Thursday, July 17, 2014


This week we have been meeting with Mentors International, a micro lending program that is very active in South America and is looking to expand to Africa.  When we met them we discovered that one of the two men was a former Idaho E-Center Intern, Nathan McClellan.  We now are working with two former interns...very satisfying to see the wonderful accomplishments, character and skills of those interns.

Mark Peterson CEO Mentors International
Nation McClellan, Director of Operations Philippines and possibly Africa

Africa Entrepreneurial Center Staff and Mentors International Visitors


We have been working with the Golden Sunbeam School to develop a certificate in Ag-business.  It is to be a one year program of on-line study courses being created by Steve McGary of the BYU Idaho Agriculture College but with an emphasis on practical application.  The one thing really missing in the schools here is "hands on" application.  Everything is theory and book learning.

The Golden Sunbeam School is an ideal setting for such a certificate.  The Opares have developed a real farm surrounding their high school because it's the only way they can feed the boarding students in a price range they can afford.  If purchased, their food alone would be more than their tuition each semester.  They are also very focused on nutrition.

This is the location of the Soy Cow Operation we discussed earlier.  HERE
Besides making their own soy milk, yogurt and possibly ice cream to supply the 3 schools they have surplus to sell to surrounding schools. They now have plans to clear land to use to grow their own soy beans. That is another project for the fall and interns are coming to assist.

The soy milk is delicious!  We wish we had access to it so we could buy it on a regular basis. But school is now out and production  is just for experimental purposes until school resumes in September.
Approval is being sought from the government to pass the inspection needed to qualify to sell it.
Land used for farming.  Emmanuel and Natasha are building a home in the background and will reside on the property
Hydropnic circulation system
Besides the soy cow they have vegetable gardens, chickens, small animals, cows, a fish farm, set up to cycle it's water through a garden to add nutrients.  All these things supply food for the school. 

 They serve eggs, chicken, fish, vegetables, soy milk, etc. for their meals.They also have a bakery to supply delicious rolls. All this is part of the high school in Ayikuma. The food is also trucked to the primary school in Adenta.  It's a model of self-sufficiency born out of necessity.

Hydroponic System.  Fish are raised in the mote that surrounds this garden.  Water circulates through to water the garden and share the nutrients created by the fish.  Bottle Caps are kept in the circulating water to add other elements.  It's pretty organic. Though they will probably have to include some pesticides to keep from losing plants to bugs.
Duck Pond
Ducks run free on the farm.  
The plan is to assist former pathway students returned missionaries and other young adults to get true practical experience that will give them an edge in the job market, then help them get jobs.

We learned this week that 94% of college degree students are unemployed compared to 8% in the U.S.

They won't all want to go into agriculture, but the program will be designed to apply to business principles and practices that are transferable. They will focus on supply chain in growing and harvesting the soy beans, production with the soy cow, gardens, animals, etc, marketing with the soy milk products and finances which must be taught on a cash basis.

Fish are raised in a mote that surrounds a garden

New chicks are placed above with incubation, then moved to the
lower level when they get a little bigger

These chickens look like they are getting ready for

My lunch last week at Golden Sunbeam School
Actually it was delicious and filling!

The Opares are going forward with this certificate but need to partner with a university to get Ghanaian accreditation.  There are local universities but they hope BYU Idaho will agree to partner with them for a pilot program.That possibility is in the works so we'll see.  If not, they will choose a local university, but to partner with BYU Idaho would be their first choice. Emmanuel is a graduate of BYU Idaho and a former Idaho E-Center Intern.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


We are in in the process of getting better acquainted with Engage Now Africa, an organization started by Elder Bob Gay, a former partner at Bain Capital and current member of the Quorum of 70's over PEF.  

Elder Gay was a Mission President in West Africa 10 years ago and he and his wife, Lynette, started their work in Nigeria shortly after that service. It has now spread to 16 countries in West Africa.  It's almost impossible to come to Africa and not start trying to figure out how to help these sweet people, to give them tools to grow within a difficult infrastructure and life challenges.

