You've heard the saying "It takes a village." In the case of Diablo resident Cooper Grossman, 23, he recently took that a step further and spent more than four months helping to establish a village in Africa, enabling residents to become more self-sufficient.
While looking online to work with nonprofits that volunteer in English-speaking African countries, Cooper came in contact with an organization called The Rohde Foundation, headed by Jesse Rohde, who began by spreading awareness about health and educational issues. However, Cooper, who is the son of Keith and Hallie Grossman, told me it has grown into an organization that offers hands-on help.
"I was looking for the opportunity to work abroad in either health care or education. What I liked about The Rohde Foundation is they are very intent on creating a self-sufficient, locally financed organization, but they still need a good amount of initial capital to set up that infrastructure," he told me.
Cooper traveled to Oworobong, Ghana, with about 2,000 village residents and 40 minutes down a very bumpy road from the nearest town with true electricity, Tafo. The only electricity in Oworobong is generated from solar panels that the foundation installed along the dirt roads winding through the village and in a clinic built by the Rohde Foundation, where many people travel from nearby villages to seek medical treatment.
"I helped install some of the solar lamps, and it was great to see children playing under the lamps at night and even reading under them," said Cooper.
He told me that Twi is the language spoken there and that he enjoyed helping folks with our language too.
"There were times I was working and people from the village would want to practice speaking English," he said.
Cooper explained some of the other kinds of work he did with the folks from the village, which was assisting in the collecting of corn cobs and husks from local farmers and were then transported in wheelbarrows back to the clinic where the cobs and husks were burned in large barrels.
"Once the burned material is cooled down, it is then mixed with bleach and pressed into molds to form briquettes, which are used for a safer, more efficient form of energy," explained Cooper.
While on his journey, Cooper had many an eventful experience. He told me about a cobra they found on the roof of a building but was killed a couple days later. While clearing the branches to prevent contact with the roof, Cooper stepped on a nail and had to drive the village taxi to Tafo. Not one to miss an opportunity, he picked up passengers along the way! He also helped administer vaccines to babies, and kids referred to him as, "Obruni," which in the Twi language means, "white man."
I asked him what he missed the most while he was away.
"A hot shower and a good home-cooked meal," he said, stating that the food was pretty bland. There is no cell signal in Oworobong, except for a few select spots that at times are literally 6-by-6-inch spots. "I was pretty much off the grid for my time there, which was extremely refreshing," he added.
Visit the website (http://www.jesserohdefoundation.org) to learn more and check out a promotional video Cooper made for The Rhode Foundation in which he interviewed the founder and rounded it out with music and photos he took. Cooper said his experience there was incredible. "The people are extremely friendly and welcoming and are more than willing to share what they have with you, even if it is not much."
Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- firstname.lastname@example.org