Monday, June 30, 2014


Emmanuel Opare Sr. with Bob Pothier at the Golden Sunbeam High School

The initial project for the E-Center focused on the Golden Sunbeam High School. Emanuel Opare, an early leader of the church in Ghana, and his wife, Monica Ohene Opare, started a primary school 25 years ago. Their fascinating background story, how it came to be and now supports a charity school is available at your request. The teaching of a few children kept expanding until eventually this facility was constructed for over 500 children from pre-school to junior high. The profits were then used to establish and fully support a "charity" school in a village where the Opares were raised. With the additional help of other contributors, it is currently serving 170 additional children.

Emmanuel Opare Jr, Steve McGary & Natasha Opare

Emmanuel was in our BYU Idaho ward when Bob served in the Bishopric and I advised the Relief Society.  He was also an intern for the E-Center before he graduated, married Natasha, worked with INL, became an American citizen then eventually returned to Ghana to work with his parents.  Emmanuel and Natasha are the parents of 3 children and are building a home near the school.
Our work is with the  Golden Sunbeam International College of Science and Technology which was built first as a high school to further the education of the primary school graduates. 

Bob Pothier, Cory Smith and Stephen McGary traveled to Ghana last fall to determine the needs and the best approach to how they could help. They discovered that, though agriculture is a major industry in Ghana, the students in most colleges are taught in theory but have no programs to provide practical experience.

The school is already set up to be as self-sufficient as possible. Vegetable gardens, small animals, chickens and fish are being raised on the land.

Bob Pothier and Steve McGary "checking out" the plants
After much study by the College of Agriculture students plans were made to donate and deliver a "soy cow"to the school. A "soy cow" is a machine that makes milk products out of soy beans. Training was provided and the product is currently being produced and is excellent.  One 3 ml bottle contains 24 grams of protein. It replaces sugar drinks and soda at the three Golden Sunbeam schools and there are plans  to supply other local private schools once the processes are well established

This machine provides the power for the operation

The beans are sorted and soaked then crushed into a paste 

The mixture is steam cooked then filtered to extract the milk

Initially  each bottle was filled from a pitcher but now is dispensed from a stainless steel container with a spout.
Each bottle is capped at the appropriate temperature, cooled and refrigerated.

Okara is a by-product that is 50% protein. It can be used to feed animals or added to baked goods
Options are still being explored
Samuel Bonstra oversees the operation
We asked these students which drink was best and they politely answered  that the soy milk was best. We asked the one with the coke why then was he drinking the coke and he said, "Because I like coke!" They'll need to be won over but the soy milk is rich and tastes good.  It is not watered down like most soy milk products. The operators have been experimenting with different flavored extracts.  So far, vanilla, banana, and strawberry are the most popular. The Opares plan to use the soy milk as the beverage provided for meals which would be great nutritional boost.
Howard, our driver, Bob Pothier, Daniel, a BYU Idaho Intern, Samuel Bonstra, Stephen McGary
Daniel has since been replaced by Brandon Webster, another BYU Idaho Intern who was temporarily away for a presentation but will finish out the summer.

The first project for the Ghana E-center is to work with the BYU Idaho Agricultural College to develop a one year "certificate" program in Agriculture Business. It is to be a combination of practical experience and classroom learning. The "soy cow" operation is being implemented right now and studies taking place to prepare for the growing of soybeans on available school-owned land.
The program will cover every aspect of business, supply chain, production, marketing, management, and finance as students experience planting, growing, running the soy cow operation and marketing it to other schools. 

This is to be an ongoing program. The College of Agriculture at BYU Idaho has committed interns to teach and assist every semester under the leadership of a faculty member. This is vital to the overall success of the program. It is so common for people to come for a short time and give service but the plan to stay and mentor is significant.

Toasting the new Soy Cow Operation with water sachets
 This is just the beginning. It is our hope that this project can open the door to "certificates" in other areas which will give former pathway students and other young people further educational opportunities that can lead to better preparation and qualifications for employment.

A survey of agricultural businesses was taken to determine just what the employers would like in potential employees. The goal is to prepare students to fill those needs and give them an edge in the job market.


We now want to expand this program to include Ghana where the BYU I Pathways program has become so strong. It currently is the most stable and promising area of West Africa. Businesses have been identified by church leaders, and interns will be hired in Ghana and trained by Idaho E-Center interns and staff. Due to the great advantages of technology the interns can interact and do projects together for some of these Ghanaian companies.

The goal is to give the local interns experience while growing businesses and contributing to the growth of the economy in Ghana. This can be done through research, mentoring and funding at more reasonable interest rates. (The Ghanaian Banks are charging 31% interest at the moment which is crushing business)

Bob has hired his first Ghanaian E-Center Associate, Hans Akosah, former head of Technology for a Ghanaian insurance agency.  He is a businessman at heart, with ideas of his own and will be of great assistance with the projects, especially with his knowledge in technology.

