Giving high school students access to computers and spreading awareness of what causes malaria were the goals of two different student groups that made service trips to Ghana over winter break.
Six members of the Coalition of Pan-African Scholars went to Bimbila, in northeastern Ghana, to establish a computer center at Bimbila Secondary School. The students -- Kobbina Awuah, M.Eng. '09, Paul Bropleh '09, Aleshadye Getachew '10, Jefferson King '09, Kaylin Lemelle-Thomas '11 and Adey Teshome '10 -- held a series of computer skills workshops at the school for teachers as well as members of the local farmers' union and hospital staff.
The computers had been donated by the Cornell Computer Reuse Club and shipped to Ghana in September 2008, using funds the six students and others raised through various activities.
"We decided that once the computers were shipped, the next logical step would be to set up the computer center and train facilitators to manage the center," Awuah said. A native of Ghana, Awuah had worked on previous engineering projects in the same region and had established contacts at the school.
The students taught the teachers such skills as how to use Microsoft Excel to input grades, and introduced the farmers and hospital workers to database management.
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, as a key partner in the effort, provided the students access to discounted transportation and several community contacts, Awuah added.
The trip was funded in part by the College of Engineering, the Bartels family and the Office of Minority Educational Affairs.
Meanwhile, five students from the student-run organization Cover Africa visited Humjibre, a farming village in Ghana's southwest, to survey people about malaria awareness, to present malaria education programs and deliver mosquito bed nets to families in need, in partnership with the nonprofit Ghana Health and Education Initiative.
Native Ghanaian Joseph Agyei '11, Maddie Dunfee '10, Andrew Handel '09, Sunie Lewis '09 and Edgar Sarmiento '10 traveled to Humjibre as part of a yearlong seminar course, Malaria Interventions in Ghana (Entomology 410), taught by Laura Harrington, associate professor of entomology, and organized by Alma Aldrich '10.
While in Ghana, the students interviewed nearly 500 families, particularly mothers, and found that only some of the villagers knew that malaria is caused by mosquitoes; many believed it is caused by the hot sun or by unsanitary conditions, according to Handel.
The students also spent a day treating bed nets by soaking them in a pesticide to render them deadly to mosquitoes, enhancing their efficacy.
Students held fundraisers for the trip throughout the year and were also supported by the Office of Minority Educational Affairs and the Bartels family, among others. They are now meeting weekly to compile their survey data and discuss goals for upcoming Cover Africa Ghana trips.
It was the second year that Cover Africa had sent students to Ghana; last year two Cover Africa groups from Cornell visited the same Ghanaian village to conduct similar surveys.