By KAITLYN NAPLES
Thomas Awiapo of Ghana, has traveled to 48 states in America and made a stop in Bristol last week to share is story of overcoming poverty and being an advocate for education.
Last Friday, as part of their Lenten journey, St. Paul Catholic High School students and faculty listened to Awiapo’s story of how he was an orphan in poverty in a village in Africa, struggling to find water, food and anything else to help him survive. It wasn’t until Catholic Relief Service came into his village and built a school, where Awiapo’s life began to take a turn for the better.
“Education is liberation,” Awiapo told the students, adding that he never liked going to school but went because he knew there would be a snack waiting for him when he arrived. “They tricked us with a snack so that we would come to school,” Awiapo said, adding he is doing the same in his country while he works as a Catholic Relief Services Global Solidarity Coordinator. Catholic Relief Services is the “official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States,” its website said and began in 1943 and has reached more than 100 million people in 91 countries on five continents.
He has a firm belief that education is “the greatest tool that can break the chains of poverty, of hunger and of injustice,” and added that while there are so many problems among society today, all it takes is a little kindness to make a change.
Awiapo said his parents died within two years, his younger brothers died of malnutrition and his older brother ran away from his village for survival, and he still hasn’t been able to locate him. His village had no running water, and he had to walk miles, and miles for clean water. He said all of this changed with Catholic Relief Services stopped in his village and built a school.
Now, he is a father of four— two boys and two girls— and his children and wife all live in Ghana. He said his children are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be going to school, and his daughter is in college studying nursing.
When he was young, he said Catholic Relief Services was able to send him to school, and ultimately Awiapo earned his master’s degree in California. He said people asked him why he was going to return to his home country, after being in the United States and earning citizenship.
“It is my home,” Awiapo said was his response, and added he took everything he learned in the United States, and all of the blessings God provided to him, back to Ghana to “pay it forward.”
He said when people ask why he is traveling around the United States, he said it is to convey a “very simple message that is a message of thanksgiving, of gratitude and for the gift of Catholic Relief Services.”
“God has blessed us so we can be sources of blessing to those who are less fortunate than we are,” he added.
For more information on Catholic Relief Services, visit www.crs.org.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver.com.
By KAITLYN NAPLES