What started as an expat brainstorm at a Decatur coffee shop is now celebrating 10 years of impact in West Africa.
Formed as a gathering place for local women hailing from Ghana, the Ghanaian Women’s Association of Georgia has also always had a charitable impulse at its core.
And now more than ever, the two ideals are interlinked: When the association brings its community together for a 10th anniversary gala Dec. 16, those who attend will be helping urge its mission along.
The dinner — which promises awards, the latest in Ghanaian music and fashion as well as dancing to “old-school favorites” — will include the announcement of two college scholarships for Georgia students of Ghanaian descent, funded by monthly contributions of $10-$100 throughout the year.
Two 2018 awards of $500 will be provided to young women who show the potential to use entrepreneurship to drive community change and promote Ghana’s culture. Leaders say the move shows that the organization is dedicated to women on both sides of the Atlantic.
Health was a major driver initially. Confronted with the disparity they saw in maternal health care in the U.S. and back home, GWAG President Agnes Hayfron Barnor told Global Atlanta she and other members had no choice but to act.
Women in Ghana, still today, are sometimes forced to share beds or in rare cases, give birth on cement floors — and that’s among those who do make it to hospitals and health care centers, which can be a luxury in rural areas.
After Ms. Hayfron Barnor witnessed just such a harrowing birth during a 2015 visit to Ghana, the group launched a fundraising campaign to provide beds, a foundational component of prenatal care.
“Bringing life into the world needn’t be so undignified,” she said in a video raising funds for a second year in May 2017. “The good news is that most maternal deaths are highly preventable, and that is why members of the GWAG have made it their mission to build capacity for these underserved hospitals to improve patient outcomes.”
To start, the group adopted the maternity ward at Elmina Urban Health Center in Elmina, a city frequented by tourists heading to the historic castle where slaves awaited their fateful deportation from the “Gold Coast” to the Americas.
Having raised about $40,000, GWAG partnered with Advocates for World Health, a Tampa-based non-profit corporation, to fill out a 40-foot shipping container with the basics every maternal care center needs: beds, an ultrasound machine, stretchers and more.
GWAG country representative Hajia Fatima High in collaboration with Rotary Club in Ghana commissioned the ward last September. The association has established a nonprofit in Ghana as well to evaluate and oversee its projects in the country.
Watch a video to learn more: