Community Development project paves the way for important humanitarian effort
Southern Ontario women (L to R) Alexandra Braun-Woodbury, Elyse Golian, Ashley Hassard, Kristy Race, Michele Ivanisevic and Joanna Arniotis, recently spent a month helping poor children in Ghana, and came back raving about their experience. Photo: Ashley Hassard
When Brescia students Ashley Hassard and Elyse Golian were preparing to travel to Ghana this spring, they were very excited. And they remained that way throughout the month of May while they were in Ghana, blogging regularly and working tirelessly to help underprivileged children. Never once did they complain about the lack of amenities. In fact, they looked on the bright side always. When Paul Irish interviewed them, and the four other students from Western University who accompanied them, he wrote in his Toronto Star article, “There was no ocean or beach, no restaurants, no museums — but this was the best trip these six young women have ever been on.”
For Ashley it was more rewarding than she could have anticipated and harder to leave than she ever would have guessed. After a month teaching English, French, and some mathematics to a group of small children at a small elementary school and orphanage, she said, “We worked hard; we gave a lot; but, yes, we left with a lot. It was hard saying goodbye to those kids … there were a lot of tears.” She and her teammates arrived back in Canada on June 6th. This was not Ashley’s first volunteer experience. In 2009 she travelled to the Dominican Republic, where she taught English. In 2010 she travelled to Costa Rica, where she helped to set up medical clinics on rural islands. Ashley followed that with two similar trips in 2011 and most recently, “Project: Ghana 2012”, as she is calling it. For Elyse, this trip was the culmination of her honours Community Development project – the first in Brescia history.
Wanting to share her past experiences with others, Ashley decided to organize the trip to Ghana through International Volunteer Headquarters, a liaison organization for volunteers — and advertised for interested participants while at Western. From 30 interested applicants she chose five. For all of them it was an incredibly empowering experience, teaching young children, helping them to plant a large vegetable garden to provide food to eat in the coming months, and providing hope to children who have few role models, no money, and very few opportunities for continuing education. “You quickly realize the struggle there,” says Ashley. “It’s hard, but the people are happy, smart and they love life.” Now pursuing graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Ashley hopes to stay in touch with the school in Ghana and establish regular trips for other students in years to come. Both young women have been inspired by the experience, and are now raising funds for both book donations and monetary gifts to help the Sankofa School in Ghana start its first library. To learn more about this initiative, visit the website at www.projectghana2012.org.
You can also read about the adventures that Ashley, Elyse, and their Western University counterparts (Alexandra Braun-Woodbury, Michele Ivanisevic, Kristy Race, and Joanna Arniotis) experienced at the following Toronto Star blog: Volunteer Travel: Toronto woman leads others to volunteer in Ghana.