CSU social work student establishes NGO in Ghana

Sarah Bibbey, social work ’17, has traveled to Ghana three times in less than three years. That’s because, as an undergraduate, she’s already founded her own non-governmental organization, or NGO, Enliven Mama Africa.  

Enliven Mama Africa’s mission is to enrich the communities of rural Ghana by empowering young mothers to thrive through small-scale entrepreneurship, monetary assistance and volunteer support with the goal of helping them become self-sufficient. So far, the program has enrolled 14 single mothers in seamstress trade school and given most of them microloans to run supplemental businesses.

SarahBibbey1Bibbey’s interest in Ghana was sparked while she was attending Poudre High School, when she participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad program. She had met several inbound exchange students and wanted an experience like that for herself. Bibbey was assigned to Ghana, where she attended a local high school and lived with a host family for 10 months.

During her exchange she met Maxwell Donkor, a native Ghanaian, who helped Bibbey interview single mothers in the village of Besease. They discovered that the young mothers wanted a trade education and a way to make money in order to provide for their families. Bibbey and Donkor developed a plan to enroll the women in trade school, and Enliven Mama Africa was born.

Bibbey is also working with Rueben Addo, a Ph.D. student in social work at CSU and a native of Ghana. Because he is fluent in Twi, Addo has helped Bibbey better conduct interviews with the women.

“Sarah has an ability to connect with a wide variety of people and engage them in the work she is doing,” said Brenda Miles, CSU bachelor of social work program director. “She is an outstanding young woman whose intellectual curiosity makes her an excellent scholar.”

Bibbey’s experience in Ghana was a large factor in her decision to pursue a degree in social work at Colorado State University. She hopes to continue her work in Ghana upon graduation in May 2017 and plans to apply for a Fulbright research grant.

SarahBibbey3“Balancing school, personal life, student involvement and this project has not been easy. But I’ve found a way to be focused on what is most important to me, and that’s Enliven,” Bibbey said.

Bibbey was recently awarded the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affair’s Citizen Diplomacy Award for her continued and demonstrated commitment to her host country.

According to the Bureau, “Sarah received this recognition due to her tremendous work following her exchange, primarily through her involvement with Enliven Mama Africa, but also for giving school presentations and continuing her deep relationship with Ghana.”

“I love interviewing the women, playing with their kids, and hanging out in the seamstress school,” Bibbey said. “I’m watching this dream of mine become a reality.”

More information can be found on the Enliven Mama Africa website.

Bibbey is one of three finalists from CSU for the nationally competitive Truman Scholarship, designed for undergraduates dedicated to careers in public service; it is the first time the university has had that many finalists for the award.

The School of Social Work is located in the College of Health and Human Sciences at CSU.