Making an Impact from 5200 Miles Away

Riley Showker, Staff Reporter

Junior Abena Afrakomah Afriyie poses atop the 3,000 books she collected to ship to Ghana. (Courtesy of Abena Afrakomah Afriyie)

“You don’t have to be superhuman to make a positive impact,” Afriyie said. “I always thought accomplishing something like this was for other people, like the movers and shakers, but that’s not true.”

During the course of the Pandemic, junior Abena Afrakomah Afriyie began the Ghana Literacy Campaign in hopes of providing a better education to the children in Ghana by donating books to their schools.

This is a cause that’s near and dear to Afriyie’s heart, as she is of Ghanaian heritage. Her mother (and role model) came to the US at 23 years old with only $100 in her bank account.

“Her story is awe inspiring,” Afriyie said. “ It’s a story of resilience, strength, and perseverance.”

She bursts with pride seeing her mom working at UVA after conquering every battle that she’s faced, and is eternally grateful for the gift of a better life here in America. Because of this, Afriyie treasures her education and will never take it for granted.

Many children in Ghana, however, are not so fortunate as to have an education. There are countless families that are in need of money, children are forced to work, which Afriyie observed herself while spending five years in Ghana.

She recalled an instance where she saw children on the sides of the street at night carrying bins of food over their heads.

“[I remember] thinking that they shouldn’t be out this late at night,” Afriyie said. “They’re small kids, anything could go wrong.”

Even if children had spare time to read, book availability is slim in Ghana. When her mother wanted to read, she had to walk miles to the nearest second-hand bookstore, without even knowing if the book was in stock.

“To hear that was just really disheartening,” Afriyie said. “So I wanted to find a way to be able to get books to schools in Ghana.”

Afriyie’s dreams became reality through her book drive. Her expectations were greatly exceeded: collecting 3,000 books to send to schools in Ghana.

She budgeted as soon as she put her plan into motion, and was willing to use her own money for the shipping cost which was over $1,000. However, she received large donations that covered some of the cost and supplies needed to ship.

“A box [of books] here, a box there, it all just piled up into one big [stack] of books,” Afriyie said.

Donations came in from a variety of sources, from AHS students to local used bookstores such as 2nd Act Books, Roadkill Books, the Book Baskets, and more.

The Key Club, of which Afriyie is a member, donated and helped organize the books, as well as helping her form ideas for the project. They spread the word, and had their own bin for contributions from Key Club members.

Afriyie is also appreciative of librarian Erica Thorsen for chipping in whenever she could.

Even though the Ghana Literacy Campaign is not established through AHS, Afriyie’s goal is to have school-wide participation in upcoming drives. Since the campaign has no roots, she hopes to carry it with her wherever life takes her, and possibly create an official non-profit establishment.

“The most rewarding part is how meaningful it all is,” Afriyie said. “There was never a moment where I wanted to stop or believed it wasn’t worth all the energy.”

Though she had her doubts at first, her clear vision and determination drove her to making a difference in a place of poverty. However, Afriyie does rely heavily on members of the community for donations, no matter how small it may be. Every book counts.

If you would like to donate a book, there is a box in the library for donations.