It was fascinating to hear how their organization has grown as micro credit has been extended and people trained to start businesses of their own.  They also work with education, medical needs, human trafficking and other areas.

Their micro loan program is patterned after the Greene Bank.  Individuals who are given micro loans to begin or expand their businesses are organized in groups of 10 under the direction of a facilitator.  A group leader is selected who is responsible for collecting the payments and holding weekly meetings of the participants who help and encourage each other. The facilitator trains them in basic business practices and responsibility, then they mentor each other. The success of each participant affects the group, so they work together to stay motivated and pay back their loans. They have spent years developing this process and are very successful with a 92% repayment rate.

Loans are made normally from between 500-1500 cedis.for a period of 10 months. (3.7 cedis to $1 currently). Repayment begins before they receive the loan and continue throughout the 10 months.

Once it is fully repaid he/she can apply for another loan. After 3 years he must then move on.  If he has a good record and is considered a good risk, he can be loaned 5000+ cedis and can proceed individually, outside a group.  

One woman who started in this program has developed a very sought after car painting business. That's their biggest success story!

There are currently at least 90 such groups of 10.  They mentor as they can but their focus is the small companies.  

Engage Now Africa is interested in getting help with training their facilitators and possibly some research and mentoring for their better -established companies as they grow. The Idaho E-Center may be able to help supply interns and take on special research projects as needed. 

This is a wonderful, enthusiastic and committed group and fun to work with!

 Afasi Komla , Country Director

Paul Smith, helping briefly from the U.S., Francis Ansah & Cecilia Amankwah

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Hans Akostah
We have felt very guided to find some capable men to staff the African E-Center.  They are mature and experienced family men who are helping to get things established and then will be in place to hire, train and oversee interns as needed.  We have found them to be insightful and motivated professionals and very pleasant associates.

Michael Ankomah
Adeola Gbbadegessin

Brandon Webster, who has been interning here this summer to establish the soy cow operation, is returning to Idaho to work with Steve McGary on writing a business plan for a certificate program in Business Ag for the Golden Sunbeam School.  He has been with us on weekends and we will miss him.  Bob included him in the internship training .

Consulting with a Business


The first Monday after we arrived in Ghana we visited the Temple Complex, or at least that's what we call it!  It is made up of three main buildings, the temple, a stake center and church administration offices.  Then there is a whole building of missionary apartments.

The temple is compact and beautiful as would be expected.  Sessions start every 2 hours starting at 10:30.  We have tried to attend every week.  That's no small feat because it's an hour away by taxi but we schedule other meetings with the administration or self-reliance people and try to get it all in on the same day.

The stake center handles all the Self-Reliance Programs for that area.  It was most impressive!

Shelly Cannon, a senior missionary, started explaining their program by showing us this board

Russell and Shelly Cannon

  A new self-reliance program was piloted in this area and will be released in September.
Currently they have classes to train in 
1. Education
2. Employment 
3. Self-Employment

All day classes are held for 3 -7 days. There is a real emphasis on "follow through" Assignments are given, reported back and reported daily. 

Self-Employment trains them in basic business skills on how to start a business

A promise is given that if they will follow the program exactly as outlined, they will find a job within 30 days.  
                                 That's quite a promise!  

Temple Grounds

Stake Center

Local Service Missionary Unit of Pathways

We visit this center at least once a week, meet with Elder John Koranteng, an Area Authority, who oversees all of West Africa for PEF.  He's a great man with a warm inviting spirit and is excited about our plans in Ghana.  There is a wonderful spirit of cooperation and mutual support.  We just want to be a help to these programs and are exploring how we can best do that. 

