The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Student films showcase advocacy efforts in Ghana

Washington and Lee students presented their self-directed films from the 2023 spring term abroad class

Lenfest Center for the Arts held a screening of two student-directed documentaries last week filmed during a 2023 spring term abroad course.

The documentaries showcased the efforts of two grassroots non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Ghana as they push to provide better education and opportunities for their community.

Washington and Lee University students, led by assistant professor of theater Stephanie Sandberg, worked with Advocacy for Social Inclusion and Girls’ Education (ASIGE) and Coast Bridge-Ghana to create these documentaries with the goal of bringing funds to their cause.

“We work with these NGOs and determine what their communication needs are and find out what story [they] want to tell about [their] organization,” Sandberg said.

Film minor Ned Newton, ‘24, co-directed the documentary for Coast Bridge-Ghana titled “Bridging the Gap.”

Coast Bridge-Ghana is an NGO in Winneba, a fishing city in south Ghana. In Winneba, many of the fishermen are struggling economically due to overfishing and climate change.

Because of this, many families cannot afford to send their children to school. Bright Hedo Boglo, Coast Bridge-Ghana’s president, sought to address this by creating a school for these underprivileged communities.

“I tried to find out a way to bridge the gap,” Boglo said in the documentary. “I realized how education could lead to empowerment.”

Newton said that Coast Bridge hopes to help students achieve higher education, so they can return to Winneba with new skills and help improve their community.

He said that one of the most rewarding things he got out of the experience was the bonds he formed with the community. He continues to keep in touch with people from Coast Bridge like Boglo.

The documentary also serves as a fundraiser for the NGO. Money from donations will be used to fund Coast Bridge’s new financial advisory center and to create a credit facility for the community’s women.

Further north in a city called Bolgatanga, Joe Lee, ‘26, co-produced a film for ASIGE.

ASIGE is a female-led NGO that seeks to empower women by equipping them with the skills necessary to work for and run businesses.

Many of the women in the city make a living off of basket weaving, and ASIGE offers lessons to help women develop their artisan skills. The organization also teaches women about reproductive health and provides free reusable sanitary pads.

“ASIGE is promoting this healthy cycle of women helping younger women,” Lee said.

The documentary Lee helped produce aims to raise money to fund scholarships to exceptional women in the sciences so they can attend college.

For many of the students, this was their first experience in filmmaking.

Eltice Langmia, ‘25, said that the learning process was a little bit intense, but she had fun learning about how to use all the equipment.

The students had one week to film at their locations. During that time, they faced several challenges.

Newton said they had to film outside because of issues with lighting. However, they also wanted to make sure their interviewees were still comfortable despite the heat.

He described the experience as “invaluable to [his] development as a filmmaker.”

Lee and his team also faced similar challenges with lighting and heat along with juggling filming in two different locations. The ASIGE team had to film at both the basket weaving centers and the schools, so coordinating the groups was difficult.

Despite their struggles, they both found the experience worthwhile.

For Molly Pennisi, ‘24, photography director of “Bridging the Gap,” the screening was the first time she got to see her film’s final cut.

“I think the most rewarding thing was seeing the impact [the film] had on others,” she said.

The event displayed many of the beautiful baskets made by the women from ASIGE. Guests could donate to the organization to receive one of the baskets.

Sandberg announced that the W&L University store will be selling these baskets soon, making it the first place in the United States to officially sell ASIGE baskets.

This spring term trip was Sandberg’s tenth time bringing students to Ghana, but only her second time doing it with W&L.

Sandberg said she grew up in West Africa and always wanted to return. However, conditions were never safe enough for her to visit. So, Sandberg decided to go to Ghana instead and take students along with her.

“The goal is always to introduce students to the African culture,” she said. “But also it is to take students to places they would maybe never go on their own.”

Sandberg hopes to continue going to these cities and nonprofits to build a long-term partnership. She said she is already planning to return to Ghana with students and continue working with ASIGE in funding their scholarships.

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