Those who choose the path of a career in the military make the ultimate commitment to serve. In doing so, they choose to make great personal sacrifices while carrying out their duties to protect and defend the United States.
That heart for service often remains with these men and women long after they leave the military to pursue other paths in life. For one group of Lipscomb University veterans, that need to serve others is taking them thousands of miles away later this month to the small village of Kete Krachi near Lake Volta in Ghana, West Africa.
The team is comprised of six student veterans representing three branches of service who are part of Lipscomb’s Yellow Ribbon Program along with the program’s director, David K. Hughes. They are partnering with Brentwood’s Dr. David Vanderpool and his team from Mobile Medical Disaster Relief (MMDR) to embark on a weeklong journey to Ghana to mitigate the child slavery dilemma in that area.
“This is a talented group of students who are giving back in a unique way. These students believe in serving others and this is a great opportunity to allow them to continue to serve in a meaningful way. We hope to be able to build on the success of this trip and to make it an ongoing mission for us,” said Hughes.
"We are honored to work with Lipscomb University and these fine military veterans and we hope to serve alongside them many times in the future," said Vanderpool, MMDR CEO.
The mission team will partner in Ghana with the Touch a Life Foundation to work with an orphanage in Kete-Krache, to help install water purification systems in the Lake Volta area, to provide medical services and to help mitigate the child slavery dilemma in that area. The team will also build and show islanders how to make low smoke, fuel efficient cook stoves. A leading women's health issue in developing countries are respitory problems associated with hanging over a fire, breathing smoke while cooking all day.
According to a 2001 study by the Ghana Statistical Service, approximately 20 percent of children ages 5-17 years in Ghana were working. In rural areas, children can be found working in fishing, herding and as contract farm labor. Children also work as domestics, porters, hawkers, miners and quarry workers and fare-collectors.
“Participating in humanitarian relief efforts is something I always enjoyed doing when I was in the Air Force and it feels good to have the opportunity to do something like that again. It's always exciting to take part in something bigger than oneself; something that will bring about a positive change in others' lives forever,” said Pete Bridwell, an Air Force veteran and Lipscomb Yellow Ribbon student.
Fellow Air Force veteran and classmate, Susannah Leonard, agrees.
“You know, from our ‘civilized’ perspective here in the States, it's difficult to fathom what child slavery must really be like. I can't imagine what these young children have to endure each day. Hopefully, in the short time we're there, we'll be able to curb the child slavery problem in this village,” said Leonard.
The team leaves for Ghana later this month. To learn more about supporting this and other Lipscomb mission efforts, click here.