One thing we have determined is that we pick up where they leave off.  We focus on businesses that are already established, to help them grow. 
It's such a blessing to help people learn, grow, have work and support families.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


 Today we visited a school that would be perfect for our grandsons who asked about a possible Eagle Scout Project.  
Original home built to accommodate the school

It has been built by John and Cynthia Koranteng and administered by Cynthia.  She taught at a government school then they bought a home and made it into a private school which draws from several villages.  
Cynthia Koranteng, Owner and Operator of Jakcint School

Cynthia laughed when she realized that these village children had probably never seen a white person before.  She said they will have a lot to talk about today.

First look at a white person!

The school is very modest but beautifully run and at a very low cost per student.  They have started an expansion which will make it possible for them to change their classroom size from 50 to 30.  It will also create more jobs, which is one of our main goals with the Ghana E-center.  
Part of a 1st grade class - Couldn't get them all in one picture

I have great faith in this school.  They have done everything themselves on a pay-as-you-go basis, no donations.  The only debt they have is for two school buses which are necessary to get the children to the school.  I asked them besides getting help to finish their classrooms, what kind of supplies could we gather as an eagle project.  Together we identified the following:  Used toys for the young children, blankets, books, teaching aids, puzzles, crayons, and pencils.

I know that any assistance will be greatly appreciated. I'm especially impressed with the fact that it has been completely self financed to this size.

                                                                                     The rest of the class and their teachers.  We couldn't leave them out!
Addition that is in progress as it can be paid for
This is the extent of their playground
They don't have a library or a science lab and would love to stock two of the rooms for those purposes.  These are their plans as they can expand.  They have not asked for donations but are excited about the possibilities of moving ahead.  That's the kind of people we love to help!

One added structure that accommodates more classrooms

The government schools are terrible in comparison especially to this school.  Cynthia has done no advertising but the school has grown through word of mouth to about 450 children.  It services a very poor area and they keep the prices amazingly low.  Pre school - 3rd 105 cedis ($35) per term, etc. They break even because the children pay 1.5 cedis for their lunch and the little children don't eat as much so it supplements the larger appetites of the older children.  They now have their first group of jr. high. students.

I was so impressed with the discipline and attention of the children.  They have so many children in each classroom but they are all engaged.  The teachers are lovely people.  It's the best experience I have had so far! 

First level teacher
50 PreSchoolers
They keep perfect books all by hand. One ledger book for each classroom. A summary book at the end of the month, etc.

The stack on the desk are the individual class ledgers
How we would LOVE to help this school!  It will be a perfect Eagle Project for our grandsons but also a very worthy  project for others who would like to see their money put to excellent and meaningful use by financing the addition.

If you are interested in participating in the structure addition be sure to mark your donation and envelope: "Jakcint School". Information on donating is found here. Or email us at 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Where the Self-Reliance Centers help with beginning businesses, the E Center wants to focus on helping established businesses grow by providing research, funding and mentoring. Elder Koranteng has given us a list of some 35 businesses that could possibly use such assistance. The goal in helping the companies to grow is to provide more employment.

 Returned missionaries, pathway students and others have a very difficult time finding employment that utilizes their skills and gives them the opportunity to advance, marry, provide for their families and serve in the Church.  The PEF helps by offering loans for further education. It is our purpose to help make jobs available to more of them and help them succeed as their own businesses are developed.

 Consultation with an Electrical Company Owner

These business owners are real entrepreneurs who have built their businesses under difficult circumstances and are working within a challenging economy.  Their primary needs are capital and dependable help. The ones we have visited so far are very active church members and are always looking for returned missionaries who can be dependable and trustworthy. That's a good fit for our goals.
This owner imports lights and supplies them for the church, new homes and others as replacements.  He is also into construction, has built one home and has land to build others as he can.

This owner builds and installs laminated cupboards.  He has a high standard for his work and would like his own cutting machine so he can be more precise.  He could also do cuttings for carpenters and others in the area... which could be a good side business.

This week Bob has continued to interview business owners to evaluate their needs and begin the process of due diligence that is needed to determine which companies can be helped and how to best assist.


