STATEMENT FROM OUR CO-FOUNDERS
To our students, stakeholders, and supporters,
Be it politically, socially, or medically, the safety and well-being of our participants and host community is always our top priority. These very matters are embedded into our curriculum, service projects, and the “do no harm” principles upon which we founded SSSA.
Every year we maintain constant, monthly communication with our Ghanaian partners. This past year, we closely monitored COVID-19 with our partners. We are confident in resuming our summer program to Ghana, ensuring full compliance with local and international safety standards, and taking all necessary health precautions. All the while, we can assure that the 2021 SSSA program will engage meaningfully with our host community and provide a rich experience for our participants.
While many large scale travel programs and university study abroad programs are canceled, our special program design and grassroots base give us a unique advantage to resume our operations safely. We always admit small groups and structure our program to build strong cohorts. This entails living and learning at the same site, private group transportation for long-distance trips, group orientations, and using a uniform itinerary to ensure shared experiences. Our usual cohort arrangements will translate to an ideal “bubble”. Thus, unlike some other travel or educational programs, we will not have to dramatically alter the structure of our program to ensure participant safety. Nevertheless, we will of course be implementing further measures to prevent transmission of the virus. These measures are in compliance with U.S. and Ghanaian governmental protocols and also follow general best practices per the Center for Disease Control, Ministry of Health Ghana, and Ghana Health Services. Intended measures are also in accordance with community consensus and at the recommendations of our NGO partners in Ghana (another advantage of our long-standing relationships with organizations and people “on the ground” who have provided further insight and real-time updates in Ghana).
We fully recognize that the U.S. has poorly managed the pandemic and has been a global hotbed for the virus. We also recognize that when we travel, we are guests in the Kasoa community. Respecting our position as guests, and given the Western world’s history of colonization, exploitation, and medical malpractice in West Africa, we did not decide unilaterally to resume our program. We received invitations from our Ghanaian-owned and operated NGO partners. Furthermore, we circulated surveys to our partners, local Ghana school officials, and Kasoa community members to assess their current needs and respective comfort levels working with foreigners. The results of these surveys demonstrate an ease, respect, and appreciation for our program’s return this summer.
Finally, organizing international travel amidst a pandemic is an undertaking that we do not take lightly. We developed the following safety measures based off of the feedback we received from our partners, discussions we have had with peers in the travel industry, survey results from constituents in Ghana, and the latest health and travel requirements from the U.S. and Ghanaian governments. Please continue reading to learn what our summer 2021 program to Ghana will look like amidst COVID-19.
Upon acceptance to our summer program, admitted students will cooperate in additional enrollment measures to ensure the health and safety of all. Such measures will include self-reporting, risk awareness, and virtual safety training and education.
Further, all participants will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing and quarantine prior to departing to Ghana. Participants must self isolate for a minimum of 72 hours before travel. During this time, participants will await their test results. All participants must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three calendar days of travel.
In accordance with the Ghana Health Service’s protocol, participants must present their negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. At the Accra airport, each traveler must undergo a temperature screening and a COVID-19 test. Travelers who test negative for COVID-19 will enter Ghana with no quarantine requirement. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Ghana, asymptomatic or not, will undergo mandatory quarantine and treatment for 7 days.
Per SSSA policy, all SSSA participants will arrive in Ghana on the same day. Together, all SSSA participants and staff will proceed directly to the program site and undergo a 48 hour isolation period to limit post-flight exposure. During this two day isolation period we will practice social distancing while engaging in our usual, lively, on-site orientation, which includes activities, educational games, rest, and an overview of our itinerary, logistics, health and hygiene recommendations, and SSSA rules.
The Ministry of Health, Ghana mandated the use of facemasks in public. SSSA will provide participants with two reusable masks and participants are expected to bring additional masks with them to Ghana as an added precaution. Disposable masks will also be available to participants as backup. SSSA will provide soap and hand sanitizer for participants, which will be readily available in all classroom and meeting spaces.
We do not permit guests not associated with SSSA at our program site, which includes but is not limited to, participant rooms, restrooms, dining facilities, classrooms, and common areas. All participants will undergo daily temperature and symptom checks. Participants will be tested for COVID-19 regularly.
Participants who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic will remain at our program site and quarantine for 10 days or until they have a negative test. They will be provided with a single, self-contained room with bathroom and shower facilities and will be brought 3 meals a day for the duration of their quarantine. While quarantining, participants will engage in all classes and contribute to their internship projects remotely. We (SSSA staff and participants) will socialize with quarantining participants via video conference to make sure they feel included and connected with their cohort. We are committed to assisting participants to promote their healing, and emotional and psychological well-being during quarantine. Participants who test positive will be carefully monitored by SSSA Directors and should symptoms arise, participants will promptly be taken to New Kasoa PolyClinic for further treatment.
All SSSA participants and staff live at our program site in Kasoa, Ghana for the duration of their stay. Rooms are located on the first floor of our accommodations, and classes take place in the conference room on the second floor. Our facilities are well ventilated and the classroom space can accommodate socially distanced groups. As in previous years, guest lecturers will be invited to present on occasion. Lecturers who do not require classroom technologies will present in an outdoor meeting area. Whether indoors or outdoors, guest lecturers will maintain six feet of distance from our participant audience and staff to limit exposure.
Our NGO partners in Ghana follow all governmental and local guidelines in their project development and design. We value their commitment to preventing the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining comprehensive programs for their constituents. Our partners received permission directly from schools, teachers, and parents for SSSA participants to work with them. Additionally, our partners have communicated with the Ghana Education Service to ensure protocols and approvals for work with students is ethical, safe, and equitable.
Service projects will take place outside whenever possible. SSSA participants will only work at sites that have given permission and large group activities will be limited. We have a comprehensive documentation system in place for contact tracing and to evaluate and record the health of SSSA participants, staff, and others in our immediate circle.
Activities & Excursions
Studying abroad during the pandemic will undoubtedly be different. Despite this summer being different, we are confident that we will provide an enriching educational experience as our typical itinerary already includes many private tours, small group activity lessons, and private transportation. There are not currently any lockdowns or curfews in Ghana, but there are restrictions on event sizes and venues. We will fully comply with all protocols set forth by the Ghanaian government. We will engage in our activities and excursions safely.
All activities will be held outdoors. For our activities (e.g. art, music, dance), we invite one guest and their apprentice to instruct our group. We will enforce social distancing measures during the duration of the lessons and activities.
For our excursions, we typically travel by private bus to many natural sites and historic landmarks, and have private, scheduled tours. The natural sites that we visit are spacious and outdoors (e.g. rainforests, waterfalls, botanical gardens) and easily allow for small groups to roam undisturbed. The national sites that we visit are primarily outdoors (e.g. public squares, memorial parks and burial grounds). National sites that are indoors (e.g. castles, museums, university campuses), and we will visit via private scheduled tours (with one guide) and social distancing measures will be adhered to.
All SSSA participants and staff will undergo a 48-hour isolation period prior to departing from Ghana. Similar to the isolation period undergone during our arrival, this time will include activities, educational games, rest, and our closing ceremony for final farewells.
Failure to comply with our COVID-19 protocol will result in a warning based on the severity of the infraction (for example forgetting to wear a mask to order food). However, repeated or more severe acts of noncompliance (e.g. inviting a non-approved person to our lodging site) will result in termination of participation. We have a zero tolerance policy for policy violations especially when it regards the health and safety of our participants, partners and host community.
We look forward to taking advantage of our unique program design, small cohort size, local connections, and governmental regulations to have a safe and enriching summer. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Nia Ali & Brittni Howard,