Africare ministry connects Ghanaian children to Internet
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
A conversation almost a decade ago between an African student and Dr. Eva Wanton, who at the time was in-charge of FAMU’s international student program, has brought technology to the lives of students attending a small school in Mampong, Ghana.
So much so, that not even Yusuf Dokurugu, who now holds a doctorate degree in pharmacy, imagined that Wanton –through Bethel Missionary Baptist Africare ministry – would have had such a profound effect in the town of 42,000 people.
“Never,” said Dokurugu. “I never knew this is where it would end up. I’d never imagined this is something that would happen.”
What actually happened is the Africare ministry refurbished an abandon building on the campus of Bonk Rong School, installed five computers and packed the cinder block building with books.
The project is the first of its kind in the rural town, said Dokurugu, who also added that Bethel’s is the first group of Black missionaries to complete such a significant project in the village.
So impressed with the effort by Wanton, a former FAMU professor who died in 2014, the resource facility was named Eva Wanton Computer Libratory. Inside the building, her picture, along with Bethel’s pastor, Rev. R.B. Holmes, hang on the walls.
“I am very thankful to God for the remarkable Africare ministry at the Bethel church,” Holmes said, adding that the program started to assist in the fight against apartheid practices in South Africa. “This ministry’s primary focus at that time was to join hundreds of churches and organizations fighting against the shameful apartheid system in South Africa.”
After that, Africare focused on other issues such as building a drinking well and adopting the school in Ghana, Holmes said.
A 10-member delegation, earlier this month, traveled to Ghana for the naming and ribbon cutting ceremonies. Dr. Malinda James, who succeeded Wanton as head of the Africare ministry, led the delegation. Town’s chiefs and other education officials also participated in the ceremonies.
The crowd was obviously captivating by what was unfolding before their eyes, James said.
“It’s so hard to explain the feeling,” she said. “They sat there looking at the programs, going like ‘wow, this is really happening.’ Every time we announced something, the crowd would cheer. They were so happy.”
What they witnessed far exceeded Dokurugu’s initial expectations. It started when Wanton had to sign off on documents for him to turn to Ghana in 2007 to celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary as an independent country.
Wanton told Dokurugu she would like to visit his country when he takes the trip. Admittedly, he thought she was joking. However, she took a small group along.
Part of their visit was a trip to the Mampong area, one of 27 districts in the Ashanti region of Accra, Ghana. The children attending Bonk Rong School caught Wanton’s attention.
Soon after, the wheels were in motion to improve the children’s learning experience. The Africare group sent books and cash to the teachers.
Wanton took it farther during one of the Africare’s many trips to Ghana, leading an effort to establish the computer lab three years ago. In the end, the project brought a group of pre-school to middle school students up to speed to the 21st century.
“I think this is going to have a huge impact on their educational endeavors,” said Kristi Reece, a family medicine doctor who was making her first trip with the Africare group. “We know that education is the way to fulfilling your dreams and without that you will be left behind.
“In this day and age, technology has to be mastered in order to advance in no matter what field you’re in; banking and finance, medicine or education. It’s critical that they’ll be able to learn the basics of technology. Those simple foundational measures will help them throughout their career from pre-school and beyond.”
Most of the money for the project was raised through a drive within Bethel’s congregation and a handful of civic organizations, resulting in more than $30,000. Wanton, former president of Jack and Jill Foundation of America, got the organization to pitch in another $10,000 for books.
What Wanton accomplished through the Africare ministry is more than having a computer lab, James said.
“It comes from Dr. Wanton wanting to help us to see the need to go to our homeland; to help us understand this is where our roots come from,” said James. “When we got there and we thought about what we had left over here in the states to see how these children who come from us were living. It was a powerful moment for all of us because everybody came back ready as to what they could do.”
That a church four time zones away has provided an essential resource for the small African town should leave an indelible impression, said Angela Hutchinson.
“It tells me there is need and it was provided,” said Hutchinson, activity coordinator for Bethel Towers Senior Center, who was making her first trip with the Africare group.
“It was really just the children, the excitement of the school and being a part of something positive. I thought it was awesome that a church from the United States would go that distance to make a difference.”