Several faculty members traveled there this summer to complete preparations, including identifying the students’ host families in Kumasi, a city of more than one million people.
“Archbishop Peter Sarpong of Kumasi has embraced us and helped us make the connections,” said Patrick Welage, the program’s assistant director. “He’s a very down-to-earth, active person and sees this as an opportunity for partnership and dialogue and understanding. Our students are there not so much to help but to learn.”
The students will each work 12-15 hours a week in volunteer positions at one of four locations, including a home for abandoned children set up by the late Mother Teresa and run by the sisters of her order. Other sites include an orphanage and two prisons.
Students will take classes in African literature, the Twi language and theology, taught by Xavier faculty with help from local teachers and guest speakers. A service-learning course examining the social and historical issues of the country rounds out the program’s academic component, which awards students 15 credit hours.
The students will also take two trips, including one to the coastal cities of Cape Coast and Elmina. There they’ll cap off their African experience by visiting the castles-turned-dungeons that held native people captured for the slave trade.
Service learning semesters were also offered this past fall in Delhi, India and Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine community. The program began 10 years ago in a barrio of Managua, Nicaragua. Students take academic courses, live with host families and do volunteer work at agencies and institutions in their new communities.