“The people here love us.”
That is how Eastern Washington University’s Romel Mackelprang, professor of Social Work, describes his reception in the small community of Abomosu, in the eastern region of Ghana.
As the Director for the Center for Disability Studies and Universal Access at EWU, Mackelprang takes pride in helping the local communities the university serves. But providing community service for people a half a world away is something special.
“It is largely rural with people living very basic lifestyles,” Mackelprang says of Abomosu. “I have been doing wheelchair work in Ghana for a year, and as a result have a relationship with a Salvation Army orthopedic group that does a traveling clinic. We have been able to arrange for them to come here to do a clinic for the district (braces, shoes and wheelchairs).”
Professor Mackelprang is leading a group of 10 people from Eastern – seven students and three faculty members (including himself) – on the three-week trip that started Aug. 21.
For the students, the trip to the West African country encompasses the last two classes of EWU’s Disability Certificate Program. The capstone project usually focuses on a disability community somewhere in Cheney or Spokane. However, for these students, the focus is on helping the people of Ghana.
In an email, Mackelprang described how the Eastern crew will volunteer in three village health clinics during their stay, helping women and children. Plans also call for helping the local disabled association build a poultry farm.
“They have one now with 800 laying hens,” writes Mackelprang. “But if they can get into the new facility, they can have 2,000 layers and produce enough revenue to give their members micro credit loans. Unfortunately, disabled people are often unemployable because of discrimination (in Ghana), so this will be a way to help them out of poverty.”
He even wants to help them have fun. “Five of us joined the local soccer team for a training session. If EWU Athletics needs somewhere to donate used uniforms or equipment, we would love to distribute them!”
Mackelprang hopes to lead a group of interested faculty on another excursion to Abomosu early next year to meet with locals and explore more opportunities to bring student groups to Ghana. Interested faculty can contact Mackelprang or Nick Jackson.
In the meantime, you can follow highlights of the Ghana trip at access4all.ewu.edu. Just click on the daily calendar to follow the EWU blog from Abomosu and see pictures.
The Center for Disability Studies and Universal Access was created in 2005 from a United States Department of Education grant entitled, “Improving Education Success for Students with Disabilities in Higher Education.” Goals include enhancing the educational experiences of students with disabilities at EWU, providing support for persons with disabilities and promoting a universally-accessible campus environment for people from all backgrounds.