Steve Maggi, http://smalawyers.com/, shares his volunteer experience to the Dreamland School in Ghana.

Steve and Alejandra Maggi gather with students Ophelia, Hanna, Eunice, Vera and Phillipa at the Dreamland School in Ghana.

As the first country in West Africa to become independent, Ghana has achieved political stability and a democratic form of government in the 57 years since it broke away from British rule. The natural resources found in Ghana include some of the world’s richest sources of precious metals and crude oil.

The country is poised for great things. However, Ghana doesn’t have a generation of future leaders. In order for the country to meet its potential, the young people need to be educated – but the reality is that most students only finish primary school.  

That’s why in 2003 a pastor named James Dugger and his wife Agartha Amponsah founded Dreamland School in their hometown of Akumadan, in central Ghana.

I had always dreamed of doing something in Africa, to be immersed in a specific community and involved in a cause much bigger than myself or anything I had ever known. Chance led me to discover Dreamland School in 2009, and when I found out that there had never been any volunteers to help with the project, I thought it would be the kind of challenge I had always dreamed of.  My first time there, in addition to teaching the 5th grade class, I spent 5 weeks at the school developing a volunteer program with three goals in mind:

  • To make sure the current students didn’t fall through the cracks;
  • Setting up a sponsorship so that students who cannot pay for school can continue to be educated;
  • To promote the school’s physical growth on its current campus.

It wasn’t a surprise that funding became a major stumbling block to our goals. Once we started promoting the school via social media, non-governmental agencies from the United Kingdom stepped in to pick up some of the slack in funding, allowing for the construction of about half of the planned campus. Unfortunately, the donations dried up as the global economy sank into recession. When I went back in 2012, the campus was only half-finished. I decided to set up my own not-for-profit called American Friends of Dreamland School in an effort to generate larger, corporate-based donations. Most importantly, we wanted to follow up with the our first class of students, who were then in 9th grade. They were set to graduate in June and take the high school entrance exam. If they pass the exam, our goal became to ensure that they receive the financial help they need to be able to continue their educations. Since all the children at Dreamland are orphans or or from single-parent households, and extremely poor, this goal is a tall order, but not an impossible one.

To help in that effort we created an e-book called The Book of Dreams, with a photo of each 8th and 9th grader and an essay they’ve written about what their dreams are. We want potential sponsors to know these kids’ personalities and choose a child to sponsor – or if they don’t want to sponsor a specific child, they might want to make a small donation into the general fund to help the neediest kids among those who graduate.

These kids I’ve built relationship with are perfect examples of who a country would want to admit as an immigrant. Sometimes people ask me, “Why are you helping people in another country?”

I want to help people who have similar ethics and morals as mine, who appreciate what they have, who never stop striving to do something positive. It’s important to build those societies. That is why we recently went to visit the students at the school and plan the second edition of The Book of Dreams. We have posted new photos of the children, campus and video including discussions from the Headmaster and the school’s founder/director.

We just returned from another trip to Ghana where we visited with some of the recent graduates of the first graduating class, and are happy to report that ALL of them passed the senior high school entrance exam. A few of those children, bright and eager to learn, have had to put high school on hold until they can receive sponsorship, and we have also set up a general continuing education fund for them. My wife and I sponsor two of the children, but we can’t sponsor the 17 set to graduate in June 2014 or the 33 that are slated to graduate in June 2015. We need help, and a little help can go a long way.

 To stay on top of the ongoing efforts or to help the Dreamland School of Ghana, find us here on Facebook. To make a donation, click here.

Steve Maggi

SMA Law Firm

smaggi@smalawyers.com

(212) 402-6885

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