By Jessica Brodie
When it comes to the new information technology center they are building in rural Ghana, Orangeburg District leaders have far more ambitious goals than merely a facility with computers to serve the villagers. They are looking to God’s Kingdom for inspiration, hoping it will be a true testimony to the power of Christ’s all-encompassing love for His children.
The district is partnering with The Methodist Church of Ghana to raise $80,000 to build the 6,000-square-foot technology center and library in Abesewa, which is in the Ashanti Region of the northwestern African nation. The walls are up, and they are in the midst of a major fundraising push to have needed funds by May to get the roof up and the building complete. Then they will focus on the interior: 50 computers, Internet access, books, tables and chairs and more.
“We’re going out all the way trying to make it the very best it can be because we’re making a witness to the world in what we do, and we don’t want to do it halfway,” said the Rev. Jim Arant, team leader.
Fresh from a trip to Ghana in December, Arant and team member Geoff Coston toured parts of Ghana to look at other information technology centers, plus get to know the people of Abesewa, a remote village. Orangeburg District Superintendent the Rev. Frederick Yebuah is from Ghana originally and introduced the project to his district as a way to help his native country. The center is needed to enable youth to finish their schooling. In Ghana, when students complete middle school, they must take a computer exam in order to proceed to higher education. However, in Abesewa, the nearest town with computers is four hours away, which means their schooling effectively stops after middle school.
What Arant and Coston saw on their trip touched their hearts and spurred them on to raise the funds as quickly as possible.
“It was a very short quick trip but I learned so much,” Arant said. “One of the things I gained was an immense appreciation for the people of Ghana. They’re survivors, and that’s how they live their life; they survive from day to day. It wasn’t like I felt sorry for them, but I just respected them for it.”
As Arant and Coston would tour the region, they traveled along the main highway, and there were several places they had to slow down or stop.
“There were street vendors who’d come try to sell you things from fried plantain chips to SIM chips for your phone,” he said. “We’d leave early in the morning and we’d return late at night, and they’d be out there all that time selling their wares. It touched my heart so much—their whole life is geared around just trying to make enough to get by for the day. That reinforced for me why we need to do this project. These young people in this school that we saw have no hope for the future if they don’t pass this exam they have to take, and it’s taken only on computers. We can revolutionize their lives by being able to let them go to high school and hopefully even to college.”
And the kids themselves were also an inspiration, Arant said—bright and happy and filled with potential, and so excited about the new technology center.
The technology center will not only be used for the villagers of Abesewa but also for surrounding villages. The Methodist Church in Ghana will run it. Currently, he said, there are four schools in Abesewa—two primary and two junior highs. They have computer classes in their curriculum, but only two computers in their whole village, so the kids have learned about computers only by theory. Arant said the teachers are thrilled because they will finally be able to teach the kids hands-on, while they are using the computers.
On their trip, Arant and Coston went to see three other computer centers in the country, one a government-run center and two privately built, and most use reconditioned computers, some as many as nine or 10 years old, and not always working in prime state.
“I’m determined ours will be better: brand new computers, in a building built for the purpose,” Arant said. “I told my folks this will be the best information technology center in Ghana.”
The computers themselves should cost $400 apiece. They plan to buy 50 computers, including keyboard, mouse and display. These will be solid-state computers, with no moving parts or fans, and sealed so dust won’t get in. They are hoping to get a deferment from import duties through the Methodist Church in Ghana, but if not, the computers will be $800, and they are currently in prayer about this.
The center is being constructed using local materials and labor.
For more information about the project or learn how to help, contact Arant at 803-727-0327 or [email protected], or write Orangeburg District Technology Project, P.O. Box 303, Orangeburg, SC 29116. Learn more at http://umcscinghana.org.
Upcoming Ghana Technology Project Fundraising Blitzes:
(Tickets are $10; make reservations through the church)
- March 19—St. Paul UMC, St. Matthews
- April 9—Canaan UMC, Cope
- April 23—Edisto Fork UMC, Orangeburg
- May 14—Beulah UMC, Sandy Run