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Local Catholic supports education efforts in Ghana

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By Erin Schurenberg

Mary Rudemiller has lived her entire life within the boundaries of the Cincinnati archdiocese, growing up in Fort Recovery and spending her adulthood in Cincinnati. She and her husband of 32 years, Dave (“Rudy”) Rudemiller, settled on Cincinnati’s west side where they have been members of St. Catharine of Siena Parish for 28 years. Their two children, Elyse and Nick, although now graduates of higher education, attended St. Catharine School. This lifetime midwestern rooted-ness makes Rudemiller’s invested vocation to support education for students in Ghana, Africa all the more intriguing.

In 2013, Elyse Rudemiller was volunteering in Ghana for the Peace Corps. While visiting her, her parents toured much of the country, including Mole National Park, Ghana’s largest wildlife ref-uge. There, the couple met David Stone and his wife Lisa Revell, of Portland, Oregon. The Stones have been involved in serving the people of Ghana since 2005. They introduced the Rudemillers to the Yakote Women’s Farmer’s nonprofit. One of the nonprofit’s objectives is providing vital financial assistance to teaching or nursing students. Without scholarship aid, the students have no chance of higher education. After that first visit, Mary Rudemiller became a scholarship sponsor.

“If you give someone a life skill or education, you can empower them to lift out of poverty,” she explained. The cost to sponsor a student for one year is $800 to $900. This amount covers student fees and might even include room and board. Non-interest bearing loans are also given to the students. A third of the financial aid is expected to be repaid. The repayment goes toward future students’ education.

Rudemiller’s involvement in the program grew over time, and when the scholarship program risked faltering due to leadership vacancy, she stepped up. While continuing to work full-time as
a laboratory technician for Hoxworth Blood Center, Rudemiller volunteers as the scholarship program administrator for Ghana Health Mission (GHM).

GHM is the southwestern Ohio-based organization that took the Ghana scholarship program under its umbrella of services. One of the founders of Ghana Health Mission, the organization’s board secretary is Joseph Waklatsi, a registered nurse and a dual citizen of the United States and Ghana. He is also a longtime parishioner at St. Catharine. The Rudemillers and Waklatsi children have known each other since kindergarten. Waklatsi returns to Ghana once or twice annually to visit family, but has also been involved in health related relief work to improve the lives of others both in Cincinnati and abroad.

“When Mary picked up the torch for the scholarship program, of course I agreed to help,” he said

When Waklatsi visits his family in Ghana, he also visits various villages to treat those suffering medical problems. “It quickly becomes apparent that many of the medical ailments are a secondary issue that developed in response to lack of clean drinking water,” he noted. “Clean drinking water is a passion of mine; 90 percent of people we see are sick because of lack of clean drinking water.”

Rudemiller’s objectives as the administrator for GHM are to raise funds for the scholarships, attract more sponsors and volunteers, and identify and select scholarship recipients.
In January of 2019, the Rudemillers returned to Ghana. The main purpose of the trip was to further develop the program. Rudemiller also met her Ghanaian administrative assistant. For the 2018-2019 school year, they have 15 students in the program. Mary also interviewed potential new students.

“The students are able to find jobs after graduation, allowing them to support themselves, as well as aid other family members,” she said. “While in Ghana on the second trip, I interviewed potential students, accepted nine new students into the program and set up a wait list for those we have not yet found funding. We were greeted by students in the program and those who have graduated, and all expressed immense gratitude for the scholarship. It is very rewarding to see their genuine appreciation.”

Much more work lies ahead. Ghana Health Mission is establishing a website. The state recently granted GHM 501c (3) status. While some administrative tasks remain unfinished, the scholarship stu-dents in Ghana pursue their educations with heartfelt dedication. The program has graduated teachers, nurses and mid-wives, helping 360 people since 2009.

For more information, contact Ghana Health Mission Scholarship Fund c/o Mary Rudemiller, 3732 High Point Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45211.

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