Monday, August 3, 2009

Kente for School Fees - UPDATE!

Thanks to your many kind donations, two hard-working boys in Ghana will now have the opportunity to finish high school. Please keep reading for a quick update on the "Kente for School Fees" program.

In April, my wife, Katt, and I made our first journey to Ghana in order to see the beautiful country and deliver some donations. One of the causes we were most excited about supporting was a program that the Give to Ghana founders, Chelsea and Mike, initiated during their one-year stay in Ghana. They taught at Okomfo Anokye High School in Wiamoase, in the Ashanti region of Ghana. One of their students, Isaac, weaves beautiful kente cloth in order to pay for his high school fees because his parents cannot afford to send him to school. In Ghana high school is not free. In fact, each child who enrolls must pay ~$130 per 3-month term. This cost is extremely prohibitive for most families as the average national income is only $50 per month.

Isaac grew up in the Ashanti region of Ghana, near the interior of the West African country. Isaac’s parents divorced when he was young and his father got remarried. Now both his father and mother have new families that they must care for. While his mother works hard to help support Isaac, his father doesn't provide much support. When he was 16 years old, Isaac moved out on his own to the village where the high school is located. He lived off campus because it was cheaper, and paid for his own food, boarding, and school fees with what little support his mother could provide, plus what he could make by weaving kente.

Kente weaving is a local tradition that uses cross weaving and vibrant threads to make unique and intricate patterns for which the Asante people of Ghana are world renowned. The beautiful cloths can be used as scarves, graduation leis, or home decorations. The cloths usually measure 6 feet long by 6 inches wide, and are traditionally woven with yellow, black, red, pink, and green thread. The task is extremely arduous and time-consuming, but the reward is some of the finest cloth in all of Africa.

Isaac began to weave kente on all of his holidays and weekends and has become exceptionally skilled and quick at weaving. Through his hard work, this year he finally could afford to move on campus, where he has received more steady meals and study time. Isaac has excelled in school, and was even recently elected Head Boys Prefect.

Several other students have also learned the trade and hope to pay for their educations through weaving. Isaac himself taught one of his best friends, Hayford, how to weave kente. Hayford is also an excellent student, but has not had enough money to pay for his school fees for the past couple of years. Despite excellent performance in the classroom, Hayford could not graduate because he wasn't allowed to take his final exams without paying full tuition.

But now thanks to the many kind donations of friends, family, and co-workers, Isaac and Hayford have earned enough money to pay for one to two years of tuition and are on their way to graduation! Both students have lofty dreams -- Isaac wants to be a doctor and Hayford wants to be an accountant. Given the strong work ethic they have exhibited, I personally have no doubt that they will achieve their dreams.

During our stay in Ghana, we had the privilege of seeing a kente weaving demonstration by Isaac. We also used some donation money to purchase the full inventory that Isaac and Hayford had so diligently worked on in preparation for our arrival. As you can see from the photos, the patterns are colors are breathtaking.

We brought the cloths back home with us to share with those who had donated to the Kente for School Fees program. Through this program, we hope to have taught many people about the great need that exists in that part of the world, as well as the impact that even small donations can have on individuals there. I believe that the Kente for School Fees program is a great example of a type of aid that rewards hard work and industriousness. Our hope is to keep in touch with Isaac and Hayford and to help them to develop additional means for selling their product in the future. If you would like to purchase a kente cloth for yourself or would like more information about how to get involved, please email me at

- Justin

Friday, March 20, 2009

Send Your Donations in a Suitcase!

Hello Ghana aficionados! My name is Justin Santistevan, and I along with my wife, Katt, will be traveling from Salt Lake City to Ghana in 3 short weeks in order to visit friends, experience the country, and deliver the many kind donations we have collected from friends, family, and work colleagues. The people there need so many basic supplies that you and I take for granted -- you'd be amazed what a large difference a seemingly small donation can make. Because shipping supplies to Ghana is so expensive, we'd like to offer to hand deliver any donations you would like to contribute. If you'd like to send a donation with us or would like any additional information on the types of needs we'll be encountering (this website has tons of great ideas), please send me a message at Thanks!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Computer Lab Update

As of today thanks to organizations like the LDS Cambridge 2nd Ward, the LDS West Africa Area Offices, the Boston College Department of Romance Languages and a lot of individual donors we've been able to donate 15 computers, a projector, and various surge protectors, keyboards, mice and other equipment to the Okomfo Anokye High School Computer Lab.