Where the Self-Reliance Centers help with beginning businesses, the Idaho E Center  focuses on helping established businesses to grow by providing research, funding and mentoring. 

Elder Koranteng has given us a list of some 35 businesses that could possibly use such assistance. The goal in helping the companies to grow is to provide more employment.

Returned missionaries, pathway students and others have a very difficult time finding employment that utilizes their skills and gives them the opportunity to advance, marry, provide for their families and serve in the Church.  The PEF helps by offering loans for further education. It is our purpose to help make jobs available to more people and support business growth & success.

The second day we were here Emmanuel Opare arranged a meeting with his bishop at the school.  It was our first consultation! He is interested in starting a business in canning tomatoes.  There most definitely is a need for such a company but he has no background.  Tomatoes ripen quickly and there is much waste while, at the same time cans of tomatoes are being imported. Bob encouraged him to start small and work into it.  Start ups are not what we are looking for.  Great training is available at the Self-Reliance Centers for that stage.

We reviewed the list supplied by Elder Koranteng and Hans picked out some of the more promising looking businesses with stable leadership and some experience.  He set up appointments and we started the process today of meeting the owners, learning about their business and evaluating whether there is a next step.  In both cases today he felt good about learning more.  In the next week or so we will visit their work and get detailed information.

On July 14th people from Mentor's International will be in Ghana to meet with Stephen Abu. 
They want to also meet with us.  They are looking for businesses on a little higher scale than micro-loans. We may be able to work together.  The major challenge of these small businesses is capital and dependable personnel.  Both owners are reputable and seasoned business men and 


The only way I know to share this information is to include it as part of the blog.  If anyone can teach me a better way to attach it I'm open to suggestions.  Is there a way to attach articles that are not on the web?  It is well written and worth the read.  In order to understand the importance of our current project this story needs to be understood. The compassion and dedication of the Opare family has lead to this system of schools The Golden Sunbeam Schools are  now educating many children and can bless so many lives.  It is important that this school succeed.
story of selflessness and transformation
In 1985, Emmanuel and Monica Ohene Opare Snr (Founders, Golden Sunbeam Schools) went to Essam to visit some distant relatives and to purchase a piece of land for farming. They were shown around the village by one of their relatives. They were shocked by many of the things they saw. One common phenomenon in Essam was early teen pregnancy: it was a case of a child parenting another child. These teenage parents and their children looked malnourished and sickly. There were no meaningful source of income for them and they had no education or job skills to improve their situation. Essam is a remote village in the eastern part of Ghana.
The Opares found it difficult accessing the village, as the road was crooked, muddy and swampy at the same time. Local bus transportation only came to the village once a week. It had no electricity, sanitation, health clinic or any meaningful development, but, surprisingly, pornography had found its way into the village and x- rated movies were shown for a fee.

'We could not ignore the gross deprivation and vulnerability experienced by these wonderful people. We felt the nudge to help the residents of Essam out of poverty and give them access to education, hoping their increased knowledge would lead to a healthier happier and more fulfilled life.' Mr. Emmanuel Ohene Opare intimated.
Several years after their first visit, they embarked on a mission to use education as the medium to transform the Essam village. In 1989, Mr. Opare saved his per-diem of $2,500 during a 3-month work related trip to the United States and they used the money to buy a plot of land in
Accra, put up wooden classroom structures and enrolled 11 street children on charity in Accra, whose situation was similar to those in Essam village. Golden Sunbean School was born. A year later in 1990, they enrolled their four children into the school and that action, increased their motivation to provide the very best for all the students who attended the school. Mr. Opare's government salary provided a small but steady flow of funding to buffer any shortfalls in Golden Sunbeam's operating expenses in Accra. When the school was a little stronger with enough fee-paying students, they revisited their plan to help Essam.

