Kerry Anne Henry Class of 2012, Public Child Welfare Intensive Weekend Program Ghana, Rutgers Study Abroad and Center for African Studies
For six weeks in the summer of 2012, Kerry Anne traveled to Ghana on a Rutgers International Service Learning Program through Study Abroad in partnership with the Center for African Studies. While there, she assisted the lead professor, Dr. Abena Busia, and the 11 students that participated. She prepared class materials, as well as supported the group during projects, events, and facilitated group discussions. Kerry-Anne also responded to students’ questions in relation to their social and fieldwork experiences. In addition to being an assistant to Prof. Busia, Kerry Anne provided support to participants on their trip by offering guidance and help with basic needs.
During their time in Ghana, the group learned about the history of the country as well as their economic, political, and social structures. The group visited the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, local villages, and the slave castles (or dungeons, as they are called locally). Kerry Anne described the visit to the slave castles as one of the most surreal experiences in her life. It was not until after she returned from the castles that she was able to process everything taken in from that day. She was not only able to internalize the historical reference, but was also able to integrate the visual and emotional connection.
The International Service Learning (ISL) component gave participants “hands-on” experiences. Kerry Anne’s key responsibility was assisting Prof. Busia with independent projects. One of her more interesting projects included a workshop summary from a “Nollywood” symposium the professor facilitated in Nigeria concerning African women in film. Moreover, she also worked closely with Prof. Busia in matching students with internship placements at the community level. Kerry-Anne shared with us, the notable work of the organizations. In particular, The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and their success raising over $20USD million to provide financial and capacity building support to various organizations throughout the African continent. AWDF is the largest funding program on the continent for female-led organizations such as Women United Against AIDS in Ghana (WUAAG), Women’s Assistance for Business Association (WABA), and the Ark Foundation. With AWDF funding, among other funding sources, these organizations have grown leaps and bounds and significantly contribute to the remarkable progress of the women’s movement on the continent. One of many glaring stories come from WUAGG who, with the help of AWDF, has moved into their own building space after humble beginnings under the shade of a tree- where they held support groups. Kerry-Anne was inspired by the energy and motivation of the women’s movement and their overall way of life. She explained that recent economic data suggest “Most people (in Ghana) are living on $1USD per day. If families can live under these circumstances and thrive, smile, achieve goals and enjoy life, then anything is truly possible. It really allowed me to reflect on my life…sit back and think how to make the most of what I have and what I can do to help. It was a chance for true self-assessment.”
As an employee of the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), Kerry Anne also took the study abroad opportunity to take a glance at the child welfare system in Ghana. She noted that although Ghana lags behind the United States with regards to child welfare infrastructure and the use of evidence based practices, the current Ghanaian laws in place reflect the country’s ardent commitment to child protection and supporting families. Kerry-Anne emphasized one particular area where Ghana appears to excel; that is in its ability to balance customary law with civil law. The existence of the dual system of governance ultimately demonstrates the country’s ability to fuse governmental responsibilities with community priorities, for the betterment of all. Overall, her experience allowed her to see things from a perspective that is not afforded in the classroom. It is her experience that knowledge enhances practice and the study abroad program complemented her professional knowledge in ways that a classroom could not.