Ghana Together History

You may wonder why Ghana Together is so committed to Ghana? And why Axim, an out-of-the-way town few have heard of?

By way of background, Rich and Maryanne Ward, part of Ghana Together’s current leadership team, have a son, Nathan, who owns a textile exporting business. In 2005, he developed a business relationship with James Kainyiah, Owner and Managing Director of Jamkay Ltd, a sportswear manufacturing firm in Sekondi, Ghana. Axim, James' hometown, is about an hour's drive west of Sekondi.

Nathan and James outside JamkayNathan visited Ghana and became friends with James who took him to Axim, sharing his dream of building a local charitable "NGO", similar to our US non-profits, to help orphaned, impoverished children in Axim, and to improve the social, health. and leadership conditions in Axim. James himself lost his parents at a young age, and struggled during his youth growing up impoverished in this poor fishing town.

You need to know that James is a big man with a big heart who had many years earlier awakened in the middle of the night in Germany, where he was studying, with a strong feeling that he should act to help children in his hometown of Axim.

That dream never left him as he returned to Ghana, started his business, raised a family, and became a community leader. James also had spent a bit of time earlier in the US, and learned about and admired our volunteer/charitable/non-profit efforts. On this slim knowledge base, he founded Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered NGO based in Axim—a first in that area and still not at all common in Ghana.

James in full chief dressSo, fatefully one might say, on the spur of the moment during that rather ordinary business trip, he asked Nathan to help him realize his dream, starting with building a community learning center for housing programs to help children, develop adult leaders, and in general provide a meeting/learning center for Axim.

But, Nathan, a young businessman just starting out with few resources, said he couldn’t help. However, he was sure his Mom and Dad would! Christmas 2005 came. Nathan visited his family home, and challenged his newly-retired parents to forsake the rocking chairs and any thought of a motor home, and take on something much more exciting! Soon Rich and Maryanne had a long email from James, telling all about his dreams. He ended by saying he was "praying our lives would be "torched"(i.e.touched) by God..."

One thing led to another. Barbara Gilday, a friend of Rich and Maryanne, was about to embark on a journey to Nigeria to build a library. She detoured to Axim, and put to use her earlier Ghanaian experience as a Canadian "CUSO" volunteer to meet James and his fellow leaders in Axim. She felt this little band of determined Ghanaians was on to something and worth energy on our part to give them a boost.

Barbara led us to Global Citizen Journey (GCJ), a non-profit in Seattle, that planned journeys to out-of-the-way places to foster connections and cultural understandings. Thus, in November 2006, Rich, Maryanne, and Barbara led a group of 15 North Americans to Axim, under the sponsorship of GCJ. James put together the Ghanaian side of the delegation, matching professions and interests of the two groups.

GCJ Group with WHH facilityDuring this first journey, construction commenced on the Western Heritage Home facility, aka Community Learning Center. We got to know Axim—and Ghana, too. We developed relationships with leaders and admired James' efforts to work with them, both as Development Chief and as Founder of Western Heritage Home.

When we returned to the US, it seemed to us that these Ghanaian folks who had been so welcoming to us and who, in a span of about three weeks we had come to regard as friends, deserved our continuing support. So we decided to continue working with them in Axim, and to facilitate that, we formed our own charitable non-profit (501c3) in early 2008 and named it "Ghana Together."