Yale alumni return to Yamoransa, Ghana, to celebrate completed community center and continuing partnership

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An AFS Ghana volunteer and Yamoransa students near new community center and library during construction in December 2015.

Eighty members of the Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC) will join together with hundreds of community leaders and residents in Yamoransa, Ghana on Saturday, Aug. 13, for the formal dedication of a new information communication technology (ICT) center and library, the result of an ongoing partnership led by the local community with YASC, the University of Cape Coast (UCC), AFS Ghana, GhanaThink, and other stakeholders.

The alumni service corps first went to Ghana for a 12-day program in the summer of 2012, with alumni, family, and friends engaged in sustainable development efforts and cultural exchange with the community of Yamoransa in conjunction with colleagues from the UCC and AFS Ghana. In 2012, more than 150 YASC participants worked with the people of Yamoransa, teaching over 800 children in the mornings, conducting sports and arts camp in the afternoon, running a medical clinic that treated almost 1000 people, providing college mentoring, offering micro-business consulting, and filming TV news segments with the teenagers.

That initial endeavor has grown into a thriving partnership, with a special focus on support for the building of the ICT center and library, a top priority identified by Yamoransa community leaders. Initial work on the ICT center started in 2012, with Yamoransa and Yale volunteers working side by side to begin the building’s foundation. Since then, the community has continued the effort, joined again by more than 160 YASC volunteers in 2013 and in 2014 — the latter including students from the Yale Band and the Yale School of Music.

“We are living in a time of tremendous global strife. Building friendships with our neighbors both near and far is needed now more than ever,” said Yale alumna volunteer leader Trudie Agbozo ’05, a co-producer of the 2016 YASC Ghana program. “It is with this sense of community and friendship with which we go to Yamoransa.”

The dedication ceremony will mark a milestone for Yamoransa, a village of around 7,000 residents in the Mfantseman Municipality, 75 miles west of the national capital, Accra, in Ghana’s Central Region. The village has a longstanding partnership with faculty and students at the University of Cape Coast, located about 12 kilometers away. UCC, together with AFS Ghana, have been instrumental in facilitating the engagement of Yale alumni and friends.

The ICT center and library is a two-story complex of nearly 600 square meters (more than 6,000 square feet), with classroom, library, and meeting spaces; a kitchen; secure storage for equipment; electricity; and bathroom facilities.

Yamoransa residents have actively driven the ICT building effort, with numerous community religious and other groups organizing their members to volunteer. Skilled labor and materials have been funded through a combination of community fundraising and financial support from Yale friends.

The building provides the community with a venue for expanding computer literacy and access to information. In doing so it helps bridge the digital divide that currently places information and opportunities out of reach of most members of this community. Access to computers and the Internet will improve community access to:

• Markets and employment opportunities outside of Yamoransa

• Capital markets

• Much-needed health care information and treatment

• Educational materials and technical information

• Training in the use of computers and information and computer technology.

While private access to the Internet and computer technology is available for a few, relatively wealthy members of the community, this project will provide access and training for all. According to the most recent national population and housing census by the Ghana Statistical Service in 2010, only 4.9% of the households in Mfansteman Municipality overall had desktop or laptop computers. Like the rest of Ghana, and most developing nations, the population is relatively young, with 53% of all residents in the municipality, and 58% in Yamoransa, being 19 years or younger.

Yamoransa has also lacked adequate space for community activities. The ICT building is expected to fill other community needs as a library, health clinic, educational center, and place for local council meetings.

Nana Akwa II, chief of Yamoransa Kojokrom, reflected at the end of the first YASC program in 2012, “We were a village that had lost its community spirit. You helped us find our spirit again. You lit a fire under us. You made us believe that things are possible.” In 2013, Kwame Otchere, national chair of AFS Ghana and a key adviser to the YASC effort, noted, “The people of Yamoransa have rediscovered their potential and are working together for a common good.”

The dedication ceremony on Aug. 13, will come at the end of YASC’s fourth program in Yamoransa. More than 80 corps members will be working with community residents throughout the preceding week to complete the ICT center; run summer arts, education, and sports program for school children; conduct business development programs with micro-business owners, especially women; sustain garden projects; and partner with local professionals in public health efforts.

Founded in 2008, YASC is part of the work by the Association of Yale Alumni to foster alumni community service. In recent years, the AYA has aimed not only to serve alumni and connect them to each other and to Yale, but also to support service by graduates in their home communities and around the world. In the last eight years, there have been 19 YASC programs in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Mexico, China, Nicaragua, India, and Brazil, as well as domestic projects in West Virginia, New York, and California.

YASC promotes mutual cross-cultural awareness and sustainable development in underserved communities by bringing Yale alumni, family and friends together to work with people in communities throughout the world — via the arts, education and sports, health, and economic development — to inspire hope and produce meaningful change. To learn more about YASC, visit the program’s homepage: http://yalealumniservicecorps.org/

“The goal of YASC’s work in Yamoransa is to create opportunity. The volunteers, community, and other partners hold a shared vision of improved opportunity for the village: for greater economic well-being, improved health, expanded learning, and communal spirit,” said Bob Unsworth ’86 M.F.S., an alumni volunteer leader and co-producer of the 2016 corps in Ghana. “We are working together to achieve these goals, each bringing our own skills, ideas, resources, and energy. For the volunteers it is a unique opportunity to contribute, in a small way, to the betterment of our world in a context where even modest efforts can yield significant results.”

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