Last week in Ghana we celebrated the graduation of the first class to ever complete the Good Shepherd School… 35 students completed Form 3 (which is equivalent to 8th grade), and celebrated with dancing, drumming, singing, and student speeches, as well as visits from local dignitaries and chiefs. These students are now anxiously awaiting the results of their high school entrance exams to find out whether they have been “matched” with a high school, and waiting to find out whether they will receive a scholarship from the Ghana Children’s Fund that will make it possible for them to attend school.
I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would be to interview the scholarship applicants. Those who were not orphans came to the interviews with their parent or guardian, and each of them laid out their life story for us to explain why they could not afford to pay their own tuition. Their stories were heartbreaking; a painful insight to what it is really like to live in abject poverty, where everyday is a struggle to survive, and death, illness, and hunger are the norm. The simple truth is that virtually nobody in the Ofaakor community can afford the $1,000/year fee for tuition, room and board at the government high schools. (The private schools are even more expensive.) Each of these kids has a burning desire to go to high school so that they can someday help their family break out of this cycle of despair… they are their family’s hope for the future. We are SO grateful for the many donors who have promised to sponsor a child for high school, and we will be letting everyone know who they are sponsoring as soon as we get the results!
We also celebrated the completion of the second story of the school building… ahead of schedule and on budget!! We are forever indebted to our Duke volunteers, Pete and Hugh, who oversaw this project from start to finish, working closely with the contractor (Eric) to achieve this incredible outcome. (Anyone who has done a building project in Africa can attest to the fact that staying “on budget” is nothing short of a miracle, and a real testament to Pete and Hugh’s incredible talents and maturity.) Karen Amero was the major fundraiser and donor behind this project... and I just can’t possibly begin to thank her enough for taking on this project with such enthusiasm and humility.
With the school building complete, we have hired a new highly qualified headmaster to help the Good Shepherd School address the many challenges that come from running a school in such a poor area, and to help our school finally reach its full potential. There is much to be excited about as we are slowly building a foundation for real change in this small community of Ofaakor. One step at a time, one student at a time, we bring them hope for a better future.