Wake Forest junior Ashley Millhouse is spending fall 2010 in Accra, Ghana. This is her second trip to Africa. She traveled to Zinkwazi, South Africa, to teach at Bongimfundo Primary School with the University’s Volunteer Service Corps in May. She is a history major and psychology minor from Moorpark, California.
Why did you choose to study in Ghana?
When I was young, I had an obsession with Africa. I liked the mystery of it and the fact that no one in my family had ever been there. As I grew older, I fell in love with the history of various African tribes. Ghana is one of the most successful post-colonial African nations, but after its independence, the country raced to catch up to the Western world leaving many of its people in poverty.
What is your schedule like?
I take classes four days a week and perform community service the other three days. I attend classes in Accra and am studying community psychology, the history of indigenous slavery in Ghana, and Pan-Africanism. It has been an incredible opportunity to learn about Ghana’s culture and history in the classroom while interacting with the people of the country.
Tell us about your internship.
I’m an intern for Basics International, a nongovernmental organization (NGO). Basics provides a safe haven, after-school program for the children of Chokkor, the most impoverished urban community of Ghana. The program keeps the children off the streets and away from crime, including the lucrative fishing industry and sex trafficking.
Where do you focus your efforts?
My efforts focus on the International Girls Awareness Project. The project aims to eliminate gender discrepancy in secondary education. For various financial and social reasons, a lot of girls only receive primary schooling. In a household with boys and girls, parents often send only the son to school because a daughter is needed to cook or sell items at the market. Also, many girls become pregnant due to unprotected sex or rape and are forced to quit school.
Why is educating women critical?
As Ghana joins the global economy, its failure to educate women will severely limit the country’s economic growth. It is statistically proven that if you educate women, the country’s GDP benefits. Women tend to save more, and they increase the labor force.
What’s being done to help?
Basics International recently constructed an all-girls boarding house—offering a safe permanent residence for 20 adolescent girls. The house is staffed with teachers and volunteers who serve as mentors and help encourage and support the young women as they pursue their education.
Also, I’m organizing a benefit concert called “Girls Speak Out,” which will gather powerful and educated Ghanaian women in the fields of music, dance, literature and politics to highlight this issue of decreasing access to education for girls. I’m working with community businesses and various education departments of the state to try to get the entire community of Accra involved. I hope this concert will give young girls the motivation and courage to pursue their dreams.
What inspired you to take on this project?
I don’t believe I would have had the creativity or the passion to plan the benefit concert without my Wake Forest education rooted in “Pro Humanitate.” Wake Forest’s array of service opportunities is what first attracted me to the school. The University encourages students to be globally conscious, and I wanted to extend my talents to serve humanity here in West Africa.
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