Now the lab can better accommodate classes (it still needs at least 15 more computers to fully support an entire class of 50) and, thanks to the projector, classes can now also see overhead what they are supposed to be learning.

Since being in Ghana Chels and I have become more and more weary of well intentioned aid projects. Often the recipients of aid don't actually want or need the aid they're receiving. Other times aid is squandered by corrupt bureaucracies (read this BBC article for more examples).

With the computer lab we've been fortunate enough to work directly with the school and listen specifically to what the school wants for its future. Okomfo Anokye felt strongly that they needed to bolster their ICT curriculum and so we've been blessed to help them. Since we have a working relationship with the school we know it's a transparent and trustworthy institution. We believe that this is more effective aid.

If you'd like to donate more please click on the DONATE icon on the side bar.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Microscope for Malaria

The Salvation Army Clinic in Wiamoase is in need of a new microscope. They primarily use their microscopes to diagnose malaria and other tropical diseases like typhoid. It is estimated that in 2005 17,000 people died in Ghana from malaria alone. The estimation includes 15,000 children.

The good news is that malaria is a totally treatable disease when detected by a health professional (like our friend Timothy below) in its early stages. Microscopes play an indispensable part in early detection. If you or anybody you know would like to donate an old microscope to the Clinic please get in touch with Mike Strayer (mike.strayer[a] to make arrangements.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Kente for School Fees

In Ghana high school is not free. In fact, each child who enrolls pays roughly $130 per term (three months) to attend school. Contrast that with an average national earned income of about $50 per month.

Isaac, one of Chelsea’s students, weaves kente cloth to pay for his school fees because his parents cannot afford to send him to high school. Kente weaving is a beautiful local tradition that uses cross weaving and vibrant threads to make unique patterns for which the Asante people of Ghana are world renowned (see the slideshow on the sidebar of this blog). Each cloth that Isaac sells usually measures about 6 feet in length and 6 inches in width.

Luckily, thanks to a generous donation, Isaac has received enough seed money to start weaving 10 kente clothes, which when he sells them will easily pay for this school term. The cloths can be used as scarves, graduation leis, or home decorations. Kente is usually wooven with yellow, black, red, and green thread, but special color requests can be made by clicking on "Add special instructions to the seller" after clicking the Buy Now button below.

If you would like to purchase one of Isaac’s cloths please donate a minimum of $10 (Bronze) or a maximum of $50 (Gold) to the PayPal link below. All money will be used to pay for Isaac’s school fees now and in the future (he wants to be a doctor). For Silver and Gold buyers shipping is included in the price; for Bronze Chels and I will deliver it when we return to the States in June. Remember, there are only 10 clothes available for now, so buy as soon as possible.

Depending on how this goes, Chels and I would like to set up LONG TERM kente weaving opportunities for Isaac and other students as a way of facilitating their LONG TERM financial independence.

Gift Amount

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pen Pal Opportunities in Ghana

I posted a story on our travel blog about my unanticipated experience of becoming a pen pal. If you are interested I can arrange for your very own Ghanaian pen pal. If you're a teacher, even better, my student's would love to practice their English with your kids! Just leave a comment below and I'll make arrangements.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Research & Study Abroad in Ghana

As many of you know Chels and I have been volunteering and living at Okomfo Anokye Senior High School for almost six months now. Basically, we teach a couple of classes per term and they hook us up with a new flat with all the (Ghanaian) bells and whistles. It has been an amazing experience thus far with some notable ups and downs. We're now working with the school to get more volunteer teachers here. Below is an email I'm sending out next week calling for applicants interested in research and/or study abroad opportunities at the school. Feel free to apply or forward it to anyone who might be interested.

