CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University officials announced that 20 WT students are set for a 13-day trip to Cape Town, South Africa beginning on Nov. 10, where they will work on improvement projects within the community.
Officials said that Enyonam Osei-Hwere, associate professor of communication, will lead the students along with Brock Blaster, WT’s Vernon Harman Professor of Dryland Farming.
The students, according to officials, will partner with four schools as they provide books for children, along with building community gardens and developing projects to assist the community.
“A lot of our students have never traveled outside of the country,” Osei-Hwere said. “If you don’t have exposure to other parts of the world, your perception is very different. This will be eye-opening for our students.”
Officials noted that students will mostly pay for their trip with some assistance from WT’s Study Abroad program, the Department of Communications, and the Department of Agricultural Science.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing different cultures,” said Tearanee’ Lockhart, a junior broadcast journalism major from Amarillo. “I’m sure there’s going to be some culture shock, but I’m excited for it.”
WT officials reported that around $38,000 in new books will be provided to the area students as provided by donations sent to Amarillo nonprofits, Storybridge Amarillo and Leaders Reader Network.
“What touched me especially was (Osei-Hwere) telling me of a South African woman who approached her and said, ‘Thank you for seeing us. Sometimes it feels that many do not see us here,’” said Chandra Perkins, Storybridge executive director. “It really made me reflect on the universal need to be seen, to feel like you are visible.”
“We’re giving these books, all hand-signed with messages of hope and encouragement, directly to the students to take home with them,” said Osei-Hwere, a Ghana native who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years. “I was born on that continent. My circumstances are no different. Literacy was the game changer for me, and I want these students to make sure they grow up with a habit of reading. That’s what can change your circumstances.”
In addition, the students will build gardens for women living at safe houses operated by the nonprofit Philisa Abafazi Bethu, a center that advocates for women who are victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. WT students will also provide a Thanksgiving lunch for 4,000 people in the community.
“We are extremely excited to join Dr. Osei-Hwere and the Department of Communication students on this community service opportunity to Cape Town,” Blaser said. “I am confident that all of us will come home with a greater appreciation for what we were able to share with and learn from the wonderful people of South Africa. Helping others learn gardening and food productions skills to provide for themselves and their families sounds simple in many ways, but the need is real and the opportunity to impact lives is an honor.”
The students will get a chance to explore and learn more about the United States Consulate in Cape Town along with the tools and strategies they use to create social change along with educate and further develop communities.
The students who will take the trip are from WT’s Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities and the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.
“When we come back, the challenge to our students is to go into their communities and replicate the work they did in South Africa,” Osei-Hwere said. “They don’t have to get on a plane. The challenges in South Africa also are here in our own communities.”