So in 1999, the Opares returned to Essam to meet village leaders and express their desire to assist in improving the lives of youth (especially young girls) through vocational training. Interestingly, the village rejected the idea of focussing on youth. They insisted: 'Why wait until our children become teenagers before we intervene. Start with the children.' We re-aligned our initial plans to include kindergarten-ninth grade education and through to vocational training in the village.
The Opares persuaded some teachers from the Accra school to move to the village to teach: it was a great sacrifice for their families. So in 1999, converting a goat and sheep pen on an acre land into classrooms, Golden Sunbeam Charity School started in Essam, enrolling 7, 8 and 11-year olds into kindergarten.
The school grew to 320 children and the Opares soon realised the financial needs of the Charity school were beyond the ability of Golden Sunbeam School in Accra.

Rather than backing out from the project, they tried to raise funds. They received funds and learning materials from LDS Charities in addition to their own salaries to acquire additional materials for the Charity and Vocational schools in Essam.

In June 2000, S.E.E.O.F.A.F was born as an NGO to act as the channel to receiving funding in support of Golden Sunbeam humanitarian work. Under this non-profit foundation, contributions from donors were received. The Opares managed to receive funds and support between 1999 and 2008. Through funds raised, they carefully ensured the co- existence of both schools and thereby allowed them to work towards fulfilling their missions. They kept a healthy balance between those who could pay for tuition in the Primary School (75%-80% could pay) and those who could not pay anything in the Charity school. Today, Golden Sunbeam Schools still maintain this balance at 23%-25% charity and 75%- 77% fee-paying students.
'Now, because of friends and donors, Golden Sunbeam Montessori in Accra and Golden Sunbeam Charity School in Essam have undergone serious transformations in infrastructure. We owe much of our growth to support from Reach the Children, the Forever Young Foundation, David and Mike Hemingway, LDS Charities and several others in addition to funds generated through tuition fees.' The Opares said thankfully.
'Sadly, much of the funding stopped in 2008 when the American economy changed, placing the burden of these costs directly on the Primary School. To overcome the challenge, we expanded our customer-base to include more middle-income families. We increased our advertisements and rebranded ourselves to appeal to this population. The difficult years that followed the recession taught us how to stand on our own feet and helped us attain self-sufficiency.’

'When we thought our work was done, we discovered that the students we had worked so hard to rescue and empower, who had graduated from our K-9 schools and had been enrolled into the government
senior high schools, were mostly unemployed even after completing university courses, while those who had no parental financial support from the Charity school beyond JHS were returning to the same circumstances we tried to rescue them from.
So, in 2011, we ventured into senior high education and made a jump without foreign philanthropy, we secured a loan from a local bank. Although, Ghanaian banks have high and variable interest rates, it was the only resource available to us at the time. We took a loan of GHC 2 million ($1 million) at 24% interest in 2011. We bought 21 acres, emptied our personal retirement account and build Golden Sunbeam International College of Science and Technology (Senior High School) in Ayikumah, outside Accra. Within nine months, the buildings were complete. The project was well calculated and closely managed to reduce costs.' The Opares revealed.

Today, 75% of our students from the Golden Sunbeam College of Science & Technology are enrolled in local and international universities and some with academic scholarships due to excellent grades. Those from Essam who graduated from Golden Sunbeam College have returned to strengthen their community and are employed by the Charity school as teacher aids. Their goal is to save up for their university education. Some of them have managed to gain admission into higher institutions of learning, while a few have graduated. The Essam village has been transformed by the Charity School and generally, more children in the village have access to free and qualitative education and teenage pregnancy and social vices among youths have significantlyreduced.

Despite the high quality of education we provide, growth in the population at the high school level has been slower than anticipated. Due to the loan we procured to establish the SHS, all Golden Sunbeam Schools are in financial distress and each year rising interest rates increases it. Currently, the loan amount is GHC 3,778,680 (USD$1.8 million) and for both schools to survive, revenue would have to increase by 30% annually to avoid imminent collapse.
Golden Sunbeam Charity School in Essam... transforming a community and helping raise responsible future leaders free of charge