Project GROW Valentine's Day cards to fund mosquito nets for African villages

Project GROW, a volunteer group at UBC Okanagan, is selling special Valentine's Day cards that do more than warm hearts. They could help save lives in Africa.

Building on the success of a popular fund-raising campaign during the Christmas season in which people purchased goats ($85 each) for two small villages in Ghana, the volunteers are now selling Valentine's Day cards, with proceeds used to buy, among other items, mosquito nets – one of the best defences against malaria, a mosquito-borne disease and Ghana's leading cause of death.

Students and staff at UBC Okanagan established Project GROW (Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women) last fall to help raise $40,000 to purchase six donkeys and carts, a small herd of goats, mosquito nets for 120 women and their children, and provide seed money for opening bank accounts. Project GROW also hopes to provide micro-financing for a variety of small local projects identified by women in the twin villages of Nyobok and Nkenzesi in northern Ghana.

"The holiday-season goat fund-raiser and other donations have so far generated $5,600," says Cindy Bourne, Learning Centre Coordinator at UBC Okanagan. "That's enough to purchase 21 goats and 28 chickens, plus a pair of donkeys and carts."

Two dozen fourth-year nursing students and professors will be in northern Ghana in February and March, and will visit Nyobok-Nkenzesi to deliver the first shipment of items purchased: goats, chickens, 120 mosquito nets, two donkeys and two carts.

The visit will be recorded, and photos and video of the presentation will be shown during a celebration at UBC Okanagan's Student Services Centre from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 5, part of a week of events leading up to International Women's Day on Sunday, March 8.

"People who contributed at Christmas time will see their contribution get to Ghana, and delivered directly to the women's group that we have sponsored," says Phil Bond, Manager of the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange. "We encourage those who donated to come out and see where that money went."

Project GROW is also selling buttons, and planning a coin drive to support the micro-financing effort, says Leanne Perry, Campus Life Coordinator at UBC Okanagan. "The coin drive is a way for anyone to participate in this project," she says. The group will be selling buttons to raise awareness on campus, as well as to build the microfinancing fund.

Financing provided to the women of Nyobok-Nkenzesi will help them start new income-generating activities -- shea nut processing, and local trading in groundnuts, beans, rice and other commodities – trading that's not feasible without sustainable all-weather cargo transport, such as donkey carts, between the villages and regional markets.

The public is invited to join Project GROW and the entire UBC Okanagan campus community on March 8 for International Women's Day activities, and to see the first delivery to the women of Nyobok-Nkenzesi.

For more information or to buy $5 Project GROW Valentine's Day cards, contact Phil Bond, Manager of the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange, at 250-807-8095, or Cindy Bourne, UBC Okanagan Learning Centre Coordinator, at 250-807-8065.

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