GVSU challenges heights

Courtesy / GV Challenging Heights
Ellie DenBraber at Challenging Heights School Recess

Courtesy / GV Challenging Heights Ellie DenBraber at Challenging Heights School Recess

Katelyn Mudd

Grand Valley State University offers its students many opportunities to become involved in their community—both at gvsu and throughout West Michigan. The club Challenging Heights at gvsu, or
gv-ch, strives not only to aid the local community, but a community that’s more than 5,000 miles
away in Ghana, Africa.

“It doesn’t seem that far from me,” said member and returning volunteer Cara Wesley. “All I care about
in the world is kids. All I want to do is help kids.”

Challenging Heights is a child-centered organization that promotes children’s rights to education and
freedom from forced labor in order to end child poverty and slavery in Ghana. The gvsu chapter of the
organization is affiliated with the Honors College study abroad program that takes students to Ghana
and raises money for the Challenging Heights organization based there. The overall mission
culminates in a school run by the organization that caters to more than 700 children who are survivors
or at risk of child trafficking.

Working with people living in a third world country may expose members to conditions they have
never experienced before.

“This one kid was like skin and bones. He looked like a ghost,” member Bailey Tucker said of a child
she worked with through the program. “It was the most shocking thing. I (came to) love him. When
you made him happy, it was just the cutest thing.”

Some may wonder why people invest in something that is so distant.

“Because the kids there are amazing,” Tucker said. “I have never loved anything as much as I love
those kids. I normally am not that much of a kid person, but I never wanted to leave them.”

To help raise money, gv-ch has planned many fundraisers for this school year. These include creating
and selling a cookbook that will feature Ghanaian recipes, hosting a Ghana-themed night with
Ghanaian food, and selling Griffins’ tickets.

The club is also starting a sister school in Aurora, Colo., at the American Academy. Members will be
traveling to Colorado from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6 to help the middle school start its own program with
Challenging Heights. Locally, the club is trying to spread the word to nearby schools and inspire them
to also join the cause.

Many students involved in Challenging Heights have referred to it as a life-changing experience.

“I actually just took the position as president so that this club would still remain a club,” club
president Hannah Bouwhuis said. “Then when I came back from the trip to Ghana, I was actually
motivated. I realized how easy it was to help someone, that something so big to them seems so little
to me.”

For more information on gv-ch contact Hannah Bouwhuis at [email protected]. For more
information on Challenging Heights, visit the website at www.challengingheights.org.

[email protected]