They say it takes a village to raise a child. For MCCC President Kojo Quartey, it will take a city — Angel City.
Quartey’s Angel City School Complex is located in Ashalaja, Ghana, on roughly 1 1/2 acres of land.
The project has been self-funded by Quartey and will include multiple resources to serve local children and the community.
Ghana was his birthplace and he lived there for a total of 11 years as a child and teen, Quartey said.
As a child, Quartey said he didn’t remember noticing poverty in Ghana, but that changed when he took a trip there in 2008.
Quartey, who lived in Grand Rapids at the time, traveled to Ghana with his local Rotary Club to supply the people with water filters and use a grant to build nurses’ quarters and a public restroom.
Ghana is one of Africa’s leading modern countries and tourist destinations, but many parts of Ghana are stricken with poverty, Quartey said.
On that trip, Quartey remembered being shocked by the level of impoverishment he witnessed.
“That’s when I saw poverty like I’ve never seen before,” he said. “People who lived in places where you had six or seven people to one room with no restroom. They were going in plastic bags and dumping them.”
After that trip, Quartey said he wanted to create a positive change in his home country.
“I felt that it was time for me personally to do something,” Quartey said. “I have the advantage of having been born there, so why not give something to my place of birth?”
That’s how Quartey’s idea for Angel City School Complex was born.
His plans for the complex are vast. Quartey said the complex will include an orphanage to house homeless children, a pregnancy center, a pre-K through ninth grade school, a medical and dental clinic, nurses’ and teachers’ quarters and a homeless shelter for adults and families.
The complex will also include rooms to be enjoyed by the community, including a community center, a chapel for community worship, a senior center, computer rooms and a recreational area for sports.
Quartey said a contactor was secured for Angel City in 2017. In 2018, construction on the project began.
The project is unique in that up to this point, Quartey has funded the roughly $500,000 project by himself.
Quartey said he has done this by liquidating personal investments, using his home equity line of credit and taking out loans. He also uses part of his own income to pay for the project.
“It’s a lifelong dream, and so putting the buildings up myself is something I want to do,” Quartey said. “That’s the message the Lord has given me: Do this on your own.”
Quartey said his love for children is a big motivation behind the project: it even inspired him to choose the name of “Angel City” for the complex.
“I love children, and I’ve always felt that children are pure,” Quartey said. “So I’ve always called kids ‘angels.’”
Through the orphanage at Angel City, Quartey said he wants to give children in Ghana a better life.
“I want to save as many (children) as I can,” Quartey said. “I may not be able to save 100, but when it comes to children, you save them one at a time.”
Quartey has five children of his own and has also adopted a child, 1-year-old Omari.
He adopted Omari from a local woman who was contemplating abortion. Quartey said he told the woman that if she chose to keep the baby, he would adopt it.
Quartey said his experience with adopting Omari influenced him to include a pregnancy center at Angel City.
“Were it not for that personal experience, there is no way I would have even thought about a pregnancy center,” Quartey explained. “I was thinking about an orphanage and a school and a clinic to help the people in the neighborhood. However, it’s gone beyond that for me because of my personal experience here in Monroe.”
Quartey said he wants to give mothers in Ghana the same opportunity he gave to Omari’s mother.
He explained plans to provide counseling and healthcare to women who visit the pregnancy center.
He also said he wishes to continue supporting the women after their children are born. After women give birth, they will be provided with microloans to start their own businesses so they can support themselves and their child, Quartey said.
Quartey handles the project remotely by keeping in touch with the project’s contractor, Christopher Amedukpe.
Amedukpe works for Camet Ventures in Ghana. Quartey said he contacts Amedukpe almost daily through text or phone calls to receive updates on the project.
By the end of 2020, Quartey said he wants to have all the complex’s buildings up without the roofing.
Quartey said his long-term plan for the project is to complete the entire complex within two or three years.
Quartey also wants to connect the community to his work in Ghana. As a member of the Monroe Rotary Club, Quartey will travel to Ghana in May with fellow Rotarians and community members.
The 11-day-long trip will include working on the Angel City School Complex and meeting with the project’s workers, local business owners and chiefs to create partnerships for the project’s future.
Mark Kohler, local architect at Kohler Architecture and member of the Rotary Club of Monroe, will be going on the trip to Ghana.
Kohler first learned about the trip through a presentation Quartey showed to the Rotary Club in September of 2019.
The presentation had information about Angel City School Complex and Quartey’s plans to visit Ghana, Kohler said.
Prior to seeing Quartey’s presentation, Kohler said he had already felt led to visit Africa. In 2017, he took a mission trip to Moldova through Elevate Church of Monroe. While in Moldova, a missionary told Kohler about their recent trip to Africa.
“I knew at that moment that I would be going on a trip to Africa at some point,” Kohler said. “When this (opportunity) came up, it was just a knowing. I just knew that I had to go on this trip.”
Kohler said he is looking forward to meeting with the Ghanaian locals, chiefs, business owners and educators that have supported Quartey’s work.
“That’s really important to have those connections and strengthen those relationships,” Kohler said. “That’s how you build community.”
Because of his career in architecture, Kohler said he also looks forward to working on the buildings of Angel City.
“I love working with my hands, so I’m looking forward to that too,” Kohler said.
Kohler said he admires Quartey’s plan to offer education, medical care and shelter through the complex.
“Those are kind of the core needs that people have,” Kohler said.
Kohler’s fellow Rotarian Ron George will also be traveling to Ghana.
George, president of Monroe-based Plumb-Tech Design & Consulting Services, has been a member of the Rotary Club since about 2014.
George has traveled to Ghana once before, he said. In 2016, he went to Ghana with the Rotary Club. While there, he and the 22 other attendees constructed wells, a first- through eighth-grade school and public restrooms.
George said he and Quartey often sit together during weekly Rotary meetings. At one such meeting, Quartey began sharing with George about his Angel City project. The mention of Ghana caught George’s interest, he explained.
“He mentioned that he was from Ghana and goes back on a regular basis, and all this time he was going back to build this project called Angel City,” George said.
George was unable to attend Quartey’s Angel City presentation at the Rotary club, so Quartey invited him to view the same presentation at a meeting of the Monroe Exchange Club, which hosted Quartey as a guest speaker.
“That’s where I saw the scope of the project,” George remembered. “It’s really an impressive facility. I thought, ‘That’s really cool, I’d like to participate in that.’”
George remembered being impressed by Quartey’s modesty about the project.
“He would never tell anybody about it,” George said. “There’s a lot associated with the project that he doesn’t talk about.”
Quartey said he has a reason for not seeking publicity for the work he’s doing.
“I don’t want to seem as if I’m being braggadocious, I don’t want anyone to pat me on the back,” Quartey said. “My reward comes from above.”
Although he shuns publicity, he does speak to others about his project. Quartey said he shares his work in Ghana in hopes that others will be inspired to do good in their own lives.
Although he is not asking for funds for the project, Quartey said he is asking for prayers.
“While I’m doing this, it’s really by God’s direction,” Quartey said. “There are those who may pray against us, but that’s fine too. In the end, we shall be victorious.”