Thirteen years after President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the beginning of the Perpetual Education Fund, the program is thriving in this western African nation.
Hundreds of Ghanaians have benefitted from the Church’s PEF loan program, which helps people lift themselves from the throes of poverty and discouragement through hard work, self-reliance and education.
Ghana’s stable democracy, growing economy and a culture that puts an emphasis on education has made it fertile ground for the PEF success, said Mike Murray, vice chairman of the Perpetual Education Fund.
“In Ghana, you have a winning, triple combination of dynamics. The Church is growing rapidly and is attracting many young adults of strong faith and commitment who have a thirst for education. Ghana, as a country, is putting an emphasis on schools and education. And you have a relatively safe country with a strong rule of law and a steady democracy,” Brother Murray explained.
“In terms of a report card of a country who has everything going for it, Ghana might get straight A’s. We’re extremely pleased with the adoption and usage of the PEF loan program in Ghana. We’re also pleased with how the members who are using this program are repaying the loans. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The Church’s Perpetual Education Fund is designed to help needy, determined and worthy members of the Church around the world receive funds to pay for education and training, which prepare them for specific jobs or small-business opportunities in the communities in which they live.
It is modeled after the Perpetual Emigration Fund set up for the Church’s early pioneers, and as loans are repaid, the money is recycled and made available to other members of the Church seeking to improve their livelihood. And, like the Perpetual Emigration Fund, the source of the funds comes from the donations of other members who desire to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Participants in the program are strengthened personally, both spiritually and temporally, and are also enabled to help their families and communities.
For Elder Robert C. Gay of the Seventy, chairman of the Perpetual Education Fund, Ghana has a special place in his heart. Elder Gay served as president of the Accra Ghana Mission from 2004 to 2007.
“The people of Ghana are some of the kindest and nicest people you’ll find on the face of the Earth,” Elder Gay said. “While my family had worked in other parts of Africa, we had never been to Ghana before we were called to go there as a mission president. In Ghana, we worked with and served people from all different regions and dialects on a daily basis. They blessed our lives in many ways, teaching us how to give when you have little, opening their homes and their hearts to us. It just was a wonderful, wonderful experience. Many Ghanaians have become family to us. The members there made our time there a joy. It became a great place of love and friendship.”
The PEF program hadn’t been established in Ghana when Elder Gay arrived in 2004.
“The PEF came to Ghana about midway through our mission. When it was announced, the principles underlying it were thoroughly taught, and members, especially returned missionaries, were carefully interviewed and prepared,” said Elder Gay. “As PEF arrived, participants were fully taught and prepared to receive loans and to have a high level of integrity and responsibility in fulfilling their obligations.