The Southeastern rural village of Otwetiri, located in the West African country of Ghana, has seen some change in recent years – for the better.
Tometi Gbedema, a recent doctoral graduate from the Geography Graduate Group at UC Davis and a local of Otwetiri, hasn’t forgotten his roots. Otwetiri’s strong sense of community and culture has helped shape the person he is today.
Gbedema is known in the Davis soccer community and has been coaching youth soccer in and around Davis since 2001. In an effort to help the children back home, Gbedema sent local Otwetiri kids gently used soccer equipment from the Davis youth soccer league. The "new" jerseys, shoes and soccer balls made a big impact. "I received a letter from the headmaster of the Otwetiri School, describing how joyful the kids were to receive the soccer equipment," said Gbedema. "In that letter, I was asked to help the school rebuild the schoolhouse that was destroyed by a recent storm."
For this purpose, Gbedema launched the Otwetiri Project in 2007 with the initial goal of rebuilding the dilapidated schoolhouse. "I wanted to improve the educational environment in Otwetiri, and help any way I could," he said.
Gbedema and his project successfully built a beautiful new schoolhouse for the children of Otwetiri thanks to fundraising and help from the Davis community. "For the students in Otwetiri and this developing region of the world, there is now a place for them to go to school to get educated, a place to study and learn about themselves, their people, community and country, as well as the world," said Gbedema, reflecting back on the lasting impression the Otwetiri Project has made."
With the schoolhouse built, the Otwetiri Project is now focused on providing educational incentives through sports. Gbedema and his team created a soccer tournament for local kids of Otwetiri, which gives them an opportunity to be healthy and happy while playing for their schools and villages. With more incentive to stay in school and play for the team, those students will acquire better knowledge and skill that will improve their families, communities, and world in the future.
"The tournament also promotes teamwork and life lessons and brings joy to the children and the spectators,” said Gbedema. "It promotes economic development in the village as vendors are always happy when the time comes for the tournament."
The Otwetiri Project’s future plans include collaborating with the Engineering programs at UC Davis to build solar panels in the village of Otwetiri for sustainable energy and electricity for the community, new school building, and its computer learning center.
Gbedema recognizes the positive impact it will have on the community. "The access to electricity will stimulate economic activities in the region and also provide enormous benefits to the residents by increasing the quality of life in the area."
Gbedema gives back to his hometown community through mentoring, rebuilding and using sustainable technologies to improve and invest in the well-being of current and future generations of Otwetiri.
Learn more about the Otwetiri Project.