In 1995, my family traveled from Ghana to New York City, where I was afforded the resources and access that I otherwise would not have had in Ghana. I was able to attend some of the best schools and benefit from the many gifts of education. I had the privilege of private school education, all the way to graduate school. But this story is not as linear as it sounds.
In 2003, I almost lost my life in a car accident. I was in a coma for six weeks. I couldn’t talk, walk, or think. I finished my junior and senior years of high school from the hospital bed. Through all this, I clung to my education and it saved my life. Education saved my life, and it has helped me to be the woman and person I am today.
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Up until 2006, I periodically traveled to Ghana to visit family and often times volunteered in schools. From June 2006 to January 2007, I spent seven months as a first grade teacher at the World Links Academy in Kumasi in the Ashanti region.
In 2008, I volunteered as an English/Literacy teacher at Heritage Academy in Cape Coast. I extensively researched the education reforms in Ghana for an independent study for a public policy course. From these experiences, I witnessed vast disparities in education and access for all students, particularly for girls.
This inspired me to seek tangible reforms in education in Ghana. In 2009, I graduated from
Caldwell College with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Business Management.
Following undergraduate studies, I served as a teaching intern and teaching assistant in New York City schools but returned to Ghana, often volunteering in schools while there. As a graduate student in 2013, I researched inclusive education in South Africa.
The findings from the research showed that persons with disabilities (intellectual, cognitive, physical, etc.) are often stigmatized in “developing” countries of which many are in the Global South. I’ve since been researching inclusive education in the Ghanaian context. There are many parallels in how disability is viewed in both countries.
Out of my personal journey through education and academic research, the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana (GEIG) was born. GEIG is a non-governmental organization with a mission to provide academic and financial support for girls, in addition to applicants with special needs, so they can access higher education and professional opportunities.
For two and a half years, GEIG has been supporting 12 students in the Ashanti and Greater Accra regions of Ghana. Our “Women Who Inspire Us” speaker and workshop series has reached 500 people from March 2015 to May 2016.
We partner with local and international institutions to offer our beneficiaries unique opportunities. GEIG offers academic and financial support, leadership development and mentoring, and soon, a public service program.
Joy Lindsay & Butterfly Dreamz Story
In July 2012, my life changed drastically. Kimberly Lindsay, my little sister and best friend, was shot and killed while away at college. I was devastated and wrote about my thoughts and feelings constantly. My writing became an integral part of my therapy. The other very important part of my healing was being able to discuss the positive memories I had of my sister – to share her story – not just how she died, but how she lived.
But eventually, one thing became clear, Kim did not want me to sit in self-pity feeling sorry for myself and my circumstances. She wanted me to live. She wanted me to keep her spirit and her story alive.
Realizing this, I wrote my first children’s book, “When a Butterfly Chooses To Fly.” In the story, three sister butterflies, Tiffany, Joy, and Kim, are used to flying through life together. As young readers read the sisters’ story, they discover what happens when the youngest butterfly, Kim, chooses to boldly and defiantly fly by herself for the first time.
The last few pages of the book guide readers in reflecting on the story and writing their own personal story about a time their life changed, and they, like Kim, had to “fly on their own.”
As I toured the book to different youth audiences, I was astounded by the response from kids. Not only did they love the story and poetic prose, they really enjoyed the opportunity to write and share their own stories. Out of this discovery, Butterfly Dreamz Inc. took flight.
Butterfly Dreamz Inc. is a nonprofit organization that uses the art of storytelling to build literacy and leadership skills in youth. Through our workshops and curriculum, we support students in writing and sharing their stories and create opportunities for them to learn from the stories of community leaders.
Butterfly Dreamz has been hosting workshops and events primarily for students in Newark, N.J., for the past year and a half. In this short amount of time, we have gained more than 2,500 social media followers, published two books for youth, and guided more than 500 students in authoring stories and developing e-books of their own.
Core to the academic support GEIG provides is a three-week preparatory session to review and prepare our girls for the upcoming school year. Each year, we introduce an enrichment activity that enhances the academic, mentoring, and professional development of the students.
In our first vacation classes session, the girls participated in drama and debate clubs. Last year, GEIG partnered with Lancaster University-Ghana and offered “Presentation Skills” for the girls. They also had Theater Works.
We built on “Presentation Skills” and Theater Works this year by offering the “I am an Author” storytelling and writing workshop in partnership with Butterfly Dreamz Inc. The workshop is open to girls AND boys in the Ashanti region.
In this 3-day workshop series, students will learn the fundamentals of storytelling and how to leverage those skills in writing a story of their own. Final stories will be compiled in an e-book, featured on the Butterfly Dreamz website and shared with other young readers.
Education is a transformative force. GEIG hopes to be at the forefront of providing quality and inclusive access to education for ALL girls in Ghana.