King Amoatia Ofori Panin II of Ghana's eastern region will speak at Claremont Graduate University's Drucker School of Business Management at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Panin's trip to Southern California also involves a family visit with his first cousin, Opoku Acheampong of Claremont, and a charitable exchange with Free Wheelchair Mission in Orange County.
The Claremont program is free and open to the public. The king will discuss social, political and business issues facing developing West African nations, with an emphasis on services to increase independence for the physically disabled in Ghana.
Free Wheelchair Mission, an organization founded 25 years ago to provide mobility to the physically disabled poor in developing countries, sponsored Panin's trip to California. Free Wheelchair Mission provided wheelchairs to disabled people in Ghana's eastern region, a project that created a link between the nonprofit organization and the Ghanian king.
The Claremont visit is organized by Acheampong, a Caltrans transportation planner and Southern California coordinator of Future City Competition, and the Claremont Graduate University's alumni relations office.
It is planned to last from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Burkle Building, 1021 N. Dartmouth Ave. Information: (909) 607-7359.
Panin, 51, completed his undergraduate degree at Abuakwa State College in Ghana and his postgraduate work at Oxford University. He also attended Hartford University in the United States.
Panin became king of Akyem Abuakwa, Ghana's eastern and second-most-populous region, in October 1999. The 2.5 million people governed by Panin additionally gave him the respectful title Osagyefuo, which translates into "warrior king" and "revered leader." Only the Ashanti's northern region exceeds the population and size of Akyem Abuakwa.
As the leading government official in Ghana's eastern region, Panin has established policies and programs emphasizing education, women's equity, environmental preservation, child welfare, health, regional, national and international peace, economic development, health, HIV/AIDS awareness, aid to the physically disabled and cultural exchanges within Ghana and abroad, according to Acheampong, his cousin.
Panin is the first prominent king of Ghana's eastern region to accept such challenging goals, Acheampong said. Increasing the skills, education and independence of the handicapped, poor and women are said to be among Panin's highest priorities.
In Ghana, there is no system to provide services to the poor and disabled, but the king seeks to change that, Acheampong continued.
"He's leading the struggle to establish agencies and services which satisfy the needs of the disabled," the Claremont cousin said. "We all worry about the general poor, but within the general poor there are people who are really physically and economically challenged.
"Because of their disabilities, they are more or less invisible people," Acheampong lamented. "King Panin advocates for the disabled in Ghana and travels throughout the African continent, the United Kingdom and the United States to gain international support and assistance.
"He's trying to bring the plight of these people into the light. They need a voice, so he's trying to establish institutions which give them that voice and serve their needs."
Imani Tate can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (909) 483-8544.