The community was Memiriwa, near the town of Obuasi, in Ghana’s central region. Seated around a decorated outdoor table, surrounded by curious neighborhood children peeking in through the alleyway, were the elders and community chiefs of Memiriwa, who had gathered that May afternoon on the topic of education. Leading the discussion was a visitor, Solomon Kwabena Gyimah, an idealist, teacher, and education advocate from Eastern Ghana. “I meet chiefs because they are the opinion leaders in their society,” Solomon explains. “They have a say in matters related to the welfare and wellbeing of their community. So whenever I get an opportunity, I address to them how they should make education an integral part of their lives.” The elders listened intently and were ready to take action. “Education is a basic tenet, a basic problem. Though the government is trying to make it free, they struggle to [make it happen], so [the community chiefs] appealed to us to help them.”
The “us” who Solomon mentioned is the Rural Education Assistance Project (REAP), a non-profit organization he founded, which is dedicated to ensuring the health, education, and welfare of people living in deprived communities. The seed for REAP was planted in 2014, when Solomon was posted as a teacher to the village of Siawkrom by the Ghana Education Service. “When I was posted to this community,” Solomon recalls, “I got to know that children and people living in the rural areas are encountering problems.” After a year of observing, Solomon took action. “I started REAP, which seeks to bridge the poverty gap between rural and urban folks.” As far as Solomon is concerned, there is only one way that gap can be bridged. “We think education is the only way that you can use to transform society. Children are the generational leaders. They are going to take our seed to the next generation, so reaching out to them, helping out in their education, will propel their hopes and see them at the forefront of all leadership positions.”
To help get REAP off the ground, Solomon reached out to other organizations for assistance. “I was able to contact The Samaritan’s Place, who came to our aid, and other individuals and organizations, and it has really been helpful.” Another affiliated organization is the Global Socio-Economic and Financial Evolution Network (GSFEN), a startup based in Lagos, Nigeria, of which Solomon is now the West African President. “We have a common objective of reaching out to children in disadvantaged areas,” he says. Through REAP and its partnerships, Solomon and his team have been able to collect donations of school supplies and deliver them to disadvantaged children in rural areas. “I wanted to expand, to reach out to people who could also help,” Solomon remembers of his first few months with REAP. “So I was surfing through the net to see if there was any other way I could help to expand my scope.”
That’s when Solomon discovered Idealist, and a post from founder Ami Dar that inspired him to join the Idealists of the World group on Facebook. “The post was about the mission and vision of Idealist,” he remembers. “Linking people together, helping in our own small way, in our various communities, bringing changes. The slogan alone motivated me: Imagine, Connect, Act. So I’ve been able to imagine, by coming up with REAP, I’ve been able to connect to you, and I have been acting according to the principles and tenets of REAP and Idealist.”
"Children are the generational leaders. They are going to take our seed to the next generation, so reaching out to them, helping out in their education, will propel their hopes and see them at the forefront of all leadership positions.”
Solomon soon began coordinating his REAP events and activities with Idealist Days. On 2/2 in 2019, he distributed educational materials to schoolchildren in a nearby village. On 3/3, Solomon organized a cleanup activity with his students in Siawkrom. Similar events followed in observation of 4/4 and 5/5, including a Mother’s Day celebration where food and gifts were distributed as tokens of appreciation. “I was very glad seeing 60-year-old women, 70, having a meal,” he remembers. “It was my happiest moment.”
Also, “Most of the rural communities lack libraries, and reading is the only way we can use to change the world, together with education,” he says. “So I wrote to The Bookfeeding Project…and I was given six boxes of books to begin a community library in one of the rural districts.” On 6/6, the books were delivered. “It was all joy when the school received the books,” Solomon shared in a post in the Idealists of the World Facebook group, “because they have longed for books for a decade.”
While his events have been successes, Solomon is well-aware of how much is still needed. “The needs are very demanding,” he says. “Children here in Ghana are very vulnerable. Most of their parents live below the poverty line, and they struggle.” But Solomon remains hopeful, and even these small victories mean everything. “It makes me feel happy because doing unto others, giving back to society is all that I have been dreaming of in my own small, little way. If I see people happy, I’m also happy.”
As for his plans moving forward, Solomon will continue to address community elders, donate school supplies, and move as many projects forward as he can in his mission to transform society through education. “I have a lot in mind,” he says. “Day in and day out, the welfare, the well-being of society is on my mind, thinking about how people can excel. That is always what I’m dreaming of.”
Inspired? Read more Idealists of the World Stories.
Learn more about the Rural Education Assistance Project (REAP) and the Global Socio-Economic and Financial Evolution Network (GSFEN).