Teach on the Beach

I co-founded Teach on the Beach in 2010 to provide after school enrichment and scholarships to rural Ghanaian children. As executive director I grew programs, built partnerships, and generated over $150K in revenue and 50,000 volunteer hours.

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After spending three months volunteering as a teacher and after school program manager in a small village in rural Ghana, I began worrying about the sustainability of my work. The independent group whose work I was joining had focused their work on training students to volunteer teach younger students, so in that sense the programming was sustainable. However, without a steady flow of talent and money into this programming, these student volunteers would easily lose motivation to participate.

At this time, my co-founder, Aaron Adler described to me two ideas he had to solve this problem – one of which was Teach on the Beach. The idea was to utilize the burgeoning ‘voluntourism’ market to bring talent and money by situating the programs on one of Ghana’s beautiful beaches.

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Together, Aaron and I drove the coast of Ghana from the western border with Cote d’Ivoire to the Volta Region in the east to find our ideal beach. With a few leads, I traveled back to the States to research the market, file tax-exempt paperwork, and build a team to advise and aid us.

The market for volunteer travel ranged from for-profit firms focusing on travel to university affiliated non-profits offering credit. In almost all cases the price was high. While some organizations catered to adults and high schoolers, the vast majority targeted college undergraduates. Teach on the Beach seemed to fit a niche of that large college market that wanted a greater cultural exposure, longer volunteer hours, and a lower price point.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 11.36.24 PMWith research under my belt, I began selling the idea to potential donors and executive team members. To solidify our brand image I developed the logo and asked a digital artist to render my hand drawn image. We quickly raised funds to cover my return trip to Ghana to set up adapt the programming and find facilities that could support incorporation of many volunteers. I utilized data on effective literacy and numeracy interventions to redesign after school programs to track students and group them based on skills, as opposed to grade.

Back in the US, however, we were not succeeded at reaching our target volunteer market. In the first year, we booked less than ten volunteers and the outlook was cloudy. At that time, with the help of my network, we found a partner in the Bonner Foundation. Through connections made working with Bonner, I negotiated partnerships with multiple small colleges and the large non-profit Peacework for student group travel. This became a critical component of Teach on the Beach’s early growth.

NewsHour is a component of our partnerships with colleges in the US that adds a great deal for our students in Ghana and differentiates Teach on the Beach from other organizations. It started as a program just at our facility in Ghana. Students would watch international news and discuss with each other with support from volunteers.

Realizing this discussion could be expanded across thousands of miles and cultural boundaries through video chat, I began approaching teacher friends to try it out in their classrooms. The program grew from there resulting in unique distance learning opportunity similar to that of the Global Nomads Group.