When Fr. Francis Odoom explains what conditions are like in his home country of Ghana, Africa — the lack of basic necessities, including clean drinking water — the first emotion he is met with is sadness.
That sadness then begs the question, “What can I do to help?”
The priest at the Catholic churches in Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Oxford Junction and Toronto, who arrived in the area from Ghana in May 2015, said he shared stories of his homeland last year with residents of Lost Nation.
Their response was one of great generosity, Odoom said.
They raised $17,100 — enough to build four wells in the central region of Ghana.
Odoom hopes to build another four to five wells this year, by way of a fundraiser slated Friday, Sept. 27.
The event will be held 6-8 p.m., at Buzzy’s, 414 Main St. in Welton.
A meal will be provided, and a cash bar will be available. There will be limited seating. People are asked to reserve their seats by calling 563-659-2991.
Those who attend the event, sponsored by Thrivent Community Mississippi Valley, will learn about what Odoom calls the “Project of Hope-Ghana.”
He will provide an update about well progress and opportunities, and explain how area residents can help provide a lifeline of hope.
More communities in Ghana now have access to safe drinking waters because of the project, and Odoom would like to see as many people as possible become involved.
He vividly remembers being 6 years old in 1983, the year of a terrible drought in Ghana. The third of seven children would wake at 3 a.m. and walk with his parents and two older siblings to the nearest location to “dig up” drinking water.
“We needed to go to somebody’s farm way out in the bush to find and draw water,” Odoom related. “You find a sharp distinction between the bigger communities and smaller communities and villages in Ghana. The small towns are deprived of basic necessities, predominantly water.”
Last year, as he sat at the Pub Club in Lost Nation with local residents, he said they were in disbelief that people not only have little to no access to clean water, but also that the water they are drinking has the potential to kill them.
“They were sad to hear in this day and age, people are living like this,” Odoom said. “But they also showed such a spirit of generosity. Sadness always moves people to act, and I find that so touching. The question I always hear is, ‘What can we do to help?’”
Odoom said he became inspired to educate area residents about the need for clean drinking water in Ghana, after he learned a young girl he had met there died of a waterborne illness.
When Odoom heard the tragic news, his reaction was like that of so many others — he asked himself, what could I do to make a difference?
Odoom, along with a team of area volunteers who are assisting with the project, have partnered with a non-profit organization in Ames called the Cardinal Turkson Foundation.
Odoom said every dollar donated goes directly to the well project.
Kathy Donahue of DeWitt, who is a team member, said the statistics regarding waterborne deaths in Ghana — and how inexpensive it is to purchase wells to eliminate those numbers — is staggering.
“Every year in Ghana, 20,000 people die because of drinking dirty water,” Donahue noted. “And, they have to walk for miles to get it. They need it for all the same reasons anyone needs water — to clean, wash, brush their teeth. It costs $4,000 to build one well that could serve hundreds of people. It’s such a worthy investment. I’m just so thrilled to be able to help.”
Odoom said at the fundraiser Sept. 27, people will be able to see video/photos of the wells that have been dug so far thanks to local residents’ support of the project.
If anyone is not able to make it to the event, but still would like to make a donation to Project of Hope-Ghana, they may send a check made payable to the Cardinal Turkson Foundation, P.O. Box 1901, Ames, IA 50010.
In the memo line of the check, please write “POH Ghana.”
Odoom said he intends to continue his quest to raise money for more wells.
Until people have easier access to clean drinking water, he does not plan to stop.
“We are trying to organize support that will endure for a long time,” Odoom shared. “Our intention is to bring hope to people who need the basic necessities of life.”