When members of United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay toured a local school in Ghana, they were shocked to see that the school’s library did not have any books.
The empty room was furnished with nothing but a couple desks, some chairs and several piles of pamphlets.
“It was pretty much a vacant room that they hoped to someday make a school library,” said church member Cynthia Boock.
The sparsely furnished library was almost unrecognizable for Aba Baffoe-Ashun, who had attended the school as a young girl.
“Things have changed,” she said. “It was very scary to see that empty space.”
Baffoe-Ashun moved to Milwaukee 25 years ago, but she still makes regular trips back to Ghana to visit her parents.
She is one of about 10 Ghana natives to join the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay after their previous church, Emmanuel United Methodist Church closed in 2014.
When Emmanuel United Methodist closed, the Ghana natives decided to send some of their old Bibles and hymnals to Ebenezer Cathedral Methodist Church in Winneba, Ghana.
The partnership between Whitefish Bay and Winneba continued to grow when the Whitefish Bay church donated $8,000 for a well in a nearby village.
Five members of the Whitefish Bay church attended a dedication ceremony for the well in May. While they were in Ghana, they were invited to a morning devotion at Winneba Methodist Church, where they saw the sparsely furnished school library.
After they returned from the trip in May, the church decided to collect books and funds for the school’s library.
Since then, church members have collected 2,313 books, 110 book bags and a large world map that they plan to send to Ghana. The books include a mix of fiction, non-fiction and educational books that are appropriate for junior high students ages 11-14.
The church also raised $1,500 needed to ship the books, as well as another $5,000 to buy bookcases, chairs and computers.
The church gathered so many books that the school decided to move the library to a larger room. The library will serve three schools, and the Winneba community at large.
Baffoe-Ashun said the students in Ghana have sent several enthusiastic thank-you messages to Whitefish Bay since they learned of the fundraiser. She said this section of Winneba is lower income, and they are grateful for the donations.
“For children in that area, in that school district, the ability to go to a library to check out books like any other child, it means a lot,” she said.