Dr. Mona Reide, who has made several trips to Ghana West Africa, designed the first international study abroad curriculum which granted university credit at the graduate and undergraduate level for university students at Bowie State University. Since 2004, Dr. Reide has successfully led students from several universities on international field study trips to Ghana West Africa. Below are comments from some of the students that have traveled with her through collaborative efforts with International Humanitarian Services.
"Africa is truly the richest place I've been in my life," said Lisa Carter after returning from a trip to Ghana with Bowie State University in 2004.
Ten Bowie State University students and two professors experienced the unfamiliar and familiar sights when they journeyed across Ghana. This trip was part of the International Health and Cultures of Diaspora class for undergraduate and graduate level students. It was the first of its kind for the university, but campus officials said they will make the trip a yearly event.
The students, all who were in the Behavioral Science and Human Service Department, focused on assisting with humanitarian aid for the country where about 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
They conducted workshops at schools, held training sessions for female business owners, and provided aid in some of the free clinics. The travels around Ghana which took the students to five of the country's regions, quickly turned into a lesson of cultural relativism for the American students.
The biggest shock, some said, came when seeing the beaming faces of Ghanaian children who sang and played with no concept of the poverty affecting their country. "It brought a smile to your face just to see it," said Kimberly Hanson, a senior from Washington, D.C. "They taught us so much more than we taught them."
The personal journey for the students made perhaps the biggest impact when the students visited the slave castles and dungeons in Cape Coast. Being able to walk through and return from, the "door of no return", that once led to the slave ships is an important right for the Ghanaians, Reide said.
"To go through the slave dungeons and see that someone in my family was strong enough to make it through those dungeons," Baylor said, "I am so glad to go back to where I believe it originated with my family."
In Ghana, women are the primary means of support for the family because their husbands will often go off to work away from home for long periods at a time. A majority of the employment is informal: vendors, seamstresses or peddlers, said Dr. Mona Reide, the professor who coordinated the trip. The students selected 12 Ghanaian women to receive small grants to start or expand their businesses. IHS has begun a systematic process to help women become more successful and eventually grow their businesses.
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