Providence Helps: A Shelved-Project Gives People in Ghana a Chance for a Better Life

June 1, 2017

Rev. Jim Arant at the new Ghana Technology Center and Library
Rev. Jim Arant standing at the front of the new Technology Center and Library in Ghana
 

A Vision of Opportunity

In 2016, when Jeanette Mack was visiting her and her husband’s primary care provider, she saw something she had never seen before: a library for children in Ghana.

Jeanette and Al had been working with members of the Orangeburg Methodist Church to build a Technology Center and Library in Ghana so that the people in the village of Abesewa could learn how to use computers for a chance at higher learning and a better life. Since the entire structure was being built from the ground up, everything was needed.

Dr. and Mrs. Barnick in a hall once lined with shelves of paper medical records
Dr. and Mrs. Barnick in what was once
Providence Columbia Medical Associates' 
hall of medical records

What Jeanette really saw in the office that day was rows and rows of bookshelves that once housed paper medical records now emptied by the transition to digital.

“We had been speaking casually with Dr. Barnick about the project during our visit, and he was very interested. When I saw the medical file shelves being disassembled, I asked him if he would consider donating them to the project. He was immediately supportive,” said Jeanette, Treasurer and Acquisitions Contact for the Ghana Technology project.

After doing some missionary work a few years before, the church group wanted to do something to help the people of Abesewa, Ghana. The initial thought was to build a clean water well, but when contact was made to pursue this project they learned of a more dire need. Students in the rural area needed computers.

In Ghana’s rural areas, children may have the ability to go to school to learn, but at the end of Junior High, they must pass exams in order to get into high school. If they pass the exams, they can move to the cities where continued boarding and education is provided.

The problem is, part of the exam is on Information Technology. Students in the rural schools learning this subject aren’t learning it on computers. They are learning from a teacher drawing on a blackboard. Also, part of the exam must be taken on computers, and many students from the rural areas have never actually used a computer.

“Imagine using a computer for the first time when you have to take an exam on it that will determine your future.”
- Rev. Jim Arant, Steering Committee Chairperson for the project.

“Children in the cities have access to technology, but those in the rural areas have this huge disadvantage," said Rev. Jim Arant, Steering Committee Chairperson for the project. “Those who fail the exam will literally most likely go on to a life of selling wares like bananas and peanuts in the street. These are young people with potentially bright futures, sentenced to a life without options because of their lack of access,” continued Rev. Arant.

And so the plan was laid to build a Technology Center and Library that would house 40 computer stations, adult reading materials and children’s reading materials and resources.

To have a library, you need shelves.

Lots of them.

Local workers assembling the shelves in the new Ghana Sructure
Local workers assembling the shelves
in the new Ghana Structure

 
Young boy standing in the library before loading the books
Young boy standing in the library before
the books are loaded
 

Rows of shelves from Providence Columbia Medical Associates were dismantled and loaded into a large shipping container sent to Ghana along with items like donated books, computers, and furnishings. These donated shelves, said by the acquisitions team to have saved the project at least $10,000, will help children and adults learn to read, research, and better themselves.

Interesting facts about the Technology Center and Library

  • The facility prioritizes solar power, which eliminates hurdles and costs of electrical power in the area.

  • The center was constructed with local materials and labor.

  • The computers are “solid-state” which means they have no fans – a necessity in the dry dusty environment.

  • With Internet initially unavailable, the computers have a huge database of information downloaded in “Internet Format” and updated regularly (through a product called Rachel), providing significant access to information on all subject matters.

Today the structure is up and running. “This project will transform lives. Children will have a better opportunity to move beyond their current limits,” said Arant. “The entire economy of the region could be improved with education, options, and the benefits of knowledge contained within the Center’s walls.”

“It’s wonderful to be involved with such a beneficial project that can improve the lives and circumstances of so many people,” said Dr. Vaughn Barnick. “The Macks have always been wonderful people. I’m so grateful they have opened this door for us.”

Author's Note: In true physician form, as we met to discuss the project, Dr. Barnick paused to ask Al how he is doing to see if his own discomfort had improved since their appointment. Some people just can’t stop thinking about others. Thank goodness for that.

For more information on the Ghana Technology Project and how you can help, visit: https://www.facebook.com/UMCSCINGHANA/

Dr. Vaughn Barnick Providence Columbia Medical Associates
Vaughn Barnick, MD 

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Dr. Vaughn Barnick received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia Affiliated Hospitals. He is board certified in internal medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been in practice for 30 years, during which he has served Providence Hospitals in various leadership roles including Chief of Medicine, Chief of Staff, Board Member, and Medical Director of the Augustine Health Group (a position he still holds). For his complete bio, visit http://www.providencephysicians-sc.com/locations/providence-columbia-medical-associates/providers/vaughn-barnick-md/

Providence Columbia Medical Associates is located at 2750 Laurel Street, Suite 303, Columbia, SC 29204. For an appointment call (803) 252-1953. For more information visit http://www.providencephysicians-sc.com/locations/providence-columbia-medical-associates/