Photo by Molly Peters

Rams embark on humanitarian trip to Ghana to volunteer at local orphanage

By Jessica Pincente

For the third consecutive year, nine Ryerson students embarked on the trip of a lifetime, travelling to Kasoa, Ghana on a humanitarian trip to a local orphanage.

Aaron Armstrong (men’s hockey), Sydney Authier (women’s hockey), Selena Benvenuto (women’s soccer), Jordan D’Souza (Volunteer Experience Coordinator), Ailish Forfar (women’s hockey), Molly Peters (women’s volleyball), Gillian Rossi (women’s soccer), Kyle Stewart (men’s soccer), and Greg Vukets (men’s volleyball) all took part in the volunteer trip.  

The Rams travelled to Savior Children Foundation School and Orphanage, in Kasoa, Ghana. The organization opened its doors in 2011 in hopes of “bridging the gaps between the rich and the poor, gender inequality and human rights for sustainability and development through empowerment.” Savior Children Foundation actively hosts volunteers from around the world, enabling humanitarians to build and teach all while forming bonds with the local children.

“The experience was amazing,” recounts Gillian Rossi (Mississauga, Ont.), who has participated in all three of Ryerson’s recent humanitarian trips. “You’d walk out the door in the morning and there are the kids’ bedrooms, the classrooms. It was great - it allowed us to have more time to spend with the kids. We were able to build relationships with them throughout the two weeks.”

The school hosts about 200 children a day, with 40 living on-sight at the orphanage.

“The school is open to the public, and offers free schooling for the orphans who live there and other underprivileged children in the community,” adds Rossi. “Sometimes neighbouring kids from around the community would come to learn and play during the day.”

The two-week-long trip began in Ghana on Sunday, April 29, 2018. On the first day of their placement, the Rams gave out Toronto FC jerseys and cleats for the children, organizing a friendly soccer match for the youth in the community.

Soon after, the athletes quickly fell into a daily routine.  A 7:00 am call-time saw the Rams teaching and playing sports first thing in the morning.  Breakfast was served at 8:00 am, and, following that, the children would head to the classroom to learn.

“We were partnered off and we would each have a group of seven kids,” explains Rossi. “We were with them every day from 9:30 am to 11:30 am, teaching them English, math or science. A lot of the time, they were asking for subjects and we’d go off that, teaching that subject for an hour or two.”

Lunch was served at noon, and the rest of the day was unstructured - the athletes would help with chores or play with the children, depending on the occasion.

Rossi says her favourite part of the experience was building relationships with the children.

“You would have never been able to tell that these kids have gone through what they’ve gone through from such a young age,” says Rossi. “They’re so welcoming. They give you hugs, they play with you - they’re so open and loving [...] it was really humbling to learn from them, and then to come back home and realize how thankful I am to have what we have here.”

The trip to Ghana marks the third consecutive year in which several of Ryerson’s student-athletes have embarked on international humanitarian trips. In 2016, nine Rams travelled to Peru to build a playground and volunteer at a local school. The following year, six Rams, including Armstrong, Authier, Forfar, Rossi and D’Souza, travelled to Cambodia to organize sports programs, provide daycare to mothers and volunteer at schools.

“Because we’re here at Ryerson, we get to play sport, we get to have this education, a lot of the time we can take that for granted - we get so wrapped up our lives during the school year,” says Rossi.

“As athletes, we have our practice schedules, we have our class schedules, and we think, ‘I’m never going to have time to do something like that’. For this to come through Ryerson athletics, I’m very thankful. It’s really cool that we’ve been provided with that opportunity.”


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