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Back to Africa With MOT Skills to Help Homeland

Joseph Appah

November 2014


Joe Appah '12 was an altar server in his native Ghana, a country located on the coast of western Africa, where he was born and raised.

After moving to the United States for high school, Appah looked for a college that could support a range of interests, including the faith that had been a foundation of his life in Ghana.

"The simple fact that it was a Catholic school really appealed to me," he said of St. Ambrose. "I looked at it as a chance to reconnect with my faith."

Initial involvement in Campus Ministry programs led Appah to try the Antioch Retreat, held once each semester. "It was neat to take a weekend out of the busy schedule of being a student, being an athlete, being a resident adviser, and just focus on one aspect of your life: your spirituality," he said. "It was a very empowering weekend for me."

As an undergraduate, Appah ran track on a scholarship that helped defray the expense of college for his parents, who are a taxi driver and nurse's aide in New York. He is enrolled in the Master of Occupational Therapy program and is scheduled to graduate in 2016.

He went back to Ghana this past summer for the first time since 2004. He visited family and volunteered at a school for children with disabilities, where he applied his OT knowledge some 6,000 miles from his St. Ambrose classrooms.

"I'm already looking forward to going back next summer," he said.

Appah said his long-term goal is to split his time between Ghana and the United States once he has established himself professionally here. There were more than 110,000 registered occupational therapists working in the US in 2012. "Ghana doesn't have a single one," Appah said. 

When his family left Africa, Appah said his grandmother told him to know where he was going and remember where he came from. That advice has carried him through college athletics, Campus Ministry service, nearly two degrees, and a wealth of learning outside the classroom.

"The whole concept of being an Ambrosian, I feel like it's engraved in me," he said. "Put everyone first. Treat everyone with respect. Be at your best every single time. The sense of family. The sense of community. Those are the things I will take from here."

MORE LIKE THIS:About SAU Students, Athletics, College of Health and Human Services, For Prospective Graduate Students, Occupational Therapy, Scene

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