 the School of Social Work’s Interdisciplinary Ghana Study Abroad Program completed its 13th consecutive year in West Africa. Under the leadership of Tony B. Lowe, associate professor of social work, students visited Ghanaian agencies, toured historical sites, attended lectures, participated in service projects and experienced cultural events in the coastal capital of Accra as well as interior towns and villages.

Eleven students enrolled from three different fields of study: social work, fashion merchandising and textiles, and journalism. Besides Lowe, participating faculty included Denise Davison from the School of Social Work and Emily Blalock, senior lecturer and coordinator of the university’s Ghana Community Trade Program, and Patricia Hunt-Hurst, associate professor and head of the textiles, merchandising and interiors department of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The program provides exposure to other cultures that is useful to social workers in the US, says Lowe. Atlanta has the fourth largest number of West Africans in the United States, outside of New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia. A knowledge of the cultures of West Africa, he points out, helps social workers to assist immigrants.

Through the University of Ghana (UG), Kwame Nhrymah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and School of Social Work at Osu in Accra, program attendees participated in an annual lecture series that focused on social work practice history and human rights issues for women and children in Ghana and other African nations. One of the lecturers included Alice Boateng (PhD ‘06), who recently joined the University of Ghana’s Department of Social Work faculty and served as a host for the event.

Students and faculty also joined the School of Social Work in Accra at an international symposium with the theme “The HIV/AIDS Crisis: A Call for Social Work Action.” Denise Davison and Alexis D. Danikuu, a Ghanaian social worker, facilitated lectures. Shelia Hill and Calandra Johnson, both MSW students, shared relevant perspectives from their work in HIV/AIDS testing and criminal justice.

This year the West African AIDS Foundation, Inc. became the program’s newest community partner. The foundation hosted the School’s faculty and students and provided an overview of its operation. In conjunction with Recovery Consultant of Atlanta, Inc, the Ghana program donated 25 new HIV/AIDS testing kits to the foundation and completed a joint community outreach effort with foundation staff to encourage others to get tested.

“I was overwhelmingly proud of the work the students did,” says Davison, who fostered the partnership. “They were able to integrate their experience, knowledge, research, and incorporate the cultural customs and nuances to encourage people to be tested for HIV.”

The Ghanaian School Uniform and Resource Project also provided opportunity for service. The project, which began in 2005, annually solicits funds from students, faculty, and friends to purchase school uniforms and other school resources and increases school enrollment.

“Ghanaian law requires that students must wear uniforms to school,” says Lowe, “but that is often an insurmountable cost to subsistence-level farmers.” This year, after a two-year absence and at the request of villagers, the program returned to the town of Suga Shea in northern Ghana.

“The program broke records this year in fundraising and impact, purchasing 400 school uniforms and other supplies,” says Lowe. To date, the project has raised over $10,000 and purchased over 1,300 uniforms and many school supplies.

A workshop with the Ghana Community Trade Program provided another memorable experience, conducted under the leadership of the Emily Blalock and Patricia Hunt-Hurst. The GCTP enhances the occupational skills of girls at the Lifeline Project in Accra, an enterprise that rescues girls from sex trafficking and provides them with shelter, counseling, social services, and vocational training. The GCTP also provides product development training to UGA students while serving local business owners and women entrepreneurs. Funded by a generous donation from the James Family Foundation, each UGA student is given $250 to develop a clothing and accessory collection through collaboration with Ghanaian designers.

“The Ghana Community Trade Program is about promoting students' creativity in design, giving back, paying fair wages and supporting our local community,” says Emily Blalock, who created the program in 2011. Students bring the work back to the States and market it through retail stores.

Many students came away from the experience inspired to do more.

“I think the trip tapped into part of my purpose and it’s a wonderful thing,” said Angela Marshall, a masters student with an interest in clinical social work. She was impressed with the wholistic approaches used in children and family services and believes there are lessons that can be applied in the US. Since returning to Georgia, Marshall has been working at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., but plans to return to Ghana to continue independent research, volunteer with local agencies, and visit with new found family from her previous trip.

“I’m excited,” she enthuses. “My passion and fire for social work ignited in Ghana!”

For more images from the 2013 Ghana Study Abroad, please visit :