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Salmon Arm’s First United Church hosts second annual Ghana Girls’ Gala

Fundraiser supports girls’ education, continues work by church to support Ghanaian communities
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Some of the young women and girls in Ghana that community members from Salmon Arm’s First Community met in 2011, as part of their fundraising and sponsorship efforts. (Lorraine Ellens photo)

A local church organization is once again helping girls in Ghana access education.

First United Church’s community organization, First Community, is hosting its second annual Ghana Girls’ Gala May 27 at the church. The gala is a fundraiser intended to help pay for school fees for girls living in Ghana, who may face poverty and other barriers to education, along with their families and communities.

READ MORE: First United in Salmon Arm successfully supports Ghana girls for close to 20 years

First United first sent money to help girls pay for school fees around 2014, said Joyce Henderson, First Community member. Before that, the church had been involved for years, building a school, a health-care centre, and doing more for Ghanaian communities.

The connection was made when Henderson met Vida Yakong, from Ghana, at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, where she was finishing her Masters degree in nursing and pursuing a PHD in interdisciplinary studies. Yakong was introduced to the church and the partnership has continued ever since, said Henderson.

Church members including Henderson, her husband and son, have visited Ghana and met students First Community has sponsored.

“Vida is part of our church family,” said Henderson. “She has a team there that works with the teachers and in schools to identify students that are promising. It feels good to know that money is making a difference.”

About 270 children have been helped by the church’s efforts, reads a First United release.

“One of the remarkable things about this project is how it has changed the village’s attitude towards educating girls,” Yakong said in the release.

Henderson emphasized the fact there is no middle person in the continuing fundraiser. The church sends the money directly to Yakong, who then makes sure it is sent where it’s most needed. Henderson told of a girl who was able to complete her third year of midwifery school with funds raised by First Community, as it wasn’t possible for her family to finance the rest of her degree.

The evening will be a celebration of African culture in Salmon Arm. Drumming performances, dance and traditional African storytelling will entertain guests, with a chance to learn a song as a group. Woven baskets, brought in by a local woman whose husband is Ghanaian, will be on sale for $60 each and will come with a slideshow of the women weaving the baskets. An auction will be held and Yakong is sending photos of students the group has helped along with personal stories about themselves.

Tickets are $100 and come with an $80 charitable tax receipt.

First Community’s catering team will provide dinner and desserts and there will be a bar available to purchase beverages. More information is available at firstcommunity.ca.

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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