In January 2014, The Miami Valley School began a relationship with Project Okurase, an NGO in Ghana, as part of the MVS Ghana Immersion. Project Okurase, whose mission is to empower rural communities in Ghana, is run from Okurase Village in Ghana as well as Charleston, South Carolina. MVS’ relationship with Project Okurase has grown since that first Immersion trip, and Project Okurase has also been instrumental in the Freshman Immersion program, organizing and delivering an impactful course of study based on the history of enslaved Africans being brought to the United States and the residual impacts of American slavery.
Anne Griffith, MVS Director of Environmental Sustainability and Immersion Committee Chair, writes, “Cynthia Cupit Swenson, Ph.D., is a cofounder of Project Okurase and a professor of psychology at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Swenson has been MVS’ primary connection in planning the Ghana and Freshman Immersions. Over the years, MVS has taken three groups to Okurase Village, doing service each time we’ve gone. The second trip, in January 2017, involved the students installing a quarter-acre organic garden on the grounds of a school in the village. We literally worked from nothing to having a quarter acre of raised beds, filled with soil and compost, fenced, labeled and ready to receive the seedlings that would grow from our plantings. When we returned three years later in January 2020, the garden was thriving and area farmers had been trained in organic agricultural practice. While we were there, we got news that they had officially organized into a government recognized organization of organic farmers. This has all been part of a now-published study about rural Ghanaian villages shifting from chemically based agriculture to organic agriculture that was co-authored by Dr. Swenson. This published study all started with MVS working with MUSC staff and Project Okurase to get that first beautiful garden going as a model for what is possible in these communities.”
The study’s co-authors also include Kinnera Vallabhaneni ’16, an MVS alumna who co-founded the Project Okurase club chapter at MVS and went on to return to Ghana to volunteer with World Health Outreach and work as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Institute of Statistical, Social, and Economic Research at the University of Ghana. Kinnera has also served as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Kinnera recently graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Economics and a concentration in Business Institutions.
The organic farming study in Okurase was published by the journal Organic Agriculture. The abstract, references, and acknowlegments are viewable here (scroll down to find MVS!).
MVS is proud to have played a role in this international study and congratulates the students of Ghana Immersion and Freshman Immersion for their exemplary demonstration of compassionate global citizenship!