Visitors from Ghana strengthen ties with Vancouver Island

June 19, 2012 - 7:30am

Update: Kwadwo Thomas Djang-Fordjour, Rector of Sunyani Polytechnic in Ghana, and VIU President Ralph Nilson signed a five-year agreement of co-operation between the two educational institutions on June 25.

The agreement outlines: “The objective of promoting and expanding international understanding by stimulating and supporting educational, professional and intercultural activities and projects among students and staff of the two institutions and the respective communities that support them.

The two institutions intend to engage in the following areas of cooperation:

• Visits and exchange of members of the faculty and students for the purpose of study, teaching and discussion

• Joint curriculum development and implementation

• Collaborative research activities

• Exchange of information

Specific proposals for carrying out the above goals will be developed individually as will the financial arrangements under which those proposals are to be undertaken.”

Story posted June 19, 2012: Central Vancouver Island Rotary clubs are putting out the welcome mat for seven visiting Rotarians from Ghana, Africa.

The Ghanaians arrived in Nanaimo last Wednesday as part of the Canada Ghana Rotary Mission, a two-week visit that includes meetings with officials at Vancouver Island University, Regional District of Nanaimo, City of Nanaimo, the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District and central Island Rotary clubs.

They come from Sunyani, a city about the same size as Nanaimo, located in central Ghana.

“Part of the goal of the Canada Ghana Rotary Mission is for our visitors to learn about Canadian culture, meet with Rotarians and other community members, visit tourism sites, and learn more about waste management, health care, education, government, tourism and specific trade/business interests in Central Vancouver Island,” said Ken Hammer, a Nanaimo Rotarian who teaches in VIU’s Tourism and Recreation Management program.

The Canada Ghana Rotary Mission is a direct result of a partnership established in 2005 between the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Sunyani Municipal Assembly, and a five-year initiative (2006 to 2011) called the Ghana Canada Partnership for Environmental Education spearheaded by VIU’s International Education department and Faculty of Tourism and Recreation Management.

The RDN partnership, which ended in 2007, was financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, with the goal of improving solid waste management practices in the Sunyani region.

The VIU-Ghana partnership, also funded by CIDA through the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, involved collaboration between VIU and two post-secondary institutions in Ghana – the Sunyani Polytechnic and the Faculty of Forest Resource Technology at Kwame Nkrumah University.

“Initially we focused on four key areas: ecotourism development, reducing poverty, reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and developing environmentally sustainable practices in the Sunyani area,” said Hammer. “There have been multiple spinoffs of that original work.”

Hammer, colleague Dr. Rick Rollins and others have led several multidisciplinary field schools to Ghana involving faculty and students from Tourism and Recreation, Global Studies, Nursing, Forestry, Education, Geography, Social Work, and the Masters in Business Administration program.

Students and faculty also engage in community development work through longer exchanges and internships. Two field schools visited Ghana this spring involving Nursing and Tourism students, and a third field school for Education students is under development.

Several teams of Ghanaians from partner institutions visit Nanaimo on reciprocal exchanges, and a permanent research centre with offices in Sunyani and Nanaimo facilitates continuing collaborations between Ghana and Canada.

As well, VIU Professor Dr. Grant Murray, co-director of the Protected Areas and Poverty Reduction (PAPR): A Canada-Africa Resesarch and Learning Alliance, just returned from a 10-day visit to Ghana where he and team of international researchers are examining the relationship between protected areas and adjacent communities in Canada, Ghana and Tanzania.

The project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the International Development Research Centre, grew directly out of the work by Dr. Ken Hammer and Dr. Rick Rollins and their original project, said Murray.

“It’s very gratifying to see how the CIDA funded projects for VIU and the RDN were the seeds that grew into a tree and then a huge forest,” Hammer added. “The initial projects developed into something more profound and meaningful than anyone ever expected. It has evolved because of synchronicity and a keen willingness on the part of so many people to make the world a better place.”

RDN Chairperson Joe Stanhope, who visited Sunyani in 2005, said, “Working with our counterparts in Sunyani was a life-changing experience for me. Waste accumulation has a global impact, so by focusing on waste management in our respective communities, we are contributing on a much larger scale. The RDN is recognized as a leader in solid waste management, and our partnership with the Sunyani Municipal Assembly has had lasting results. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish together.”

Visiting Rotarians toured Regional District of Nanaimo solid waste management facilities last Friday (June 15). They will attend the June 26 RDN Board meeting where two representatives from the Sunyani Municipal Assembly will deliver a presentation on the implementation of their solid waste management plan.

On June 20 and 25 the group will tour VIU’s Nanaimo campus and meet with VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson. “Our visitors hope to establish further connections with VIU,” said Hammer.

The Rotary connection was established a few years ago when Hammer took a visiting Ghanaian faculty member to a Nanaimo Daybreak Rotary meeting. This led to the formation of the Rotary Club of Sunyani Central.

To date, Nanaimo Rotary clubs, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Sunyani Central, have been responsible for over $160,000 in humanitarian projects in Sunyani. Some of these projects have raised funds to build a school latrine and water wells in the community, purchase computers and books for a primary school and orphanage, build a security wall at the primary school, purchase malaria nets and white boards, and paint classrooms.

This year, Central Island Rotary clubs, Central District 5020 and Rotary International are building a public latrine at a community market in Sunyani. “It started with seed money from central Vancouver Island Rotary Clubs, the District got involved, and so did Rotary International,” said Hammer.

“The changes and positive impacts we’ve witnessed in Ghana through all of these different initiatives are incredible,” said Hammer. “Sunyani has been designated as the cleanest city in the region for three years running. We have ongoing field schools and exchanges with Ghana, and continuing relationships with our Ghanaian friends.

“New research projects are underway, and now, Ghanaian Rotarians are travelling the world and partnering with us on projects to improve their region and lives of citizens. It’s wonderful to see.”

Tags: In the Community

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