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Student Spotlight

Gone to Ghana

Loving the One | BYU Student Alyssa's Experience in Ghana | Ballard Center for Social Impact

Though she had never left the country in her life, Orem native Alyssa Minor took a leap of faith to travel alone to Africa. As a participant in the Ballard Center for Social Impact, Minor researched the humanitarian needs of the orphanages in Ghana, which propelled her to visit the country to help in her own way.

As a communications major with an emphasis in public relations, Minor first became involved with the Ballard Center through the global and community impact minor. In the BYU Marriott School of Business course MSB 375: Social Impact: Do Good Better, each student finds an issue that has a specific geographic location and demographic to focus on for the semester. For Minor, her inspiration for this project came from one of her friends. “I have a friend who served his church mission in Ghana. I was talking to him and ended up getting really interested in the country,” Minor shares. “I started researching some of the issues and became tied to this idea of orphanages.”

Four women sitting in chairs for a work meeting in the middle of the street in Ghana.
Minor worked with the people of Ghana to learn more about the orphanage system.
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Minor.

What started out as a class assignment turned into an intense research project that lasted eight months. Eventually Minor was able to take her research and publish an article describing her findings before she traveled across the world.

In her class research on Ghana, Minor found that as many as two-thirds of children in Ghanian orphanages still have one or more parents alive. Over 50% of all children in orphanages reported exposure to violent discipline. They are also more than three times more vulnerable to sexual abuse compared to children in other social care like the foster system or family-based care in Ghana.

Upon learning these statistics, Minor was determined to see what the conditions of the orphanages were like in real life. “I realized this is something that I didn’t just want to read about. I wanted to go see this for myself and actually get involved,” Minor explains. So she bought a plane ticket to Ghana.

After making the decision to go, Minor attended a Ballard Center event where she had a chance encounter with groups that helped set her plans in motion. From this event, Minor was able to make a connection and find a place to stay and people who could help her in Ghana. She also connected with BYU biology professor Mark Belk and the work he does to bring nutritious food sources to impoverished children in Ghana. Now ready, Minor set off.

The first six weeks of her trip were spent working for an organization called the Kaeme Foundation. With the group, Minor interviewed tribal chiefs, parents who had previously brought their children to orphanages, and children who have since transitioned out of orphanages. She hoped to learn and then bring awareness to the humanitarian problem the country faces. From this information, Minor was able to provide a strategy report with recommendations for future content creation to increase the public’s knowledge of the financial and educational support that Kaeme offers to children who have transitioned out of orphanages and back into family life.

Men and women gathered for a meeting in Ghana.
Minor worked with the Kaeme organization to produce a PSA campaign about the orphanage system in Ghana.
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Minor.

The following two weeks of her trip were spent working directly with the children. “I wanted to see one of the children’s homes for myself,” Minor says. During those few weeks, Minor served, volunteered, and taught in the school. She also spent time playing with the children and helping them with their homework.

After spending time in an orphanage, Minor met up with Belk and a group of BYU students researching rural Ghanian rivers and lakes to find fish that could serve as reliable and nutritious sources of protein. While observing the research group for 10 days, Belk connected Minor with a non-profit he assists called Nurturing Nations. Minor worked to help the organization become more effective in their social impact efforts by launching a year-long program evaluation that Minor will finish in Ghana next summer.

Minor with the people of Ghana in traditional African clothes.
Minor spent time with the children in Ghana.
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Minor.

Back in the United States, Minor continues to work on the program evaluation and maintain relationships with the people she met. Minor says, “I think about Ghana almost every day.”

Reflecting on the transformative experience she had, Minor shares her gratitude for the Ballard Center. "The whole reason that I was able to go to Ghana was because of the Ballard Center. They helped me realize that I want social impact to be something that I do for the rest of my life.”

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Written by Kacee Call

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