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Student project in Ghana receives government boost

Periclean Scholars in the Class of 2010 collected money to build a health clinic that has garnered attention from the Ministry of Health.

Class of 2010 Periclean Scholars Olivia Ackerman, Amanda Brown, Angela Sparrow, and Mary Robinson stand with medical staff at the health clinic in Kpoeta, Ghana during a previous visit to the nation.

Fundraising efforts by Elon University students over the past four and a half years led to the construction of a rural health clinic complex in eastern Ghana that serves thousands of people who previously lacked year-round access to medical care.

The Kpoeta Community Clinic in the nation’s Volta Region has relied since its opening on financial support from local villagers and the 35 students who made Ghana the focus of their academic and philanthropic energies through the Periclean Scholars Class of 2010.

Now it's getting even more help.

Ghana’s Ministry of Health this month announced that it would upgrade the clinic’s status by the end of the year, which will result in two additional government-funded staff members, drugs from Ghana Health Services, and the ability for villagers throughout the region to use their Ghana health insurance cards at the facility.

“This was so much more than we ever expected,” said Heidi Frontani, a professor of geography and faculty advisor for the 2010 Periclean class. “It will definitely help. If you look at how many medical staff should be there for 10,000 people, we’re in much better shape.”

The idea for a clinic originated with Francis Amedahe, a visiting Fulbright professor at Elon in 2006-07. Amedahe hails from Kpoeta, and he recounted for the Pericleans how his fellow citizens needed to be hand-carried each rainy season from his village for seven miles for treatment. He shared with them that citizens in the region needed a health care facility of their own.

The clinic serves 10,000 residents of a rural region that until January 2009 lacked year-round access to health care.

The 2010 scholars were the first recruited into Elon’s Periclean Scholars program with a pre-selected country of study, and it was the first group to accept students from outside of its graduating class. Six Ghana Periclean students remain on campus and will graduate in 2012 and 2013. The Periclean Scholars program is a key component of Elon’s Project Pericles program.

Project Pericles is supported by the New York-based Eugene Lang Foundation to "instill in students an abiding and active sense of social responsibility and civic concern."

It is generally rising sophomores who apply for and are accepted into the Periclean Scholars to take a series of courses and work toward class projects with the potential for global social change. The projects are designed and carried out by the students in partnership with communities overseas and within the United States.

The move by Ghana’s government effectively makes the clinic a sustainable enterprise, something that Frontani said she taught her students as they made the facility the keystone of their energies.

“I was ecstatic like everybody else in our class,” said Olivia Ackerman ‘10, a psychology major at Elon now studying for a nursing degree at Yale University. “On a personal level, it made me feel like I did something meaningful in the world. Our little project that started out from simply an idea turned into a major establishment. It being a town that even some Ghanaians haven’t heard of, turning it into a developed area, that makes me proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Ackerman played a role in securing a $10,000 grant from Johnson & Johnson to help open a small drug store at the clinic.

The health clinic complex which includes a drug store and medical staff housing is the largest ongoing project of the Ghana Periclean Scholars; it has received just over half of the more than $100,000 the class has raised to date. The class is also building a kindergarten in a nearby village, has helped supply youth programs and schools, supported rural development through Heifer International, and collected and transported hundreds of books to stock an elementary school library, and hosted speakers on campus, among other activities.

Frontani will be returning to Ghana in January with 30 students for a winter term course. Some of the students are in the Periclean Scholars program and will visit Kpoeta and deliver supplies to help continue the work of the Class of 2010 scholars.

Eric Townsend,
9/23/2011 10:08 AM