We have been in meetings with Elder John A. Koranteng, who is the Area Seventy Authority over the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) in West Africa to make certain that our goals align with the needs and can complement the established self-reliance program. 

Elder John A. Koraneng, Bob and Marva Pothier
Before leaving for Ghana, Bob Pothier, Stephen McGary(BYUI Faculty) and Cory Smith (Current  E-Center Director) met with Elder Bob Gay in Salt Lake.  Elder Gay is over the PEF Program. He is aware of our goals and efforts . He and his wife have been a great blessing to the people of Ghana through the years.

It is our sincere desire to be of assistance to the established church programs and keep in close contactwith them.  President Kim B. Clark, President of BYU Idaho, counseled us to have the Idaho 
E-Center as a separate organization from the school itself and we have seen the value of that counsel because of the opportunities that are more open for funding and interacting with other organizations. 

We have always reported to the administration at BYU Idaho and continue to serve with their approval.  In Ghana we will want to work closely with the church authorities.



While we were serving a mission at BYU Idaho Bob was asked by President Clark to grow the economy of Southeastern Idaho as a support to the growth of the university. The result is an off campus entrepreneurial center, Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center or Idaho E-Center. Later he assisted in developing a student research center originally named The Southeastern Idaho Research Center (SIRI). These two centers have since come under a newly established Business Development and Research (BDR) Center.

Through these organizations student interns are trained to work with client businesses, determine their needs, do extensive research, then present their findings to the client, advising as needed. 

The interns, hired as jr. analysts for a venture capital company, under the direction of staff and faculty, are assigned projects for specific businesses and organizations which need help to grow. They then oversee a team of capstone students to assist in the research.

It all began 8 years ago in 2006 and we are still working at it. The program in Idaho has grown and been a blessing to both the businesses served and the students. This excellent internship opportunity, provided right in Rexburg has assisted economic growth, provided more jobs and opened the doors to great job opportunities for the student interns because of the rich practical experience it gives.  We now are working to give those same opportunities to students and businesses in Africa.

Gidianny & Kenny - The current interns working on the African E-Center Project


We were met at the airport with our associate in Ghana, Stephen Abu Jr.

What a great man he is! We have grown to love him so much.  He grew up in Ghana and was educated in the U.S. at Utah State University, married an American and they moved back to Ghana to further the work of World Joy, a service organization that he founded with others to build schools in Ghana. They have built 24 schools, 4 medical clinics and 1 library.  He's a great entrepreneur and has worked at building several businesses under very difficult circumstances.  His wife, Sonya and their children are in the United States with her family, awaiting the arrival of their 3rd child. He'll be joining her at the end of the month and we will miss him dearly.  We look to him for most everything and he knows how to do it! He will continue to be our associate in Ghana as we move forward in the future.

Bob Pothier with Stephen Abu Sr.
Stephen took us to visit his father in Sankubenhse, his home "town". The locals don't like it to be called a village, though he usually does. It was a 3 hour drive over rutted, bumpy roads but worth the drive

We were able to see the farm and learn a lot.
This is how they grow "chocoate". The cocoa beans grow in pods right out of the trunk!
When the pod is opened it is all slimy around the bean. You can suck the slime and it tastes sweet but don't bite the bean!
The beans are then fermented and dried before being ground into cocoa...the base of "chocolate"
We saw every kind of tree imaginable, mango, banana, plantain, coconut, palm & pineapple plants, etc. That's what they call a farm.  I'd call it a plantation! Stephen Abu Sr. tends to it. His wife is in Accra helping with a new baby.  The grandmothers stay about 6 months when a baby comes. We met their daughter and three sons who were each delightful! The son-in-law is a doctor.  It's nice to know we have a connection with a doctor.
These three interns from Utah State University live at the home of Stephen Abu Sr. They extend micro loans to people in the "villages" nearby and are delightful!

It was Friday afternoon, and school was out, but some of the children gathered when they saw us. I love seeing the children! They are beautiful, friendly, and very social.  As we were visiting together one little girl touched my arm with her finger.  Another child corrected her, thinking she was not being polite.  I assured them it was all right.  It reminded me of the Mexican people touching our little girls' hair because it was so blond and quite a spectacle!

We were able to see several old schools and the ones that replaced them in a designated area of 30 villages.
Old School - needless to say!
Recently replaced by this new school!

It is their dream to now build and operate a high school in the area for those who now attend the primary schools. We hope to help them accomplish just that!
Bob Pothier and Stephen Abu Jr. in front of his parent's home in Sankubenhse
Stephen Abu Sr. and his wife were true pioneers in the Church, establishing the first congregation in Abomosu and others in the area.  His brother,  Emmanuel Abu Kissi, wrote a book, "Walking in the Sand" about the early church in Africa. There were several congregations in Africa before the Church could even officially organize the church here.  

