Kaysville woman, 12 others to serve Ghanaians

Published: Friday, April 28 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Meredith Wahlstrom holds a native Ghanaian child during a service expedition in June 2005.

Meredith Wahlstrom

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In June a Kaysville resident will spend three weeks of her summer serving a group of people she has fallen in love with.

Meredith Wahlstrom went to Ghana, Africa, last year as a Reach the Children volunteer and will return this year as a team leader for the nonprofit organization.

"I went last year, and I loved it so much that I wanted to go back," the 20-year-old University of Utah student said.

Wahlstrom leaves June 7 with 10 other Reach the Children volunteers and two other team leaders on a service expedition to the country.

Salt Lake City residents Britni and Dan Bigelow will be the other team leaders for the trip. Britni has been going to Africa since 2002.

"We love being in Africa and being with the people, and I start to miss the people after being home," she said. "You miss the people and the smells and the food and sounds and just the country."

Wahlstrom found out about RTC through her neighbor who is in charge of RTC expeditions.

"I would listen to her experiences, and I just thought it sounded really fulfilling, and so I always wanted to go," she said. "When I was old enough, out of high school, I went and then I fell in love with it."

This year the service group will spend a majority of their time teaching the AIDS awareness program "Stay Alive" to young Africans.

"It's a program that teaches the children abstinence before marriage and a healthy family life in order to prevent them from getting diseases," Wahlstrom said.

Wahlstrom said she likes teaching the program because it stays right along with what she believes.

Last year some volunteers in Wahlstrom's group did teacher training, and Wahlstrom was able to teach dance and music to the African children.

This year the RTC group is going to do some construction work. With the help of Ghanaians, the group will build a school in a village called Buadua.

Wahlstrom said that RTC aims toward a sustainable way of teaching. The group wants the people they help to be able to support themselves after the volunteers leave.

"We like to make sure that when we are doing our construction projects we equal the amount of Ghanaians to Americans so that they are helping with the project, and it's part of their fulfillment and they learn work ethic," she said, "rather than we just come in and give them something and they don't learn from it."

The RTC members will also help the Africans by giving them teaching materials for the school they plan to build.

They also plan to work with Elder Emmanuel Abu Kissi, an Area Authority seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on construction projects at the Deseret International Ghana Hospital. Kissi is a doctor who owns the hospital.

"It's kind of a rundown little hospital, and they want to fix it up," Wahlstrom said.

The volunteers have to pay for their service expedition and all of the projects they do. Bigelow said the trip will cost $3,500 this year for each volunteer.

Through a benefit concert and silent auction in April, the volunteers were able to raise about $3,300 but are still looking for more donations. Anyone interested in donating can mail a check with "Ghana Expedition 2006" on the subject line to: Reach the Children, 14 Chesham Way, P.O. Box 1208, Fairport, NY 14450. More information on Reach the Children can be found at www.reachthechildren.org

Wahlstrom said there are a lot of educational needs in Ghana, and when the volunteers go, they will focus on teaching the children.

"They are the future of Ghana, and so if we can stabilize them and help them with a sure foundation of education and accomplishment, that's our goal," she said.


E-mail: nclemens@desnews.com