For centuries, the February 14 celebration of Valentine’s Day has been synonymous with love and the February celebration of Heart Month traces its history back for more than 50 years. The story of the School of Human Environmental Sciences’ (HES) work with the village of Adjeikrom in Ghana, West Africa finds its roots in expressions of the heart and in a love for people.
In 1999, Dr. Kwaku Addo, a native of Ghana and then faculty member in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, and his wife Esther, a native of Adjeikrom, visited their home country and villages. Their love for the people in Adjeikrom fueled their desire to provide new facilities for the kindergarten, a facility they found in very poor condition. In 2000, with support from friends at UK and in the Lexington area, the couple constructed a new building for the kindergarten and the Kentucky Academy became a reality. Dr. Addo began a tradition of incorporating service projects with the Kentucky Academy into his annual study tours, providing students engaged in education abroad with a unique opportunity to support improvements in the village.
Since that time, true outpourings from the heart have allowed continued improvements to the kindergarten and village. With assistance from Dr. Ann Vail, Director of the School of HES, Dr. Addo connected with the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association (KEHA) who launched their first project in support of the Kentucky Academy in 2007. In the ten years since that time, KEHA members have provided school supplies and clothing items for the village and funded numerous facility improvements including building upgrades, new furniture, the installation of electricity and a new water well, and the construction of a dining pavilion. Currently, KEHA is working with Dr. Addo and others to construct a library in the village.
Dr. Janet Mullins, Extension Professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, became engaged in work in Ghana in 2008 as part of her desire to address world hunger. In lieu of wedding gifts in 2009, she and husband Doug requested donations to support the establishment of a school feeding program for the Kentucky Academy. Their financial contributions, paired with gifts from family and friends, funded construction and equipping the kitchen connected to the KEHA Dining Pavilion. In January 2011, the first school lunches were served at the Kentucky Academy. Financial support through the Student Dietetics and Nutrition Association, KEHA and other groups was instrumental in establishing and continuing the school feeding program.
Affairs of the heart continue to be a part of this work, as Doug’s daughter, Allison Mullins, met her future husband, a student in dietetics, while traveling to Ghana in 2013. Since 2013, Dr. Mullins has played a key role in leading biennial study tours to Ghana and in continuing Dr. Addo’s tradition of incorporating a service-learning component. Students have worked to create a garden plot, install irrigation, assess village response to the school feeding program, and more. As was the case in 2015, Dr. Mullins is collaborating with Dr. Kim Spillman, Associate Professor in the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, to lead the 2017 study tour.
Focused on chocolate, farming and fabric, the May 2017 study tour will provide students with a unique opportunity to experience the Ghanaian culture. Highlights will include experiencing student life at the University of Ghana, making batik fabric, touring the Cocoa Research Institute, visiting rural villages and service learning focused on fighting world hunger. The deadline for application is March 1. Learn more and access the application at http://students.ca.uky.edu/EA_summer2017. Interested students can contact Dr. Mullins via email (email@example.com) or Dr. Spillman (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional details.