For the past 6 years, local teacher and Granby resident Elaine Chagnon has worked with Africa Education Partnership (AEP), a non-profit 501(c)3 organization to help build a school in northern Nigeria. Since 2009, the group has raised over $200,000 to bring education to a place where few can obtain schooling, especially girls. The organization, with its home base at St. Peter’s Church in South Windsor, has worked with partner St. Paul’s Church in Akron, Ohio, to complete two classroom buildings and to supply a new school bus. The completed buildings are full of students with about 50 percent girls enrolled. In addition, an examination hall is under construction, a requirement to receive accreditation from Zamfara State, where the school is located. The project was the brainchild of Bishop John Danbinta who formed a friendship with AEP’s founder, Don Ghostlaw, while studying at Hartford Seminary for his master’s degree in Muslim-Christian Relations from 2006-2008.
Chagnon visited Zamfara State in 2011 with AEP members while the first classroom building was under construction. While there, the group was able to meet with parents, teachers and students to lay out needs and form plans for the new school complex. Since that time, unrest in northern Nigeria created by terrorist group Boko Haram, has made travel to that area impossible. Boko Haram, based in Borno State in northeast Nigeria is about 500 miles from the school site in Zamfara State. However, the five-hour ride to the school from the point of arrival is largely unsecured, making such travel dangerous for westerners. Since that time, Chagnon returned in 2013, 2014,and now in 2015 to conduct teacher training. She is able to return with FaithCare, a humanitarian health care organization based in Farmington, and Kateri Medical Services, a non-profit based at Trinity Church, Tariffville, her place of worship. As she and the teachers can only spend two days together, not a minute is wasted. The rest of her time is spent working at the medical clinic where last year 6,570 people were treated in 10 days.
Students in the Granby schools have been involved with the project as well. For the past three years, students at Kearns School have created books under the guidance of teachers Betsy Wilkens, Beth Spellman and Christina Kibby. This past spring, students at Kelly Lane, Kearns and Granby Memorial High School participated in the “Change for Change” program, where spare change was donated to raise money for text books. In addition, the AFS Club at the high school created and sold tie-dye shirts featuring the African wisdom knot and the school name, Grace International School, raising $400 for the effort. Teachers Deb Jacques and Jacky Paton supervised the effort. In total about $800 was raised, which is enough to purchase 160 text books!
On October 17, Bishop John Danbinta will deliver the keynote address at a fundraising dinner at St. Peter’s Church, Sandhill Road, South Windsor. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. The hope is to raise funds to start the third building of the school complex—a science lab/media center/administration building. The third building is critical to support a quality education.
Chagnon will also speak about her summer trip and give updates from the teachers. The dinner will be served at no charge, but reservations must be made in advance. All are welcome to attend. Please consider this opportunity to learn more about the project and how to support the efforts.
For more information about AEP or to reserve a place at the dinner, please contact Elaine Chagnon at email@example.com of leave a message at 860-653-0836. You may also contact AEP President Don Ghostlaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-305-0700.