Berkeley Students Spend Summer on a Community Service Trip in Ghana

In July, a group of five Berkeley students and their teacher chaperones took an eight-day trip of a lifetime to the remote tribal regions of Ghana. The purpose of the trip was primarily a service learning experience based in the village of Agogo. Each student left Africa having received as much as they gave during their time there.

Their journey, coordinated by Assistant Middle Division Director Buck Johnson and Upper Division Science Instructor Daina Kelly, provided opportunities in Agogo for the students to tutor elementary-age children, teach computer skills at the Citrix Information Technology Center, explore a remote village, and even mingle with royalty when they met with Nana Sarpong, Paramount Chief of the Asante Region of Agogo.

Johnson explained that the trip’s serendipitous moments were also the most memorable. One of the highlights of the week occurred when the students were invited to assist at a remote screening clinic for the Buruli ulcer. This skin-eating malady is endemic to the area and grossly disfiguring (sometimes fatal) if not treated.

When the group arrived at the clinic, they were greeted by a hand painted sign prominently listing Berkeley as one of the founding sponsors. For the past two years, Kelly has spearheaded a successful on-campus fundraising effort (with the help of many Berkeley students and families) to build a roof on the remote clinic, allowing nearby villagers (those living 30-plus miles from Agogo’s hospital) to receive treatment close to home. That day, the group was joined by a Buruli ulcer team funded by the World Health Organization, who shared ulcer specifics with the kids and then allowed them to watch children being screened for the ulcer.

The villagers immediately gravitated toward the outgoing group from Berkeley and their hosts – particularly the village children. The day was festive and a great success for the clinic. The air was filled with music and the inevitable dancing and bonding transcended cultures and anomalies. “The five kids that came on the trip should be seen as trailblazers, who have great hearts and a strong passion for service. Their work tutoring and mentoring kids as well as assisting in the first screening at the Buruli Ulcer Clinic was heartwarming and wonderful,” said Kelly.

Johnson said that the people, as much as the place, left an equally strong impression on the students. In addition to meeting larger-than-life Ghanaians, the group was joined by their hosts Jo Moskowitz and Dan Warren, who guided the group through Ghana. Warren founded and leads One Village Planet, a small non-government organization that assists with agricultural sustainability in Ghana. Moskowitz is Citrix System’s Director of Corporate Citizenship. This was her eighth trip to Agogo to serve the community and work in Agogo’s Citrix-sponsored computer center adjacent to Ramseyer Prep, a K – 6 academy and Berkeley’s sister school in Agogo. Moskowitz is also a queen mother, having been appointed by Paramount Chief Nana Sarpong for her work in establishing Agogo’s information-technology center. Both hosts guided and cared for the Berkeley students as their own and provided a wealth of information about the region that transcended anything they could learn in a classroom setting.

This enriching travel abroad opportunity helped bring to life Berkeley’s vision to put people in the world who make a positive difference. “What we accomplished is truly inspiring, and it is a testament to the good that can occur with teamwork and collaboration,” Kelly explained. The students learned that their efforts there not only helped the people of the region, but also left them with a lifetime of memories and a better understanding of their role as global citizens.
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