December 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Sheboygan Press: Curtis Saueressig was sent to Ghana about 18 months ago by the Peace Corps to make a difference in people's lives as a high school teacher

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: December 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Sheboygan Press: Curtis Saueressig was sent to Ghana about 18 months ago by the Peace Corps to make a difference in people's lives as a high school teacher

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Curtis Saueressig was sent to Ghana about 18 months ago by the Peace Corps to make a difference in people's lives as a high school teacher

Curtis Saueressig was sent to Ghana about 18 months ago by the Peace Corps to make a difference in people's lives as a high school teacher

Curtis Saueressig, center, a 2000 Valders High School graduate, teaches math and basic computer skills at a boarding school in Akuse, Ghana. His female students, including those pictured with him, will benefit from his effort to build a new hostel for them. The current space is too small for the number of girls at the school. His parents, Nancy and Greg, are trying to raise money locally for the effort.

Curtis Saueressig was sent to Ghana about 18 months ago by the Peace Corps to make a difference in people's lives as a high school teacher

Building hope in Ghana

Valders grad working to construct student dorm

By Amy Weaver
Herald Times Reporter

Curtis Saueressig was sent to West Africa about 18 months ago by the Peace Corps to make a difference in people's lives as a high school teacher.

Besides teaching math and basic computer skills at the Akuse Methodist Secondary Technical School in Akuse, Ghana, he is trying to build a hostel for the 121 girls at the boarding school.

Saueressig, a 2000 Valders High School graduate, was amazed at their living conditions and wanted to do something to improve them.

"They slept on the floor. There would be a number to one bed. They would cook on their beds. There was stuff everywhere," he said in a recent phone interview. "Their clothing, stoves, coal pots, everything was in a closed, confined area."

Even without an adequate girls' dormitory, the female boarders made do and found ways to study. The academic standard improved so much last year, Amest, as the school is known, improved its ranking in all of Ghana from 352nd to 99th, Saueressig said.

"They are educated people but they have been trying so hard with so little," he said. "That's what's motivating me."

Construction has begun on an adequate facility, while Curtis' parents, Nancy and Greg Saueressig, coordinate fund-raising locally.

Saueressig mentioned his idea to build a hostel at his brother's graduation party in May and received a warm response. His parents have been talking to members of their church, Faith Lutheran in Valders, about helping fund the project.

The existing hostel, a 1,250-square-foot room, is meant to hold between 60 and 80 people. Bathroom facilities are in another small building. Many girls told Saueressig they have to wake up between 3 and 4 a.m. to use the bathroom and shower for everyone to have a chance before school begins each day.

Construction plans call for four 30-by-32-foot rooms for 22 to 26 girls each, five toilets, six baths and two storage rooms. Buildings in Ghana are concrete structures reinforced with iron, he said.

"There's a real wave of emotion running through the students right now," Saueressig said. "They are excited not just for the hostel but because the school is being recognized. They have a lot of school and community pride here."

The project would be completed in three phases with two bedrooms and a storage room erected by March. The toilets and showers would be next. The other two bedrooms and storage room will complete the project.

"It's going to get done," he insisted.

Saueressig's stint with the Peace Corps is done in late August or early September.

"If I take away only one thing from this experience I feel like I can go anywhere for a job and adapt culturally, socially and professionally and be successful," he said.

Lifetime experience

The 24-year-old Valders native joined the Peace Corps after he earned a math degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2004.

"I just wanted to do something different with my degree, something that would challenge me in some different way," he recalled. The corps was appealing because it gave him the opportunity to travel and "help out in a radically different environment."

Although Ghana has been his only assignment, he feels he has been in a position to help. Akuse, located in the southeastern corner of Ghana's eastern region, is a village roughly the size of Valders. It was the main seaport on the Volta River for Ghana until 1961. Without a bustling seaport, business opportunities became scarce and the population decreased. It continued to decline after many residents relocated when the construction of a hydroelectric dam in 1981 flooded the Volta basin.

Saueressig said he quickly learned the Akuse people have a history of resiliency. They didn't have a high school until the government constructed Amest in 1991. It may still lack the proper facilities and teaching staff to provide quality education to its students, but the people take education seriously.

Students are admitted to Amest based on exam scores from their previous school. Many of Saueressig's students have aspirations for careers like nursing, accounting and journalism.

His biggest adjustment may not have been to the primitive living conditions but Ghana's tropical climate. The country is typically 90 degrees, whether it's rainy or dry season.

"It's like a vacation in paradise, but that gets old after while," he said. "I miss the change of seasons."

The Valders native seemed homesick to learn of the recent snowfall in Manitowoc County and below-normal temperatures.

"Oh, I wish I could feel snow right now," he said.

Nancy and Greg Saueressig and their other sons, Daniel and Scott, will experience the difference themselves when they head to Africa for the holidays.

"I can't describe in words what they will see, but it will be neat to see everything I'm used to now through fresh eyes," Curtis Saueressig said. "I'm excited for that."

Amy Weaver: 920-686-2968 or

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Story Source: Sheboygan Press

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