On 29 June 2023, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and President of the Africa West Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the course completion of 284 participants of the Gathering Place Vocational Training program in Kasoa Ghana. “I feel as if I’m here among living miracles,” said Elder Nielsen of the program participants who have all earned government sanctioned certification. “What you have accomplished is greater than you can probably understand now, but generations will be affected by the work you have done.”
Elder Nielsen was accompanied by Sister Wendy Nielsen and Area Seventy Elder Daniel Kabason. The completion ceremony was also attended by local tribal and community leaders.
The Gathering Place is a designated church location for Young Single Adults (YSA) and their friends to gather and participate in priesthood directed and YSA led experiences and activities. The focus of program is to strengthen YSA spiritually, socially, emotionally, educationally, and professionally. There are Gathering Place locations throughout the Africa West Area, generally based in local Stake Centers.
Although the Gathering Place was created to serve YSA, the vocational training experiences in Kasoa have been open to all ages. It is also a community program with individuals from many faiths and backgrounds working together to improve their lives and their communities.
“President Russell M. Nelson has stated that education and training is not just a privilege; it is our religious responsibility,” said President Daniel Allotey of the Accra Ghana Kasoa Stake. “When the leaders of the Church approved the Gathering Place, I knew for certain that this was the Lord’s answer and the perfect solution to the YSA dilemma in our Stake. We needed this program to provide better opportunities and employment for our YSA.”
“Our teachers are volunteers who are certified by the National Vocational Training Institute of Ghana,” said Sister Karen Aryee, who with her husband William are service missionaries over the Gathering Place program in Kasoa. “We have monthly assessments by curriculum directors from the NTVI. We provide the training to allow participants to receive vocational certificates,” she added.
Elder Nielsen had visited the Kasoa Gathering Place before and witnessed classes being taught in many disciplines including tailoring, soapmaking, electronics, auto mechanics, computer skills, wig making, culinary arts, and construction trades to name a few. In all, 32 different vocational classes are offered each week and the Stake Center hosts these trainings Monday-Saturday from 8AM to 7PM. There are over 400 participants each week. “I have seen your great work and am simply amazed by all that you are accomplishing,” Elder Nielsen shared with the program participants.
“I have strengthened my ability to be self-reliant through the Gathering Place programs” said Emmanuel Bravewards, who had just received his certificate in Information Technology. “I will no longer have to rely on others, I’ll have my own source of income.” Emmanuel also learned about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through his fellow participants and was recently baptized.
Elder Nielsen shared the story of Joshua from the Old Testament and encouraged the certificate recipients to,” Be strong and of a good courage. Use what you have learned here to improve your lives and bless your families.” He concluded by exhorting the students to “turn the dial up, don’t stand idly by. This is your time…this is Africa’s time. You can choose how you are going to finish your story.”