We saw several of the schools along the way. The Abu's identified 30 villages and with World Joy have built the 24 schools, 4 clinics and 1 library in that area specifically. They started with the one with the greatest need and moved in that order.  The people in their own village were not too happy they did not start with them, but these folks have so little thought of "what's in it for me"! Great examples! 
On the way home we had a delicious meal at this restaurant along the route, run by friends of Stephens.
He takes good care of us and we are grateful!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Well, after all the planning and anticipation we are here in Ghana and loving the opportunity and experience.  We hit the ground running and are so excited about the possibilities and how they can impact the future of some of the great people of this nation.

 First View of Ghana

First, we must express our sincere "thank you" to those who have believed in this project to the extent that they have contributed generously to financially make it possible.  We are paying all our own expenses and the travel for BYU Idaho faculty and the student interns have been generously provided by a benefactor who donated frequent flyer miles to the project. There are many wonderful ways to help and we are exploring them all. Every penny will be very carefully spent on the projects themselves. 

If you are interested you can participate by making a tax deductible donation. 

" SIRI Ghana Project"  
310 North 2nd East Suite #112
Rexburg, ID 83440
           Attention: Taylor Woods

(SIRI: Southeastern Idaho Research Institute is a 501C-3 Non-Profit Organization)


We will be working in Africa with Stephen and Debi McGary, the Golden Sunbeam School system, Stephen Abu, our associate in Ghana, BYU Idaho interns and the local church authorities to determine needs, desires and possibilities.  Projects have been undertaken by BYU Idaho interns in the Research and Business Development Center (RBDC) in which Bob has been heavily involved for the past 8 years.  One of the goals is to hire interns in Ghana, some of whom have been educated through BYU Idaho's Pathway Program and have matriculated into on-line degrees, then to create a relationship with BYU I interns through technology to provide training and assistance to both the Ghanian interns and the businesses they are serving.(We had to discontinue this goal.  BYU Idaho administrators did not feel comfortable having a separate center in Africa.  Any services provided to Africa will be through the already established Idaho E-Center)

Stephen McGary has served as the Dean of the Agricultural College at BYU Idaho.  He and his wife have taken a sabbatical this semester to follow through on projects and studies that have been done at the university concerning the raising of soybeans and production of soy milk products.

Through donations a "soy cow" (machine that makes soy milk products from soybeans) has been purchased and shipped to Ghana.  Steve is there now helping to train students and faculty at the school and the results have been very encouraging.The goal is to help the school become self-sustaining while teaching agricultural and business skill.

The students will be heavily involved, learning agriculture, production, packaging, marketing, etc., skills which can transfer to businesses of their own in the future.  We found there were few "hands on" programs for many of the schools in the country.  The hope is that this program can become a "pilot" program to create a pattern for this "hands on" learning assisted by BYU Idaho

In addition, 36 businesses have been identified by the local church authorities which are promising and with some help could grow and provide more employment opportunities.

Bob will identify where they can use some help, hire and train 2 or 3 local interns in research skills and consult with these businesses.  Students at BYU Idaho will help with the training and work together with the Ghanaian interns to help them accomplish their directives. (Plans to establish interns in Africa were discontinued, any projects will be handled by the Idaho E-Center.)

One of the challenges in Ghana and throughout West Africa is that the students now have more opportunity to be educated but then jobs are not available to them once they are trained.  One of the answers to this concern is to teach entrepreneurial skills

Unfortunately, Debi McGary was not able to meet us in New York to go to Africa.  She discovered a health problem which will need surgery.  Her husband, Stephen, returned to the U.S. the day after we arrived but is continuing to work closely with the project.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Monday morning, June 16th  we will leave the security and comforts of our Mesa home and head for the continent of Africa.  Our goal is to help create an opportunity for students in Africa to learn life and business skills that will help them succeed in building and growing their own businesses, while also improving health, nutrition and safety. I started blogging about our plans to visit Africa on here:  Ghana and here: Why in the world are we going to Ghana!  but I have decided to separate our Ghana experiences from our personal family blog.

It is my prayer that by sharing our experience we will help others to understand the great work that is being done in Ghana and other West African nations and how we can help with our prayers, service and funding.
Last Sunday night family gathering before each of us goes our separate ways for the summer

Lucy made us a Going Away Picture 


"There is hunger in the land, and a genuine thirst-a great hunger for the word of the Lord and an unsatisfied thirst for things of the spirit. Ours is the obligation and the opportunity to nourish the soul." (Gordon b Hinckley Conference Report, October 1967, Afternoon Meeting 89-90.)
The soul is both the body and the spirit combined. As the gospel is taught and received well in Ghana, and the opportunities opened through education, mentoring and funding, lives are changed. The gospel opens hearts to thirsting after true principles and is a catalyst for change.. Our desire is to offer hope and opportunity in harmony with the gospel principles of work and self-reliance that can open the door to those changes