In May, a partnership between the School of Human Environmental Sciences and the Kentucky Homemakers Extension Association came alive as two villages in Ghana were presented with their wish of new sewing machines. Led by Dr. Kim Spillman, Associate Professor in the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, this partnership is part of an ongoing initiative in Ghana.

Since 2010, Dr. Spillman has been engaged in research and outreach with sewing cooperatives through four trips to Ghana. During her first two trips, the villages expressed their need for electric sewing machines. On her third visit, the residents reminded her of their wish. Dr. Spillman partnered with the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association (KEHA), working with International Chairman Leoni Mundelius, to make these villages’ dream a reality.

Launched in the fall of 2016, KEHA’s sewing and textile outreach project for Ghana yielded tote bags, shirts, sewing kits and a total of $2,650 for the purchase of 16 sewing machines. The villages of Aseseeso and Adjeikrom each received eight machines. The sewing machines not only provide the villages the ability to create school uniforms, but also provide jobs to young girls that are perhaps finished with school already. The girls were given machines and sewing kits and received training to use these items.

Dr. Kim Spillman stated, “Working with KEHA members was an amazing experience. Members are thoughtful and generous; they trusted me with funds and sewing kits to make this happen in two extremely poor villages. This can be the beginning of empowering women in these villages and raising the economic level of the villages as well. KEHA is an amazing organization. The members are generous, smart and can move mountains! I feel blessed to be associated with such a group.”

The sewing outreach was part of a broader study abroad experience for three students, three faculty members and KEHA representative, Marcia Rasner, a member in Monroe County. While in Ghana, the delegation met with the chief of each village, toured local and national monuments and parks, took a cooking class, printed designs on fabrics and interacted with the residents. They attended three lectures at the University of Ghana about the school feeding programs, women’s programs, and farming. New to the study tour itinerary this year was a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, and a discussion with the political section chief and regional agricultural counselor who expressed interest in both the school feeding program and sewing project.

The study tour itinerary was service based. Participants experienced the culture of the Ghanaian villages while also gaining a rich knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in Ghana.

Study tour participants visit the Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra

Study tour participants visit the Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra

 Kim Spillman and Marcia Rasner deliver sewing machines to the sewing cooperative in the village of Aseseeso

Kim Spillman and Marcia Rasner deliver sewing machines to the sewing cooperative in the village of Aseseeso

Kim Spillman and Marcia Rasner meet the village chief in Adjeikrom

Kim Spillman and Marcia Rasner meet the village chief in Adjeikrom

Fabric purchased at the Koforidua market for sewing school uniforms

Fabric purchased at the Koforidua market for sewing school uniforms

Kim Spillman with village leaders in Adjeikrom]

Kim Spillman with village leaders in Adjeikrom

Study tour participants at Nelsban Palace Hotel in Tafo

Study tour participants at Nelsban Palace Hotel in Tafo

Study tour participants in Adjeikrom

Study tour participants in Adjeikrom