A group of Middlesex University Dubai students recently returned from a unique experiential learning experience in Ghana. The group included third year students enrolled in the International Development, and Global Social Science programmes and second year students enrolled in the Tourism Programmes as part of their Fieldwork Module. The field trip to Ghana offered students an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired in the classroom in a real world setting.
The ten day field trip to was organized by Dr. Cody Paris, Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Programme Coordinator of the Social Science programmes, and Lulu Baddar, lecturer in Tourism, in collaboration with Amizade, an organization based in the US that empowers individuals and communities through global service and learning, and Peace Humanity International, a local Ghanaian volunteer organization. The program was designed to offer students the opportunity to conduct fieldwork, work on local development projects, and interact with local community leaders in Ghana.
Brandon Cohen, Executive Director of Amizade, said that, “It was a pleasure partnering with Middlesex University Dubai and Dr. Cody Paris. The collaboration was our first in 17 years with a campus based in the Middle-East, and proved to be a very fruitful experience for all parties. Indeed, global service-learning is a powerful learning opportunity for students all over the world.”
A cornerstone of the program was learning about community based development projects hands-on through Amizade’s ongoing projects in the village of Jukwa, in the Cape Coast region of Ghana. During several mornings of the program the students worked on the community library and computer center. Sara Noel, Outreach Director at Amizade, who accompanied the program noted the students’ enthusiasm and lasting impressions on the village of Jukwa, “The students from Middlesex University immediately dove into the service project, mixing concrete to lay a new floor and painting bright yellow walls at the Jukwa library. Through their hard work and friendly conversations they have certainly left a lasting impact on the community of Jukwa.”
In addition to the library project, students had the opportunity to volunteer at the local community clinic for a morning during which time they helped out in the laboratory, dispensary, maternity ward, and the admissions. The volunteer projects were supplemented with educational meetings and visits including the Women’s group at the Ghanaian Muslim Mission, the Institute of Development Studies at University of Cape Coast, a local cocoa plantation, an orphanage, Accra’s central market, Jukwa’s market, a micro-finance institution, and two different primary schools. All of these experiences provided a real-world account of the development issues faced by communities throughout the developing world. Donya Saberi, a third-year Global Social Science student reflected, “the trip was definitely an eye opener as the idea of development might seem easy on paper, but in reality resources are limited and the needs are many.”
Lillias Mills, a third-year International Development student, commented on the experience, “I found the trip to Ghana a rewarding and enriching experience, it’s a vibrant country full of very friendly people. It was great to see the theories we have been learning over the last 3 years put into practice in the field. It was also insightful to see the working relationship between the people of Jukwa and the NGO Amizade and the work they are doing to create a community library providing books and computer access for children for the first time. I would recommend anyone doing International Development studies to do the field trip next year.”
The students were welcomed in the village of Jukwa, and had the opportunity to interact with local leaders including the village Chief, former MPs, Jukwa’s Mayor, and many of the other village elders. Throughout the program the Middlesex group was accompanied by young Ghanaian student volunteers and leaders including Francis, Steven, and Kwame, who worked hard to provide a memorable and valuable learning experience. Kwame, who is from Jukwa and is one of the voices of his generation, summed up the hospitality that the village of Jukwa showed to the group through his personal mantra, “It’s not how happy you are, it’s how happy others are because of you.”
In addition to the volunteering, meetings, and site visits, students had an opportunity to experience the rich culture and attractions of Ghana. Tourism is quickly developing in the region and providing a force for poverty alleviation. Students were able to experience this first hand. During the trip the students visited the UNESCO World Heritage slave castles in Elmina and Cape Coast, the Rainforest Canopy walkway in Kakum, and Kokrobite beach, a small fishing village turned popular tourist destination outside of Accra. In Jukwa, the students learned how to cook Jollof rice, play African drums and dance the local dance.
Dr. Cody Paris noted that “The unique learning experiences on this trip not only complement the on-campus academics, but also will have lasting impacts on the students and the community of Jukwa. I look forward to next year’s program!”