The Arts in Ghana with Service Learning celebrated its 10th study tour this summer as five students, Christopher Thomas, Kelsey Rine, Megan Dresbach, Tricia Burger, and Rychele White, traveled for a month to Ghana, led by Associate Professor D. Elder.
Over the years this project has developed to create conditions where our students could learn and grow but also contribute and share their expertise.
Dresbach and Burger led six great microfinance meetings where farmers in Wegbe, Kpenoe, Hodzo, Akrofu, and Takla discussed how the loans our group has furnished over the past three years have helped them with their farming.
Dresbach said, “Meeting with the microfinance groups was a huge eye opener. I learned that the banks' interest rates were at least 100 percent. Also, the banks will not loan to the farmers because the banks consider the farmers too high of a risk to pay back their loans.” The loans have enabled farmers to reinvest in their land, increasing their acreage and their profits. The members of the microfinance groups are looked up to as leaders within the village, Dresbach said. “The villagers see these groups being successful and this not only helps community development but also creates an interest to form additional groups.”
Rine and Thomas spearheaded nine early morning herd checks during which they and other students treated 700 goats and sheep and 146 chickens in the above five villages plus Akoefe. Rine also worked with a farmer to inaugurate his own small hog operation.
White established a drip irrigation vegetable research plot. “I feel it was such a success because, within two hours, an irrigation line was in place and the farmer had a full understanding of how to work it. The project sparked interest, and I knew I had accomplished what I had set out to do,” said White.
All of the students enjoyed afternoon humanities classes, said Elder. Drenched in sweat but laughing uproariously, they jumped across the packed earth to meet up with their partners, reached for the clouds with one hand then the other, and do-si-doed, weaving in and out of the lines as they learned the traditional Ghanaian dances that date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
“Students learned to drum the complicated beats and rhythms that direct the dancers to change their patterns. They struggled to form the guttural ‘h’s’ and hissing ‘x’s’ of the Ewe language,” Elder said. “Then, they realized the value as they met with farmers and other Ghanaian friends who were delighted and positively assessed their work: ‘Ele agbagba dzem’ which translates to ‘ You are trying.’ “
The students were told by one educator, “Your presence here should cause a change in at least one life.” Students’ many experiences of working side-by-side with local leaders and farmers offered them opportunities to care about others, to learn from them, to share their own expertise, and to participate meaningfully in the essential work of development. “Let’s call it: ‘Caring Across the Curriculum,’ “ Elder said.