Dear President Obama,
Earlier this week I listened to your speech before Ghana's parliament. I heard you address the leaders and citizens of Africa through inspirational calls for action:
"You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move."
I was excited to hear you bring to light African grassroots efforts to make change, and I hope you will continue to be an advocate for all struggling African social entrepreneurs who are working hard to improve the situation in their homes and communities.
I am writing to you today to tell you about one incredible Ghanaian man who lives less than than fifteen miles from where you delivered your historic address. His name is Meshach Bondzie, and in his community of Abeka, Ghana he is a lone warrior in Ghana's fight to educate its impoverished youth.
For years Meshach lived through the challenges of not being able to afford his own education. Eventually, he was able to secure a secretarial degree by working and subsidizing his courses. Once his degree was completed Meshach was bothered by the overwhelming number of promising young men and women in his community who were wasting away without a chance at a high school education. In 2000, Meshach started his own school called the PROFESA Secretarial Academy to help bring free and reduced education to his home town.
As I'm sure you are already aware, Ghana does not supply free high school education to its citizens. According to Unicef less than 39% of Ghana's students make it past the fifth grade. Most of Ghana's struggling children are forced to stop school to sell water and other goods on street corners under the hot West African sun.
Meshach created PROFESA as a low-cost option for education. His school charges less than half of what Ghana's poorly run public high schools charge, and most of the students who attend his classes do so on full or partial scholarship. Meshach is an inspirational teacher who does everything without a paycheck, without benefits, without supplies, and without any local support network.
When you ask Meshach how he does this his reply is, "You can't waste your time here on this earth without doing anything. What you have to be able to do is impact life. To help people to stand on their feet."
I hope that during your trip to Ghana you were able to meet and interact with other wonderful social entrepreneurs like Meshach Bondzie. I hope that you were able to tell them in person how appreciative we are of the work they are doing under such difficult circumstances. I hope you told the politicians of Ghana that there are promising grassroots efforts and grassroots leaders like Meshach who need their support.
I am writing to you as the founder of Longitude, a US based 501(c)3 non-profit that helps to support Meshach's school and other underfunded social entrepreneurs around the world. During the four years that Longitude has been working in Ghana we have encountered tremendous political and governmental roadblocks that make Meshach's work even harder. Every dollar that he has to give up in bribes to the local postmaster, the local land magistrate, or the local education director is money that could be spent on textbooks, teacher salaries or computers.
I heard you call on African leaders to abandon these crippling bribes during your speech, but I hope that you will continue to encourage the leaders of Ghana to support the grassroots NGOs that exist within their country. Tell them about Meshach Bondzie and the hundreds of students who he has helped to educate when the government has not been able to do so. Please plead with them to encourage their people to stand up and support leaders like Meshach in his service to Ghana.
Thank you for all your efforts and your support of Africa. Your speech was wonderful, but please stay focused on helping those grassroots Africans who are already taking steps to make a difference. These are Africa's true leaders of the future. They are the ones who are doing the work for the benefit of the people not the benefit to their own pockets. Africa needs our help and our attention, but they will get farther once more Meshach Bondzies step up and receive the governmental support they so rightly deserve.
Thank you for your time,