- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | Groups in Western Maryland have been working to improve life in Ghana in West Africa.

In Akramaman, a village about 2 1/2 hours by car from Accra, the capital, a new playground was paid for by the Westminster Rotary Club. A new preschool also has a summer literacy program thanks to Western Maryland generosity.

Construction on a health outpost will include living quarters for nursing staff.

Bruce Neumann, a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hagerstown, is leading a team of nine that will spend a week getting the health outpost up and running.

A 2004 trip by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland to Ghana to share a Christian leadership program called Cursillo was the start of the partnership. Mr. Neumann was a member of that team.

Debi Frock of Westminster was so moved by the need in Akramaman that in 2005 she started Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Inc., a nonprofit foundation. Mr. Neumann and his wife, the Rev. Rebekah Neumann, are on the foundation’s board of directors.

Miss Frock said she got involved because of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty and related issues.

“As a community, we can do a lot,” Miss Frock said. “As individuals, it’s way too hard.”

Efforts range from collecting pennies to offering storage space for donated items to be shipped, Miss Frock said.

She pointed out that children in one parish collected $800 in pennies. Combined with pennies from other churches, the Maryland Diocese raised $15,000.

Miss Frock said the dollar goes a long way in Ghana, with $200 covering the treatment of 45 malaria cases in children. AIDS is another significant health issue.

“We just want people to know we’re here, that there’s a group in the area doing that kind of work,” Miss Frock said.

Mercia Laryea can’t say enough good things about the improvements in her home of Akramaman since a group of Western Marylanders “adopted” it.

Mrs. Laryea and her husband, the Rev. Daniel Torto, were in Maryland for six weeks in the winter to thank some of the donors and to share details about their lives in Akramaman.

“This organization changes lives, saves lives,” said Mr. Torto, a canon and bishop’s liaison in the Anglican Church in Ghana.

Mr. Torto estimated that the health center now under construction would affect 15,000 people, many of whom walk for hours for medical care. A nurse-midwife will be available at all times.

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