Our Board Members and Collaborators represents a cross-section of our community and have a passion for our organization and those we serve. They work hard to ensure long-term sustainability of our organization and oversee that the funds raised directly affect those in need.
We are forever indebted to Gerald Bybee, photographer and imager from Sebastopol, California, an hour north of San Francisco. Gerry traveled to Okurase with Dr. Mary Sanders Clinical Associate Professor, Stanford Medical School and spent 10 days taking images of people that show the strength, spirit and amazing color of Ghana. His work is so outstanding that his exhibition, Okurase: Portrait of a Village is on permanent display at the Medical University of South Carolina in the James W. Colbert Education Center. We highly recommend you stop by and visit the images and get a feel for what it is like to be in Okurase. And remember, these are images, not paintings. Contact Gerry at www.bybee.com
Dr. Samuel Nkrumah “Powerful” Yeboah is the Founder of Project OKURASE in Ghana. He is a master drummer, drum maker, teacher, and performing artist. Above all, he is a strong humanitarian. In 2008 he was awarded the prestigious Doctor of Humane Letters from the Medical University of South Carolina and walked in the medical school graduation. He spends most of his time between Ghana and England. His dream is to bring people together to solve everyday life's most challenging problems and make the world a better place for everyone. From the time he was a small child, he has had a desire to work to eliminate hunger and poverty. He is exceptionally hard working. His heart is full of kindness and his laugh is contagious.
Linda M. Plunkett, Ph.D., is a native Charlestonian, a third-generation CPA, a retired Professor of Accounting at the College of Charleston, a writer, and community volunteer. She serves on several boards of nonprofit organizations including Coastal Community Foundation. Dr. Plunkett has been an active volunteer with Project OKURASE for many years. Her focus has been on bringing safe water to the village, children’s education, and women’s entrepreneurship.
Dr. Cynthia Cupit Swenson is the Founder of Project OKURASE in the United States. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The Florida State University in 1991. Currently Dr. Swenson is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Division of Global and Family Health at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is the developer of a treatment model for families who come before Child Protective Services due to an abuse or neglect report. The purpose of this model, Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) is to safely keep families together and prevent violence or neglect in the family. Dr. Swenson has published many journal articles, book chapters, and three books. She is incredibly hardworking and dedicated to the vision of Project OKURASE and to the people of Okurase.
Since its inception, Nana Ama Yeboah has been the Project Coordinator for Project OKURASE in Ghana. She is based in Okurase. Her journalism background, leadership skills, extreme work ethic, caring heart and wonderful personality make her uniquely qualified for this position. She works hard to ensure our objectives move forward to help the people of Okurase. Many times she makes what seems impossible, possible.
Ida Singletary Taylor has been involved with Project OKURASE since its inception in 2007. She is director of Gethsemani Community Center in North Charleston, South Carolina and co-director of Djole Dance and Drum Company. Ida spearheaded the Gethsemani Quilters Initiative for Union Heights Community seniors to make and send quilts for orphans and vulnerable children and new mothers in Okurase to use for sleeping.
Dr. Eve G. Spratt is Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is a licensed pediatrician and child psychiatrist. Dr. Spratt attended the 2006 trip with Djole to Ghana and served as the group physician. It’s a role that stayed with her and expanded to Project OKURASE where she is Medical Director. Dr. Spratt has a special interest in nutrition in young children and completed a nutrition research project in the village.
Iris Poole has been involved with Project OKURASE since its inception in 2007. Her area of focus for Project OKURASE has been on the Village Health Outreach. Every year she gathers supplies and enters patient registration data, no small feat for over 1500 patients. Iris is a retired supervisor from Charleston County School District food service. Her long career has given her a lasting interest in children and nutrition. She works with many children in Gethsemani Community Center’s after school and summer programs. She is co-director of Djole Dance and Drum Company.
Dr. Sarah Logan has had a heart for Africa for many years. She combined this interest with her skills in epidemiology and research and has advised on research projects and patient data for the Village Health Outreach. Importantly, Dr. Logan spearheaded (and succeeded in) an effort to bring Ghana into a special White House and American Society for Clinical Pathology initiative on cancer diagnostics.
