AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Students and staff are back from a study abroad trip where they helped communities in Cape Town, South Africa with books, social media skills and building community gardens.

They talk about their experience, and you can read the original story below.

Twenty West Texas A&M University students soon will depart on a trip that will change not only their lives, but also the lives of children and families an ocean away. Students in WT’s Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities and the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences will depart Nov. 10 for a 13-day trip to Cape Town, South Africa, where they will work on several community improvement projects.

Dr. Enyonam Osei-Hwere, associate professor of communication and the 2022 Magister Optimus for WT, will lead the trip with Dr. Brock Blaser, WT’s Vernon Harman Professor of Dryland Farming.

In Cape Town, the students will partner with four schools, providing new books for schoolchildren, building community gardens and developing marketing projects to benefit communities.

“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.”

Students signed up in May for the trip and largely will pay their own way with some assistance from WT’s Study Abroad program and from the Department of Communication and the Department of Agricultural Sciences.

“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.”

The WT contingent will bring about $38,000 (retail value) brand-new books for young readers provided by donations to Storybridge Amarillo and Leaders Readers Network, two Amarillo-area nonprofits that encourage childhood literacy.

“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.”

“The opportunity to work with Dr. Osei-Hwere and WT students is the perfect partnership,” said Chris McGilvery, executive director of The Leaders Readers Network. “We are honored to collaborate with this Study Abroad program to provide brand-new, diverse books for South African students.”

Encouraging literacy is a key component of the trip, Osei-Hwere said.

“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.”

Students also will build community gardens for women living at safe houses operated by Philisa Abafazi Bethu, a nonprofit center advocating for the rights of women who are victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. The center’s clients also will take part in social media workshops, receive how-to videos on community gardens and more, and WT students also will cook and serve 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.”

WT students also will tour the United States Consulate in Cape Town and learn about the role of embassies and consulates in American foreign policy and how the consulate in Cape Town specifically employs media tools and strategies in bringing social change, education and development to communities, similar to the vision of the South Africa Global Media Study Abroad program at WT.

This is Osei-Hwere’s third trip to Cape Town for Study Abroad programs.

“I admire the dedication of our faculty and appreciate the support WT provides to Study Abroad and international efforts in general,” said Carolina Galloway, director of Study Abroad and Nationally Competitive Scholarships. “This program has been a transformative one not only for our students but also for the local communities in Cape Town, and illustrates the impact we can make when we open ourselves to learning from and helping others. Our Study Abroad programs continue to benefit students and help them be more aware of the reality that exists outside of our geographical borders, as well as better prepared for the global job market that awaits them after graduation.”

Participating WT students, in addition to Lockhart, include Sophia Britto, a senior digital communication and media major from Amarillo; Logan Burleson, an agriculture doctoral candidate from Newland, North Carolina; Madison Colvin, an sophomore agriculture major from Bryan; Lauren G. Fritzler, a junior agriculture media communication major from Merino, Colorado; George Graybill, a senior animal science major from Keenesburg, Colorado; Andrew Helterbran, a senior digital communication and media major from Amarillo; Ashtyn S. Kardosz, a sophomore agribusiness and economics major from Gonzales; Katelynn Kenyon, a senior agriculture media communication major from House, New Mexico; Anita Knoll, a senior agriculture media communication major from Hereford; Alex Kuehler, a senior plant, soil and environmental science major from Groom; Tyrone Leggett, a junior health sciences major from Hartford, Connecticut; Carmella S. Love, a junior communication studies major from Amarillo; Grady McAlister, a sophomore plant, soil and environmental science major from Nazareth; Lexis Metz, a junior plant, soil and environmental science major from Vista, Colorado; Madylin J. Moczygemba, a junior agribusiness and economics major from Karnes City; Frank Navarette, a graduate student in communication from Amarillo; Alexandra Rivera, a senior digital communication and media major from Dimmitt; Lindsey Sawin, a junior agriculture media communication major from Vernon; and Jessica Smith, a senior plant, soil and environmental science major from Amarillo.

Osei-Hwere said she hopes this trip will have a long-lasting impact on its participants.

“When we come back, the challenge to our students is to go into their communities and replicate the work they did in South Africa,” she said. “They don’t have to get on a plane. The challenges in South Africa also are here in our own communities.”

Tackling regional challenges in the Panhandle and beyond is the key mission of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which was publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $110 million.

About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.