Community Organizations

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Alumna Reaches Out to Help African Children

Lehman alumna Gloria Tetteh is the founder of Open Arms Children International Incorporated (OACI Inc.), an organization whose primary mission is to provide an education to children in impoverished African countries.

Tetteh graduated from Lehman in 1986 with a degree in Mass Communications. She said her family legacy of public servitude led to her founding Open Arms.

“My father was a diplomat, and my mother was in national politics,” said Tetteh, who was born in Detroit, but raised in Ghana, “so I had the opportunity to travel the world and gain exposure, at an early age, to a variety of cultures and the economic diversity that exists in the world. As public servants, they instilled in me the desire to serve others.”

Open Arms Children International Incorporated launched in early 2006 in Ghana, and has supported orphanages and villages in the country with food, school materials, money and computers. OACI Inc. has also sponsored a group called the Shoeshine Boys, a group of disadvantaged boys from impoverished towns within Ghana, who have come to the capital of Accra to look for jobs.

“Unfortunately, there are no jobs, so they shine shoes or panhandle on the streets to make a living,” Tetteh said. “They have no homes or shelter, so we provide them with Open Arms t-shirts, hygienic essentials, food, and medical assistance. These boys range in age from seven to their mid 20s.”

Tetteh also has contacts at the United Nations that keep her aware of international issues, and the exposure to the ambassadors allows her to utilize their support and connections to send goods to countries that need assistance.

“It also allows me to sit in on different lectures given at the UN, and gives me perspective on various situations that exist in this world, and international law,” she said.

Tetteh and her organization are aware that a major challenge in impoverished countries is the high levels of illiteracy. Tetteh said that there is no one easy way to solve the problem, but her organization is dealing with a greater puzzle, one piece at a time, with the goal to bring about change.

She pointed out that there are many tribes in Africa that are often times in conflict with one another. She stated that a method to overcoming this barrier is to provide education for all, from childhood to adulthood.

“Providing education is the key to developing the social skills necessary to communicate, negotiate compromise and resolve conflicts,” she said. “We meet with the elders and chiefs of every tribe we work with, and we insist on cooperation within the community. The common denominator is the children and the desire to improve their lives. The children are essential for the future and the survival of each tribe.”

Tetteh and her organization are also hoping to establish a school in her village in Ghana. Although the majority of their work has been in Ghana, the organization plans to expand into Zambia, Malawi, Niger, Sudan, and Republic of Congo. The organization is working on making water wells and rebuilding schools in the Volte region of Ghana. It is also working with the flood victims in the northern region, will be traveling to Malawi to work with orphans, and is setting up an AIDS clinic in Zambia. In areas where schools exist, the organization will provide current educational materials and introduce liberal arts programs.

“We hope to touch as many children as we can by sending books to remote areas and send volunteers to teach,” Tetteh said. “Some areas do not have schools, so these volunteers in rural areas are critical to the education of these children.”

OACI Inc. will also be working with the United States-based National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club Incorporated, who have appointed Tetteh as their alternate United Nations representative; Habitat for Humanity; Baako Ye Project Inc.; and Women to Women International.

“Collaboration with other organizations and individuals is the key to survival,” Tetteh said.

For more information regarding the OACI Inc., please visit: www.OACINTL.org