My name is Stephanie Grace Jones (now Akua Grace) and I’ve been working as a Program Manager for Exponential Education since I arrived in Ghana at the start of the new year. Before that, I spent a few months helping Expo with some fundraising work from my home base in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Here in Ghana, I am managing two tutoring programs around the town of Antoa, about 30 km. east of Kumasi.
My journey to Ghana began at a very young age, when I determined that a full life should involve travel. This conviction caused me to pursue an International Affairs degree, which put me in the path of some Economics course requirements. After sinking my teeth into microeconomics, development economics, the mechanisms of poverty, and microfinance, my fate was sealed. I’d done enough research to know that we can help the developing world – poverty is a curable disease – and, if we can help, then we must. My focus shifted from travel-for-its-own-sake to travel-with-a-purpose. Since completing my double-major in Economics and International Affairs, I’d been looking for an opportunity to contribute to an effective, efficient program aimed at the foundations of development. Exponential Education certainly fits this bill.
By working within the school system to provide supplementary education to junior-high students, we are increasing their ability (and sometimes their motivation) to continue to high school. By bringing in high-school students as paid tutors, we are increasing their ability to pay their fees and stay in school – and ultimately attend college. We address school enrollment and academic achievement problems simultaneously, running programs on very small budgets, with effects that can echo through the lives of hundreds of children. I love the Expo model and I’m excited to contribute.
Living “on-the-ground” in Antoa continues to be an interesting adjustment from life in Washington, D.C. I can say with confidence that the rumors are true: Ghanaians really are exceptionally friendly. Even the most reserved, shy visitor to Ghana would have difficulty not making friends. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been lost (or just looked lost) in Kumasi, Antoa, or anywhere in between, and received multiple offers of guidance from strangers who seem simply happy to help. The whole town of Antoa has welcomed me with open arms, and I find language tutors everywhere. No one wants to let me go without practicing my Twi, for which I am extremely grateful (if a little embarrassed by my ignorance). I’m learning quickly.
My programs with the junior-high students and their high-school tutors are inspiring and exciting. I often think that I’m learning just as much from them as they’re learning from the tutors – if not more. I’m looking forward to continuing all of my work here and hopefully sending some more updates through the blog! Until next time, I’ll be here in Antoa, getting lost and forgetting Twi.