Student hopes to build library for Ghana youth

Kelley Stoklosa

A trip to deliver supplies turns into a quest for books

Sheila Denanyoh found inspiration last winter during a trip to deliver school supplies to children in her native country of Ghana.

Denanyoh, senior interior design major, is now collecting books for the children she met. The children are also in desperate need of a library, and Denanyoh said she intends to build them one.

Denanyoh spent last winter break visiting with school children and delivering school supplies she had collected for them through a drive at Kent State.

“When they took me to what they call a staff room, they had literally one shelf of books and called it their library,” Denanyoh said. “In the classrooms, one book was shared between several kids. I was thinking if more kids came to the school, they wouldn’t have any books at all.”

Denanyoh is collecting books until December. Yet, her goal for the library will be an ongoing effort.

Denanyoh said children in kindergarten through ninth grade need books the most. Books and donations should be left in Oscar Ritchie Hall Room 333.

Denanyoh gets emotional when she talks about the children she met on her last trip.

“These kids were not sad. These kids were so happy,” Denanyoh said. “They were singing and dancing, but some of these kids barely have anything. It really touched me. Four pencils, a notebook, maybe a pack of crayons – they were fine.”

The importance of Denanyoh’s project was not lost on others, either.

“The children were sorely in need of supplies that the schools just couldn’t afford,” said George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies. “I have been to Africa four times and visited schools that are under supplied. I knew how well they would be received.”

Denanyoh said she was overwhelmed by the support she received from the university. Garrison and members of the Kent African Student Association spread the word to faculty, staff and students that supplies were needed. People from all over the university answered their calls. President Lester Lefton and Garrison handled all of the fees for the school supplies to be shipped to Ghana, she said.

“It was a wonderful experience – so much bigger than I expected,” Denanyoh said.

In the end, there were enough school supplies for the school she intended to help to have a stockpile and for a neighboring school to be supplied as well.

Now, the biggest obstacle Denanyoh faces is accomplishing her goal of a library. She held a fashion show this summer, but the results were not as good as she expected. Denanyoh is looking for other fundraising opportunities.

Building an entire library is a heavy load for one person. Garrison said ideally a committee will be put together to plan and collect resources for the library.

Books will begin to be shipped to Ghana around the holiday season, regardless of the progress on the library, Denanyoh said.

“I hope to go over winter break,” Denanyoh said. “Since it is only three months away, I’m not sure if I will be able to go this year. I won’t be too disappointed. I will keep trying.”

Denanyoh’s mission to give back reflects the common goal for students at the university.

“Sheila is empowering young people in a way that will be changing their whole lives, Garrison said. ” This is a great example of service learning, which is a tradition for students at Kent State.”

Denanyoh said she can be reached for more information or to get involved at [email protected]

Contact Education, Health and Human Services reporter Kelley Stoklosa at [email protected]