Calgary

Calgary Ghanaians building a community centre they call a dream come true

Ghanaians who now call Calgary home are working to build a community centre that will bridge generations and celebrate everything about their culture.

Ghana House will be a cultural and community hub

Volunteers from the community are helping build the new community centre in northeast Calgary. (Submitted by Charles Adame-Ankrah )

Ghanaians who now call Calgary home are working together to build themselves a community centre that will bridge generations and celebrate their unique culture.

Ghana House is tucked away in an industrial area north of Sundridge Mall in the city's northeast. It recently received $100,000 from the federal government to help make it a reality.

A small army of community volunteers have already been busy ripping out the interior of the old building, helping take the first steps into transforming the space into something that everyone can be part of.

"They are excited because this has never happened in our community before," said community leader Charles Odame-Ankrah.

"It's something that we've been wanting to have: a place that we can have an identity, a place that when you enter you feel that you're in Ghana."

"You can see the excitement in the community. And a lot of work has gone into here, a lot of sweat," he said. 

The volunteers have already saved close to $15,000 in demolition costs by doing the work themselves. 

Volunteers have been working alongside contractors to get involved in building their own community centre. (Submitted by Charles Odame-Ankrah)

"Those who couldn't come donated money, bought lunch or brought water. Some seniors popped in and helped us carry broken drywall, kids as well," said Odame-Ankrah.

Ghana House will include sports facilities for youth, a kitchen and meeting rooms, as well as a seniors lounge, where elders can play traditional Ghanaian games and teach those games to new generations. A second floor will include a digital library and boardroom for seminars and training. 

Different cultural groups within the community will be able to meet and use the space to celebrate their own unique tribal identities. Non-Ghanaians and second-generation children can also tour the centre to learn more about Ghanaian culture. 

"It's a place to meet and feel that cultural bond away from home and solve problems and lift each other up," said community member Patrick Adda.

"A lot of us get homesick. This facility provides us the chance to come and talk in our own dialect and language and feel part of the Canadian dream. We are all elated. It's a dream come true and we're very excited about it," said Adda.

Adda says it will be a valuable addition for new immigrants who can get help to assimilate into Canadian life and enter the economy and workforce quickly.

Another big driving factor behind the vision and creation of Ghana House was the isolation that the community experienced during the pandemic. Seniors, in particular, were cut off from their community and culture.

Charles Odame-Ankrah says Ghana House has already unified his community. He says that when it’s finished, it will be a legacy project for Ghanaians and the broader city. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We want to ensure our seniors aren't isolated, and that will help their mental health, because during the pandemic what I saw as a community leader broke my heart," said Odame-Ankrah.

Odame-Ankrah says Ghana House is much more than a community space — it's part of a bigger vision for the city.

"It is time for us to embrace a society where there's strong diversity and to support each group to thrive. I'm calling upon all smaller groups to also rise up and get involved and let people know who they are so we can build a true city of many colours and where everyone's identity is respected and honoured," he said.

The federal contribution of $100,000 is already secured, and leaders are exploring the possibility of future municipal and provincial funding along with a push in the community to secure at least another $300,000. 

"It's going to be a legacy project where people can see and feel what their investment has done," he said.

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