BOUNTIFUL — If you want to change the world, you have to start one village at a time.
That’s the philosophy of World Joy, Inc., a non-profit organization started in Bountiful in 2005. The group works to improve health and education for everyone living in 13 rural villages in the eastern region of Ghana, West Africa.
Ike Ferguson, chair of the World Joy Board and former director of Humanitarian Services for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said that World Joy’s focus is what helps make significant change possible.
“I was always involved in these big global projects, but I’ve always wanted to be involved in an organization that would focus on one area and make a real difference in the long run,” said Ferguson, who spoke recently to the Bountiful Rotary. “In developing countries, it takes seven to 10 years to make change happen.”
According to UNICEF, the country’s total adult literacy rate is only 67 percent (America, by comparison, is at 99 percent). Only about half of all students attend secondary school.
Ferguson said that those numbers are far lower in rural villages, where some schools have trouble finding even a single teacher who will work so far from the city.
“The women in the villages we serve are almost universally illiterate, and speak no English even though it’s an English-speaking country,” he said.
To help combat this, World Joy has built 12 kindergartens, the one level of school students in Ghana are required to attend. They’ve also built five primary schools and three secondary schools, and trained 1,300 teachers.
“Teachers in Ghana still maintain control with a stick,” Ferguson said. “But there are better methods.”
To combat high rates of infant mortality, World Joy has trained local midwives in basic obstetric practices and neonatal resuscitation. They also taught volunteers from the villages the basics of health education, making it their responsibility to teach their neighbors.
The villagers get involved in other ways as well. For every school, clinic or bathroom constructed, the villagers are required to dig the footing, make the blocks, and contribute other elements to the construction.
“We want them to feel like they’re doing everything they can to make this a success,” Ferguson said.
Despite their efforts, more help is always needed. World Joy needs volunteer help in a variety of areas, including expeditions to Ghana, website support, office support, and more. Anyone looking to get more involved should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group is also seeking volunteer help for their upcoming fundraising event, set for March 23. For more information, or to purchase tickets for the event, visit worldjoyghana.org.
“In some ways, it doesn’t really matter where you go,” said Ferguson. “What matters is that you do some good.”