Getting into the swing of things in Ghana
Partnership that works
A unique partnership has paved the way for culinary arts students at Bermuda College to work as interns in Ghana.
Tremayne Bailey is the first to benefit from the initiative, started by Bermudian Quinton Sherlock Jr through the NGO he cofounded in Gomoa-Fetteh, Ace It Foundation.
The eight-week programme is split between Till’s Beach Resort in Gomoa-Fetteh and Accra Marriott Hotel in the capital.
The idea came out of a conversation last year with Shawn DeShields, a Bermuda College lecturer.
“I started to think about how to have students in hospitality come over and share their knowledge with people in Gomoa-Fetteh,” said Mr Sherlock, who moved to Ghana in 2013.
“Gomoa-Fetteh is a coastal area and tourism is beginning to grow and develop there. So they can practise at Bermuda College and then take on somewhat of a leadership role with the facilities we have at Gomoa-Fetteh and they can also go to the capital and get some experience in a more upscale facility, at the Accra Marriott Hotel.”
Once businessman Eldon Raynor and Marc Bean, the former Progressive Labour Party leader, came on board as sponsors, things began to fall into place. Support also came from Leonard Teye-Botchway, Bermuda’s honorary Ghana consul, and his assistant, Nana Otu Turkson.
“We’re basically providing a platform for Bermudians to come to Ghana to share their knowledge, talents and experience with young people — especially in the Gomoa-Fetteh community,” Mr Sherlock said.
“We want to set up an annual programme where each year we can have one or two students from the Bermuda College and begin an exchange.”
How Quinton Sherlock Jr made his home in a small fishing community in Ghana is a story that could one day become urban legend.
Golf is part of the tale, but it is also about his interest in young people and the African diaspora.
As the 39-year-old tells it, he left Bermuda for the West African country in 2013 with only one thing on his mind: education.
Six years later he is the CEO of Ace It Foundation, an NGO he cofounded to empower young people in Gomoa-Fetteh, a small subsistence farming and fishing community.
“I moved there to study at the University of Ghana at Legon,” Mr Sherlock said. “I was doing an African Studies programme and from there got introduced to the NGO world by one of my colleagues who was running one in an urban slum.”
A coastal town in the country’s central region, Gomoa-Fetteh has a population of about 3,000. Tourists find it appealing because of its long, clean stretch of beach. Mr Sherlock, who had friends who owned property there, thought it was “interesting”.
“This was the initial draw to the specific area,” he said. “Basically the essence of the NGO is to use education and sports to try to improve the life of young people. Another part of the work we do is to provide a platform for people to come and share their experience and expertise with young people in our programme and the Gomoa-Fetteh community at large.”
It is with that view that the organisation partnered with Bermuda College, offering culinary students an eight-week internship at two hotels: Till’s Beach Resort in Gomoa-Fetteh and Accra Marriott Hotel in the capital city. Tremayne Bailey arrived in Ghana on May 31 with Shawn DeShields, a senior lecturer at Bermuda College who is “conducting capacity-building workshops for hotel staff”.
The Ace It Foundation primarily works with middle school students, offering 45 minutes of daily STEAM classes and/or vocabulary development and a similar period of golf lessons. As the nearest course is roughly 40 miles away, the latter is played on dirt fields using modified equipment.
“The response has been very favourable,” said Mr Sherlock, a former Bermuda College professor who also taught elementary, middle and high school.
“It’s something new to them so the novelty of it all attracted them.
“To share with young people who otherwise would not have been afforded certain opportunities is very fulfilling. In Gomoa-Fetteh, 90 per cent of homes don’t have running water; they still have an outhouse. For interaction with a Bermuda College senior lecturer ... for these students it is the kind of thing that wouldn’t have happened if we as an organisation hadn’t provided it for them.”
He is grateful for the primary schoolteacher who gave him an unexpected lesson.
“I was introduced to golf by my PE teacher at Heron Bay, Jerry Renshaw. He took me out to play one weekend and I literally fell in love. I was standing at the bus stop to go to Horizons golf course by myself at the age of 10 and, from about the age of 12, I travelled to the US to represent Bermuda.
“Golf opened up a lot of doors for me. To share it with other people is really fulfilling.”
A golf scholarship paid for his university education, after which he turned pro. It was while on tour that he was introduced to Africa.
“My father, Quinton Sherlock Sr, and I visited Morocco to play golf in 2011,” he said.
“I enjoyed Morocco — I had a lot of nice food — but then in 2012 my father and I visited Ghana and I felt it was a place I could spend some time in.”
Ghana was a major hub in the trans-Atlantic slave trade from the 16th through to the 19th centuries. Eager to learn more, Mr Sherlock enrolled in university in the capital city, Accra.
“The idea for me was to go to the source, to not just learn in theory,” he said. “Being here I can actually experience the culture. After class, I toured and got to go to places, to remote places I’d been learning about as part of my studies. It helps bring the experience to life which, I couldn’t do if I’d studied in Canada or the US.
“For a person of African descent, there’s a lot of history and, for me, who was trying to explore and understand more of my roots, Ghana provided an ideal platform.
“The common story that is told and shared throughout many West African nations connects West Africa with the diaspora. The story of movement of people to the west is very similar. Being in Ghana provides an excellent opportunity to explore that side of our collective experience and reconnect with one’s roots, so to speak.”
He has been back three times since he left and was last here in November 2017 as part of ThinkFest, a seminar series organised by Ayo Johnson. Although he misses his family, he has no plans to return permanently.
“I feel very content in the work I’m doing. It’s not easy but I enjoy the struggle, I enjoy the pressure. Right now I’m committed to the NGO and also doing some golf teaching.”
• Learn more about the Ace It Foundation at aceitfoundation.org