Raymond Amezado could write the book on serving one’s country. He would know – born in Ghana, he came to the U.S. in 2006 to pursue his version of the American Dream.
But Amezado, 31, decided that working his way up to a corner office wasn’t the life he needed to live. Instead, he joined the U.S. Army in Dallas and is now based with the 518th Sustainment Brigade in Knightdale as a staff sergeant. He returns annually to Ghana to promote education with his nonprofit, Ngorli.
Amezado is married to Tara Jackson and has five children. Currently on a three-month trip in Kisseman, a suburb of Ghana’s capital Accra, he corresponded with the Eastern Wake News about his trip and work abroad.
Q. How long have you been in the army and stationed in Knightdale?
A. I have been in the army for eight years (seven years active duty and one year Army Reserve). I am currently with the 518th Sustainment Brigade, Knightdale. I used to be stationed at Fort Drum N.Y. (4-25 Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division) and then Fort Bragg (2-321st Field Artillery, Airborne) before joining the 518th Sustainment Brigade, Knightdale.
I came to America to live the American Dream. But I thought, it is an honor to serve the country first, then pursue its dreams. My dream here is to promote education. I joined the army in Dallas, Texas within three months of coming to America.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in computer science with Thomas Edison University but I am currently also a final year student at LeTourneau University in Texas pursuing a degree in Business Management.
I actually left active duty to push Ngorli. I love the army and it was my dream to become the Sergeant Major of the army but I would rather push education.
My current Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) is Civil Affairs Specialist (38B) which is similar to nonprofit organization job in the civilian world, therefore I learn from both sides and apply my knowledge to both sides.
Q. How long have you been in Ghana and why are you passionate about Ghana?
A. I have been in Ghana for the past two months promoting education. I am not passionate about Ghana – rather, I am passionate about education. I went back to Ghana because that’s my country of origin and the quality of education needs to be worked on, especially the community that I grew up in which is Kisseman-Achimota, Ghana.
Ngorli has programs in the U.S. as well and I personally have volunteered in helping children with after-school programs in Fayetteville, so I try my possible best to help wherever I am at.
Q. What is Ngorli and when did you found it?
A. The word “Ngorli” (N-goalie) means there is “hope or future.” It is a word in the Ewe language, spoken in Ghana, Togo and Benin, which are all in West Africa.
The Ngorli Organization is a certified nonprofit that is registered in N.C. and Ghana. I founded Ngorli in November, 2011 after traveling around the world. There are many factors contributing toward the founding of Ngorli but the two major ones are my background as a Christian and a very proud American soldier.
Q. How many students do you work with?
A. In Lumberton, Ngorli works with about 50 children, if not more, but in Ghana we work with about 5,000 children due to the fact that it’s cheaper to sponsor programs and easier to get volunteers.
Q. Do you have a team working with you?
A. Yes, currently we have five board members in the USA and eight Ngorli Ghana board members. We are a grassroots organization that is still pushing hard to achieve our goals.
Q. Tell me about the walk for education. Is it your first?
A. Though the purpose of the 5K Run/Walk for Education is to solicit exercise books, notebooks, pencils or pens, it became a “Three in One Program” initiated by Ngorli to solicit school supplies for the needy children in Kisseman and its surrounding communities.
On the day of event each participant brings one exercise book or notebook with a pencil or pen for needy students in our community to promote education. People in the Kisseman community where I grew up at need to learn how to give back to their own communities and this is what we are trying to do.
Some individuals were able to donate 100 exercise books. In all we got almost 6,000 exercise books, about 3,000 pens and pencils and we are still getting drop-offs at our office in Ghana.
We also used this opportunity to educate the parents and the entire community about the importance of education ... and to promote the healthy lifestyle through exercise.
We chose Kisseman because Kisseman and its surrounding communities are so close to some of the elite schools in Ghana yet it’s becoming mission impossible for its citizens to go to such schools and school dropout is becoming the norm of the day.
Q. I can tell you're passionate about education, why did you go so far as to start the nonprofit?
A. I am passionate about education because I am a Christian and the Bible tells us in Hosea 4:6, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”
I am passionate about education because it brought me to America and it also pushed me ahead of my peers in the army. It took me four years to move from Private (E1) to Staff Sergeant (E6) because of my educational background. When I was pinned the rank of E6 most of my peers I joined the army with were still E4s.
The pen they say is mightier than the sword, and this I have experienced as a soldier. Education can change a whole lot in the Middle East and I surely want to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan with a pen and reason with them through education without carrying a gun. I am proud of my missions as a soldier and will do it again but I also believe there are better ways.
Q. What is your vision for the organization's future?
A. Ngorli's vision is to one day realize a world in which children from developing parts of our world have equal access to quality education in this era of global competitiveness. The organization envisions a world in which children from these underprivileged parts of our societies would receive quality education in a constructive environment and well-resourced educational facilities.
Ngorli also seeks to identify and provide a comprehensive range of opportunities with the help of stakeholders at all levels of education. Our priority is to ensure that generation upon generation of our future leaders are not singularly or collectively left out on this fundamental human right; whether it be a result of gender inequality, geographical location, policy, financial, human resource or any other limitations.
Q. When do you come back from this trip? What will you do next?
A. I will be back in N.C. on the 30th of June. Our two short-term goals are to raise funds through the selling of African art, clothes, jewelry etc. to sustain two literacy programs we have at Lumberton and expand to other towns.
Our second goal is to collect the minimum of 5,000 used book bags and any other educational material or school supplies to help us promote education in Ghana. We are aware that most parents buy new book bags after summer, hence we need the old ones to promote education elsewhere.