By Dan Wine
Dr. Bonni Boschee spent her holiday break in Ghana helping children and young women there improve their reading skills.
Boschee, an assistant professor of humanities at Beacon College, took the trip at the end of December in conjunction with City of Refuge Ministries, which helps children who have been rescued from exploitation, abuse or human trafficking.
She said a lot of students at the school there, Faith Roots International Academy, don’t really know their parents and have been abandoned by their families.
“Some of them have their parents in jail as a result of trafficking their children to work and not go to school,” Boschee said. “So the children are very eager to have one-on-one time with someone.”
During her postdoctoral studies, Boschee developed a program called Read2Soar that uses diagnostic tests to measure reading, spelling and phonics skills and establish a starting point for improvement.
The kids are eager to learn.
“The children are very humble, very grateful,” Boschee said. “They work hard. They don’t complain.”
Boschee also trained a teacher at the school and worked with several young women ages 18 to 25 in the Women of Seven Continents program, which helps put them on a path to success.
“Once we get them to a point where they can read and pass what’s required for high schools, they can potentially go on where they choose,” she said. “They can go to a trade school. They can go to college.”
Boschee’s daughter, Alexis — a nursing student at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa — accompanied her mother on the trip and helped a medical team administer vaccinations for tetanus and meningitis to children at the school and families from nearby villages.
“Some of these people were in their late 20s, and this was the first shot they’ve ever gotten in their life, so they were terrified of the needle, which was kind of amusing to watch grown men run away on their tippy-toes from a shot,” she said. “They were all laughing but obviously very scared.”
For Alexis, this was her first time outside the United States, and she said the trip was eye-opening and life-changing. She was struck by how happy the children were.
“Mainly I just got to love on the kids 24/7, which was amazing. Because they are so grateful for everything they had. They had basically three things: food, shelter and the love of God, which was all anyone really needs,” Alexis said.
“No iPads, no iPhones, no video games, just … they had each other, and they were so happy, and it just changed my outlook forever.”
Bonni Boschee echoed those comments, saying she was “completely humbled” by the experience.
“I believe they filled my cup more than I filled theirs,” she said.
Boschee plans to return to Ghana in June to continue her work.
What did her daughter take away from the experience? The importance of simplicity, she said.
Since she returned, Alexis has taken steps to simplify her life by donating to charity items she realized she doesn’t need.
“The more simple your life is, the happier you will be,” she said. “I just wish everyone could go to Africa and see how people live, because it was beautiful.”
Dr. Boschee is working on a blog to document her travels and work on the reading program.