Global Giving

Zahl 1After viewing a presentation during her freshman year at Grand Valley State University, Stephany Zahl, a biomedical science major, instantly knew she wanted to take part in the university’s Honors College Service Learning Program. Her wish came true during the summer of 2014 as she traveled to Ghana for a seven-week study abroad trip with support from a Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grant.

After a week of studying non-governmental organizations (NGO) at the University of Ghana- Legon in the capital city of Accra, Zahl traveled with the program to the small coastal town of Winneba for the remaining six weeks. It was here that she had the chance to work hands on with an NGO—an opportunity she didn’t take
for granted.

“It was the most life-changing and incredible experience of my life,” she said.

While in Winneba, Zahl worked with Challenging Heights, a child rights organization that rescues, rehabilitates, educates, and empowers children who have been, or have the potential to be, trafficked into the child slave labor industry of Ghana. The organization runs a school, rehabilitation center, physical rescue operations, and various community outreach programs. Zahl worked in the library reading and tutoring the children and coordinated an after-school dance program.

“Working with Challenging Heights made my trip positively phenomenal. I was so inspired from the moment that I heard about their work, I knew I had to spend as much time working with them as possible,” she said.

When asked what she took away from her experience, Zahl remarked, “In a very broad sense, I'd say the most important thing I learned is to look beyond your own life and your own world and do it all with an open mind. Whether that be simply exploring somewhere new or truly understanding the hard-hitting truths that many people shy away from.”

The experience also helped shape her future career path. A biomedical science major, Zahl has always had interest in international medical work. The summer abroad reaffirmed this desire as she hopes to one day provide medical care to those in need in other countries.

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi