Coming Together: Comfort Takyi (foreground) and Gifty Ashrifi visited Blythe Park School last week to talk about conditions in Ghana. (Photo by Bob Uphues)

A group of landscape architects who visited Ghana earlier this year accomplished their mission to construct a rainwater harvesting system in a remote village.

But one of those participants, Riverside resident Tom Lupfer, says he’d like to deepen the connection between Riverside and Kanuwloe, Ghana, in the future by forming a kind of sister-city bond where Riverside residents would sponsor the educations of more than a dozen children.

“It’s my pipe dream to have a group from Riverside go over there,” said Lupfer, who was part of the landscape group that visited Ghana in late February through an organization called International Needs, a religious charity that runs 10 schools in remote areas of Ghana.

“Getting from here to there is going to take a lot of steps,” said Lupfer, “but this is a no-brainer for a community like Riverside.”

Lupfer engaged the Blythe Park School community prior to his trip to Ghana by raising money and collecting items for about 400 bags that contained everything from playground balls to school supplies that were distributed to the children of Kanuwloe.

In addition, the money collected through a local men’s organization went to supply the entire 700-person village with a feast.

“The gifts really made a close connection,” said Lupfer. “The bags really meant something to these kids. It was a life-changing event for them.”

On April 9, Lupfer returned to Blythe Park School to show students how their gifts were distributed and show them a video of his visit.

But what really impressed the students were two visitors Lupfer brought with him last week to the school — Comfort Takyi, a former principal of the Kanuwloe School, and Gifty Ashrifi, whose education was sponsored by donations and who now has a bachelor’s degree and works for International Needs in Ghana.

The two were in the U.S. for a month-long tour to thank U.S. contributors in the Midwest and to make pitches for additional sponsorships. According to Lupfer, there are about 15 children in Kanuwloe who are in need of sponsorships.

Without being sponsored, receiving a formal education is difficult for the children of poor families. Going to the school also means getting nutritious food every day.

“Before International Needs built the school, most children had to follow their parents to the rock quarry to break stones to make a living,” said Ashrifi, who said she was the first child from her village to go to high school.

The construction of the rainwater harvesting system in Kanuwloe was critical, said Takyi, because the alternative was long, daily hikes to water sources. She demonstrated to Blythe Park students the traditional way water is carried those long distances — on her head.

“What happens if you drop it?” asked one of the students.

“It happens,” Takyi said. “You go back and get some more.”

Lupfer said the groundwork has been laid to further the relationship between Riverside and Kanuwloe.

“There is that relationship now,” said Lupfer, who added that International Needs Ghana will be coming to the U.S. in August to talk about partnership opportunities. That’s when he’d like to cement Riverside’s partnership with Kanuwloe.

“We would have to see what they need and see if we can provide those needs,” Lupfer said. “I already have a small team of people on board. 

“I’d just like to see it come from the community organically. I was shocked when kids put 400 bags together.”

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