Penn alum puts President’s Engagement Prize to good use in Ghana

With the help of a 2015 President’s Engagement Prize (PEP), recent Penn graduate Shadrack Frimpong is working to fill an unmet need in his hometown of Tarkwa Breman, Ghana.

Less than a year since receiving the prize—an initiative launched by President Amy Gutmann to empower Penn seniors to engage in impactful projects locally, nationally, or globally—Frimpong’s vision of a school for girls and a community health clinic is already taking shape through his newly minted organization, the Tarkwa Breman Community Alliance, or TBCA.

Confronted with a forest of palms, a river turned toxic by illegal gold mining, and a ramshackle school building, the TBCA has wasted no time in taking action. They’ve surveyed and begun to the clear the land apportioned for the school and clinic, and partnered with another organization to dig two boreholes to provide clean drinking water for the facility and the village as a whole. Also, with the support of PEP mentor Harvey Rubin, a professor of medicine and computer and information science at Penn, they’ve enlisted the expertise of PennDesign faculty and students to draw up architectural renderings of a first-class campus.

To achieve all this, Frimpong has relied on the team he recruited shortly after winning the prize, which includes 2015 Penn graduates William Mould and Maxwell Sencherey-Taylor, 2013 graduate Julian Addo, Swarthmore College 2014 graduate Isaac Opoku, and Adwoa Ayensuah, a young woman who was born in the village and later left to obtain a university degree.

“We’re all Ghanaians, and we’ve all been yearning to do something back home for a while, so this was a perfect opportunity for us to just jump in and go,” Frimpong says.

Using the funding from the PEP, as well as support from partnerships with organizations including Google, Thomson Reuters, Meridian Logistics, and Clean Water for Everyone, as well as with the Ghanaian government, the TBCA is actually ahead of schedule, on target to open the school to its first class at the end of 2016.

They’ve worked to win local support in the village of Tarkwa Breman as well as from surrounding villages, from which they will draw their student body. Villagers have helped them clear the land and formed a community board to help make decisions about how to run the facility.

“Our slogan is ‘Transforming Ghana one village at a time,’” says Frimpong. “We’re very aware that this won’t be easy, but we’re ever ready for the challenges ahead.”