Also, below the original email text I've posted some ADDITIONAL INFORMATION that applicants have inquired about. Just scroll down and take a look.

Ghanaian high school in search of PROFESSORS, university DEPARTMENTS, and independent STUDENTS interested in research and/or study abroad opportunities near Kumasi—one of West Africa’s cultural capitals.

Throughout its storied 40 year history Okomfo Anokye Senior High School has hosted international volunteers and scholars from the Peace Corps and academic entities like Boston University, Boston College, and Brigham Young University. The school is eager to continue this tradition by fostering LONG TERM working relationships with professors and university departments interested in a wide range of research opportunities and/or developing unique study abroad programs. The school is also interested in housing independent students in search of a distinctive study abroad experience.

Okomfo Anokye Senior High School is located in Wiamoase-Ashanti, a small town an hour outside of Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa. Ghana is an African nation with a track record of peace (three consecutive democratically elected governments) and hospitality (the Ashanti are renown for their welcoming spirit). Because of its rural location, the school provides an authentic traditional Ashanti cultural experience. Researchers interested in rural education, boarding schools, cross-cultural education, art education, as well as non education focused fields like anthropology, linguistics, development, or medicine will find an abundance of research opportunities in the community. Students looking for more than a tourist’s snapshot of West Africa will not be disappointed.

In addition to its ideal location, the school is willing to provide FREE housing and food on campus, and transport throughout the Ashanti region, along with exclusive research opportunities for participants. The school boasts newly constructed, furnished flats with running water, electricity and mosquito nets, which it uses to host visiting scholars and students. In return, the school asks that all participants teach classes at the school. Course load is flexible and will be negotiated with the head master prior to arriving.

How to Apply:
PROFESSORS: For the Academic Year 2009-2010 please submit a CV and a 1 to 2 page letter of intent describing your project by March 15th to mike.strayer[a]

DEPARTMENTS: For the Academic Year 2009-2010 please submit a 1 to 2 page letter of intent
describing your project accompanied with the contact information of the principle investigator or study abroad coordinator by March 15th to mike.strayer[a]

STUDENTS: Please submit a 1 to 2 page letter of intent describing what classes you'd like to teach, any teaching experience you have, and any research or service projects you will engage in on campus to mike.strayer[a] by February 15th for Summer 2009 or by May 15th for Fall 2009.

Please attach all application materials as MS Word documents. For more information please contact Mike Strayer at mike.strayer[a]



  • Fall term runs September through mid-December, Winter term January through mid-April, and Summer term May through July.
  • Some teaching experience is preferred but not necessary.
  • English writing and reading are huge needs. Math and "integrated science" (basic biology and chemistry) are other subjects taught on campus that would be helpful. Of course, social studies, accounting, and art are other possibilities.
  • Teachers can stay for as many terms as they would like, as long as they are complete terms.
  • The "project" to be described in the letter of intent refers to what classes you'd like to teach at the school and what other activities, if any, you would engage in during your stay. Activities could include personal research or service projects.


  • The school has one flat designated for visiting scholars and volunteers. The flat has two large bedrooms that could accommodate 8 people comfortably. If a scholar needs separate accommodations then the head master of the school could make arrangements.
  • The school can host 1 to 10 people comfortably.
  • The school is offering free housing in the aforementioned flat. Free food at the school's dinning hall (think traditional Ghanaian dishes like fufu and banku -- whatever the boarders are eating -- served 3 times a day). And free transport in and around the Ashanti region which includes Wiamoase, Mampong, and Kumasi (including the airport). All other costs will be the responsibility of the program and/or student.
  • Free transport does not refer to travel to and from Ghana.


  • Give to Ghana is only FACILITATING connections between prospective volunteer teachers and the high school. Once the connection has been made then the school and the participant will work out the details. As such, it is recommended that applicants be very independent as Give to Ghana and Okomfo Anokye will NOT help you with details like getting a Visa or purchasing a plane ticket etc. We don't get paid or charge applicants and therefore don't perform the normal functions of a study abroad program.

If you have additional questions please leave it as a comment below and I'll answer it ASAP.