Lesson 3 – Project Wisdom: Past, Present, Future
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Meade
Read: “The History of Project Wisdom” by Project Wisdom
Read: “Volunteering with Children Abroad: the Issues You Should Know” by Flora (blogger)
Task: Kotoko or Hearts of Oak – Find out what this means and take a side.
Reflect: The history of Project Wisdom goes back over a decade. Predict the next decade. What could Project Wisdom become?
Discuss: The moral dilemma of volunteering abroad and other hypotheticals.
The History of Project Wisdom
You are here, in Kitase, Ghana, because of Wisdom Academy. In fact, the name of this program comes from this school. Here is how you got here.
Kennedy Aboagye a trained teacher living in Accra, trying to start a business selling plastics on the streets with his younger brother, receives a business proposal. An acquaintance knows of an area, not too far from Accra that lacks even a single private school. The acquaintance tells Ken of his plan. They can start a school there; Ken will handle the educational aspects of running a school; the friend will handle the financial side of things.
The friend is gone. The school never took off like he had planned. It was a failed business attempt from the beginning, he tells Aboagye. "The people just don't appreciate education enough to pay for it." Aboagye is still in Kitase, the "area not too far from Accra." At nights, when the electricity ceases to exist, you can see the capital's bright lights below from the darkened hillside. Always, the city's light are on, taunting Aboagye, telling him to return.
Aboagye is still there. He names his school Wisdom Academy. He hires another teacher and the school's enrollment quadruples since those disappointing first months that saw only five students enroll. For a handful of students, he agrees to waive their tuition fees - he thinks of it as an advertisement cost that will pay dividends in the end. He does not intend to make this a habit. The tiny, one room church that has hosted his school during the weekdays is no longer big enough. He needs to move.
It is a big year for Wisdom Academy. Aboagye finds an organization that sends international volunteers to Ghanaian schools and eagerly signs up for this opportunity. Soon he will add the words "International School" to the existing "Wisdom Academy." He is a land owner now, having purchased a half plot for the budding school. Lacking the funds to hire a contractor or even a carpenter, he builds the school himself. There are only three grades to his school (each year he will add another). He builds a large room with a cement foundation and plywood walls. Each rain season thereafter will cause the school to nearly disappear. He rebuilds it each time.
Wisdom Academy International School reaches 100 students. Over half of them pay a reduced tuition or none at all. So much for not making this a habit. Only four years earlier, Aboagye counted five students in his school. Now, the young proprietor has nearly that many (4) living with him. The school adds a nursery and hosts several international volunteers this year. The community, once suspicious of the young city slicker, can now judge Aboagye by the fruits of his labor. The school begins to get a reputation. Its enrollment takes off.
The new year brings new volunteers. Three of them, friends from the same university, will come in the early months of the year. They are inspired by Aboagye's vision and perseverance. They are moved by their student's devotion to education. They travel the country and are touched by a people who maintain their dignity and sense of humor in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They go home. They cannot forget "Wisdom." They cannot forget Ghana.
The Ghana Wisdom Foundation begins, named after the country and the school that inspired its creation. Run by the three friends, fresh out of college now, and an uncle who specializes in web design, they vow to make a difference in Ghana's education system, starting with Wisdom Academy. They begin a volunteer program to recruit like minded individuals and collect supplies from local schools to send to Ghana. Minor improvements are made (they support a Cultural Club - below), but they find it difficult to raise money for the small school located in a tiny village in an obscure country in a troubled land. They brainstorm alternative sources for funding and support.
The three former volunteers have return. Two of them spend half of the year back in Kitase. GWF's first major accomplishment is the purchase of a "school bus.” Now families from the surrounding villages can have a choice in their children's education. This year alone, more than 100 new students will enroll, most of them coming from outside of Kitase via the bus. As a result, the schools population nearly doubles in 2007.
Wisdom is now too big for the half plot of land purchased years earlier. They need to expand. They need to build up. Construction of a new, modern learning facility begins. Aboagye's vision is nearly realized.
Back in America, GWF has begun getting the majority of its support from an unlikely source - students. A group of New York high schoolers stage a concert to raise $1,000 for Wisdom Academy. In Massachusetts, a community service club at an elementary school gets involved as well. Boxes of supplies are donated, hundreds of dollars are raised. One young girl asks for school supplies for her birthday, so she can donate them to Wisdom Academy. GWF knows where to search for support.
After nearly half a decade, GWF finally finds its niche in the world of aid and organizations. It seek partner schools on both sides of the Atlantic who will find working together mutually beneficial. It officially launches its most comprehensive and groundbreaking program - Project Wisdom - in which all of our ideals collide. We encourage you to join our vision that was started back in 2000 by a young man in the heart of Accra.
Twelve American high school students are in Ghana. They are here to learn. The future of the program rests with them.