Rene Dentiste Mueller, PhD is a professor at the School of Business, College of Charleston/University of Charleston. She is also Director of the Global Business Resource Center and Global Scholars programs. Dr Mueller has received several federal grants that have focused efforts on developing student engagement activities in developing countries. Her most recent work has been in micro-lending and business development in Honduras. In 2013, students her students participated in a summer study program that included raising money for a clean water system and microscopes so that students can see the organisms in dirty water. During the summer, students traveled to Ghana to work on micro-lending projects and traveled to Okurase to educate school children on the importance of clean water and hygiene. Four students also participated in a semester long internship in Okurase. Dr Mueller has been working with Project Okurase since 2012. Dr Mueller is an accomplished grant writer and researcher.
When Chris was a graduate student at Clemson University School of Architecture, he took the lead on a major service project to develop the architectural design for a 16-building centre in a rural village called Okurase in the eastern region of Ghana. He subsequently lived in the village (with his wife Evan) for 8 weeks to jumpstart the building of the vocational school and since has served in a pro bono consulting capacity.
Kinnera is a freshman economics major with global health and business institutions program minor at Northwestern University (NU). She is very active in local and global activities at NU. She is involved in Tufaan Entertainment, an organization that hosts a national Bollywood dance competition at Northwestern and the proceeds from the competition go to a school in a rural part of India called Shanti Bhavan. She is also on the Northwestern Bhangra Team, an Indian dance team. In 2014 Kinnera traveled to Okurase with her high school (Miami Valley School) to conduct community-based projects in the village. She returned to Ohio and rallied the community to raise funds to bring an Okurase child who was going blind to Ohio for medical care. She started the Project OKURASE Club and has returned to Ghana again to help out with the Village Health Outreach.
Born into a musical family, Daniel Scruggs has always been a musician. He spent the majority of his childhood in the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps in Virginia. He’s also a traveler, citizen of the world, and humanitarian. He has a big heart for children and community. In recent years he completed his studies to be a Montessori teacher. His work at Sundrops Montessori in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina led him to meet a child named Francis Yevuga. Francis was in the United States for medical care due to progressive blindness. At Sundrops Montessori, Francis inspired Daniel and Daniel inspired Francis. This not so chance meeting was a catalyst for the musician, citizen of the world, traveler, and humanitarian, to develop a music resource center in Okurase Village, and become the founder of the Nkabom World Music Festival in Okurase. The premiere will take place July 21-23, 2017. Additional bio information for Daniel can be found at his website - RhythmMoves.Org. Also see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc3KXBAWr3A&t=339s
Carmen Ketron is Farm Educator at the Medical University of South Carolina’s Urban Farm. All her life she wanted to work in Africa and the opportunity came. Carmen met Isaac Owu from Ghana when he volunteered with her at the Urban Farm in Charleston. This interaction led to Carmen spearheading a project in January 2017 to develop an organic teaching garden in the village of Okurase. The garden has been wildly successful. Isaac Owu manages the garden and Carmen provides consultation on a regular basis via phone and internet. Thanks to Carmen’s efforts Project OKURASE is pleased to have the Nkabom Centre Organic Garden to help address village nutrition. Carmen is an extremely knowledgeable educator and exudes a positive spirit.
Toby Smith is a graduate of University of South Carolina with a bachelors degree in Government and International Studies. Toby began her professional career at the Central Intelligence Agency, where she served domestically and abroad. She was the first African-American director of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Group. She has worked in radio broadcasting, writing, and human services. In May 2015, Toby, who is four generations from slavery on her mother’s side, became the first African-American woman to run for Mayor of Charleston. Her platform included racial reconciliation, revitalizing West Ashley, and engaging communities in need. Through Project OKURASE, Toby has worked intensively with school groups that have come to Charleston to learn about the history of enslavement of Africans up to present time and to make the link between Charleston, West Africa, and the students’ lives – present and future. Project OKURASE is fortunate to have Toby with us as Gullah Geechee cultural consultant.
Ashley Green, a native of James Island, considers growing up in a close-knit, culturally rich Gullah/Geechee community as a most treasured experience that served as the initial connector in her interest to learn more about Project Okurase. Her accomplishments as an Epidemiologist, biomedical researcher and community advocate she credits to the lessons of wisdom and perseverance imparted from her family and community elders, which now includes people of Okurase. In 2016, she used the fusion of her personal passion and professional training to coordinate the Village Health Outreach.
“Our most useful assets are not knowledge or abundance in resources, but rather a compassionate heart, understanding spirit and hands that are willing to serve. I count it a blessing to share my assets in the furthering of Project Okurase’s vision for empowerment, healing and unity. We all have talents and assets that can help lessen the burden for someone else. We just have to be resolved to use them.”