August 19, 2009

KEHA members in Ghana
KEHA members in Ghana
Members of the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association are known for their generosity.  Recently, they got to see the impact their donations have on others when they visited the Kentucky Academy in Ghana.

The Kentucky Academy is a kindergarten school started by University of Kentucky Nutrition and Food Sciences Associate Professor Kwaku Addo and his wife, Esther, a nurse at UK Hospital. Both are natives of the West African nation. During a trip to their home country in 1999, they found the kindergarten school in Adjeikrom, Esther's home village, in poor condition. The school did not have enough chairs and desks and also lacked electricity. The structure was in such poor condition that it did little to protect the children from environmental elements. The Addos recognized the children's great needs, and with help from friends and others in the community, they constructed a new two-classroom-and-office block and made other improvements to the school beginning in 2000. The Addos renamed the school Kentucky Academy.

"Throughout our lives, one of our personal family goals has been to help the less fortunate," Kwaku Addo said. "We felt that coming from Africa, that it was perhaps one area where we could focus our energy and attention. So for us, it means a lot, and we feel really blessed to be able to contribute to such a worthy project and make a difference in the lives of these students and their teachers."

Since the academy's inception, Addo has taken UK faculty, staff and students as well as students from Prairie View A & M University in Texas to the country. The most recent trip included agents from the UK Cooperative Extension Service and some members from the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association. This was their first visit to Ghana.

Playing gamesIn 2008, the Extension Homemakers made Kentucky Academy their international project. During the past year, Homemakers from across the state collected enough school supplies to provide for more than 270 children. In addition, they were able to raise more than $5,000 for the academy.

"In the United States, we don't think about our children going to school and not having the basic necessities like a chair," said Ann Vail, director of UK's School of Human Environmental Sciences and assistant director of family and consumer sciences extension. "It was an amazing experience that reminded us of how blessed we are in America."

In addition to the Homemakers' donation, other UK groups including the Agriculture Student Council, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Zeta sororities donated money to the academy this year. The Family Bible Fellowship of Lexington also made a contribution.

Thanks to the donations, renovations to the school have begun. The school now has electricity, including lights.  New ceilings with fans were installed in each classroom to reduce the heat from the school's tin roof.  Enough tables and chairs are now available for the approximately 70 students and their teachers. The building was repainted cream and UK blue. Workers made structural repairs to the building and improved landscaping to reduce erosion. A current project involves reconfiguring the school's windows to improve ventilation.

"It was a good partnership for us through our international program, and we recognized the needs of the children," said Linda Kaletch, president of the KEHA.  "We wanted to provide help so these children will have a good basis for an education. We're very proud that KEHA members helped make these wonderful improvements."

"It was heartwarming to see the renovations and how the money was spent," said Linda Heflin, KEHA International chairman. "Education is so important to improving underdeveloped countries."

Students received the school supplies Homemakers collected in packages that included pencils, erasers, paper, hand wipes, a toothbrush and toothpaste. While the majority of their supplies went to the Kentucky Academy, their donations were so overwhelming that they also gave some to two schools in other villages and an orphanage.

KEHA members stayed three days at the school and interacted with the academy's students as well as women, children and families in the villages.

"I enjoyed watching the Extension Homemakers interact with Ghanaian women and families and realize that we have more in common than we have differences," Vail said. "We both want the best for our children and families."

The KEHA will continue to collect donations and support the Kentucky Academy. Short-term goals include providing funds to build a kitchen for the school, while long-term goals involve raising money for a library.

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