The Peace Corps—Ghana connection runs deep and long. Ghana I was the third group of volunteers to train, and, on August 30, 1961, the first to arrive in country. Peace Corps Ghana likes to say “Peace Corps was born in America but learned to walk here in Ghana." Boasting Peace Corps’ longest run of uninterrupted service (59 years, up until last year’s Covid-19 evacuation), the second most populous nation in West Africa has hosted some 5,000 volunteers. Notable among them is SEAPAX Board member, Britany Ferrell, whose Peace Corps experience influenced career choices and ignited a passion to work with less resourced communities that continues to this day.
Britany hails from Birmingham, Alabama, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Science at the University of Alabama. As an undergrad studying abroad in Australia, Britany traveled to Thailand and spent time trekking in the northern highlands. Close-knit village life made such a strong impression on her that Britany was determined to find a meaningful way to recapture the experience–leading directly to her applying to Peace Corps.
In 2010, Britany arrived in Eremon, in the Upper West Region of Ghana, a village so remote that a loaf of bread was 45 minutes away by bike. Initially assigned to teach biology, Britany lived in the boarding school compound and rapidly filled her evening hours organizing extra-curricular educational and cultural activities. She laughs remembering movie night in the gym, where, instead of a large screen projection, her laptop was the focal point for an audience of 400 spirited students. When a computer lab was donated to the school, Britany was made head of the IT department. She relished introducing the students to everything from turning on the machines and learning to type, to navigating the internet.
Always keen to identify resources to address issues affecting her host country and region, when Britany learned that the Upper West was experiencing the highest rate of HIV infection in Ghana, she learned to successfully navigate the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and went on to train new volunteers in PEPFAR grant implementation.
One of Britany’s cherished memories concerns an outstanding student who lost his leg as a result of a snake bite he sustained as a youngster. First, Britany respectfully confirmed his interest in using a prosthetic limb. Next, through dogged determination and a dose of good fortune, Britany discovered a US-based medical aid organization that was coming to Ghana precisely to fit patients with prosthetics. She facilitated a connection and helped organize a fund raiser to cover transport costs to meet the US team for the complex fitting. The eventual result was a young man who not only regained mobility and independence, but also redirected his professional aspirations and now works making prosthetic limbs for others in need.
Following Peace Corps, Britany earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Cape Town. In addition to her years in Ghana and South Africa, she lived in Zambia and Tanzania and visited nine other countries working for Doctors Without Borders and MCW Global. Continually impressed by how a little encouragement, accurate information, or a well-timed resource could empower individuals, organizations, and communities to effect positive change, Britany was inspired to launch her own non-profit: Health Resource Partners (HRP) took form in 2018.
HRP partners with trusted local stakeholders and established health NGOs providing mentorship and support. Despite all the hurdles of a global pandemic, in 2020 HRP sponsored the following important projects in Ghana.
- Installation of seven touch-less handwashing stations ("Tippy Taps") in rural villages to promote safe hand hygiene and curb the spread of COVID-19
- Installation of solar-powered lighting at a community clinic, giving pregnant women a safe place for evening deliveries
- Remodeling a rural maternity clinic that, when completed, will serve over 800 underserved people in surrounding villages
Read more about HRP’s mission and work here.
While this story is remarkable, it bears the hallmarks of the universal RPCV experience. No matter when or where you served, Britany’s guiding principles are bound to resonate.
- Remain open to the unexpected. Sometimes our most interesting or rewarding accomplishments derive from projects outside the scope of our original assignments.
- “Sit under the mango tree.” Successful project implementation depends on listening to the local stakeholders and understanding their cultural context.
- Patience and resourcefulness for the win!