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VSU Helping Hands: Social Work Practice in Ghana

Published date: February 14, 2018

Ghana Study AbroadDuring winter break, Virginia State University students and faculty traveled to Ghana, West Africa for two weeks as part of a global service-learning program sponsored in conjunction with Amizade Global Service Learning, a non-profit organization that works with Global community partners.  The program was an integrated part of a social work course taught by Dr. Gwendolyn Thornton, chair of the Department of Social Work.  Students gained insight into how social work professionals in other cultures address the needs of their communities, particularly how cultural values inform family and community relations and impact services provided.
During the first week, the group was hosted by Peace Humanity International, a small NGO, which assists Ghanaians with small scale community development initiatives.  An orientation session included lectures on Ghanaian culture, Ghana’s struggle for independence, and Kwame Nkrumah and W.E.B. DuBois. The group toured Accra, the capital city, visiting the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial and the W.E.B. DuBois Center.
The group traveled to Jukwa, a small village near Cape Coast, Ghana.  A lecture on the history of Jukwa, a tour of the village, and a visit with the village chief helped the group learn firsthand about the community that they would be serving.  The group worked alongside of village masons and other volunteers to help lay a foundation around the library to prevent erosion.  Visits to nearby cocoa and oil palm plantation helped the group gain a deeper understanding of agriculture and trade at the local level and the contribution of the small farmer to the larger economy.   Before leaving Jukwa the group received a guided tour of the historic Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Castles after attending lectures on Colonialism and Slavery in Ghana and visiting the Assin Manso Slave Market. 
During week two in Winneba, the group met with the staff of Challenging Heights, a non-profit organization that rescues children who are sold into slavery.  Through a number of sessions with the social workers, counselors, and other staff, the group learned about the “3 R’s” of their organization’s mission of ending child trafficking and rebuilding the community—Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration.  A lecture on the educational system in Ghana and an opportunity to tutor some of the school children helped the group understand how critical education was to improving life for young people in the village.
Participants included VSU students Verlisha Brandon, Richard White, A’Delle Goodman, Angelique Chestnutt, Kaysey Fields, Octavis Henry, and Oddessey Hodge; faculty included Ms. Carla Jones, Ms. Jane Parker, Dr. Gwendolyn Thornton, and Dr. Maxine Sample. The program will run again next year.  For more information, contact Dr. Gwendolyn Thornton, faculty leader (804.524.6276/, or Dr. Maxine Sample, director of International Education (804.524.5986/
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