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General News | Jun 11, 2004

Gloucester Students Find Computers for Ghana

OTTAWA CITIZEN

Sparked by the Desire to Make a Difference

Gloucester High School students are improving a little corner of Africa through a unique student-run program that aims to be more than just a charity.

Recent graduate Vanessa Leduc wanted to make an impact abroad after she attended a youth leadership conference. “I wanted to start something where we could help them by sending books and computers and they could share culture with us,” she said. She shared her feeling with Penny Scott, a Gloucester teacher, who recalled Ms. Leduc asking, “I want to make a difference – how do I do it?”

The pair founded Gators for Ghana – named for the school sports nickname – to help students at a Ghanaian school and raise global awareness within the diverse student population. Ms. Scott said she hoped the program would “teach kids to make a difference,” and to understand “Canada cares deeply about the world.” The club has collected more than 1,000 books, plus sports equipment and 40 computers for Amaniampong Senior Secondary School in Mampong, Ghana.

The rural school in the center of the country, which teaches 809 students, lacks much of the equipment Canadians take for granted. “We don't want this to be like a charity'” said Meghan Cartwright, leader of Gators for Ghana during the 2003-2004 school year. “We want it to be more of a partnership.”

Working with the Ghana High Commission, the Gators set up a sister school arrangement with Amaniampong School. “This project has come just at the right times,” said Charles Agyei-Amoama, Ghanaian deputy high commissioner for Canada. “Ghana is trying to establish an information and high technology program in the whole country.” To encourage computer donations, Owen Peterson, a software engineer and alumnus of Gloucester High School, sent an e-mail asking, “Who has junk they want to get rid of?” Several corporations contributed surplus equipment; something Mr. Peterson said would happen more frequently if the Gators obtain charitable status.

As computers poured in, the group ran out of storage space, prompting a move to Mr. Peterson's parents' basement. To help refurbish the machines, Mr. Peterson and Gators for Ghana turned to the University of Ottawa chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a non-government agency that supports development efforts. Mr. Peterson and the six students fixed the Pentium II computers, relying on ingenuity and begging for parts they often couldn't afford.

Gators for Ghana still requires more working computers and monitors, memory, printers and networking equipment. To inquire or donate, please e-mail: [email protected]

BY DAVID AGREN

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