Service to Boston College, and the World

Inspired by his teachers, Service Award winner Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah offers help far and wide

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

A small sign hanging in Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah's O'Neill Library office says it all: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

"There will be a time when I can't lift a spoon to my mouth. So while I still have the strength in my body, I want to try to be of service to other people." -Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah." (Photo by Bill McCormack)

The quote from humanitarian Albert Schweitzer aptly fits Library Instructional Services Manager Sarkodie-Mensah, who has won Boston College's 2001 Community Service Award in recognition of his wide-ranging involvement in service projects at the University, parish, hometown and international levels.

He will receive the award from University President William P. Leahy, SJ, at an employee recognition dinner on May 23.

Sarkodie-Mensah's contributions are many. He has accompanied BC's Ignacio Volunteers to the Dominican Republic, Belize and Jamaica, and worked with University student enrichment programs such as Learning to Serve, Options Through Education and College Bound. He is a lector, religious education teacher and chapel assistant at St. Malachy's Church in his hometown of Burlington. Sarkodie-Mensah also participates in BC's Cleansweep Leadership Team, collecting household items and clothing left in student dormitories at the end of each academic year and distributing them to appropriate social service agencies.

In addition, Sarkodie-Mensah serves as a translator and counselor for the Ghanaian Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Boston, as an African cultural instructor in the Boston Public Schools and as a program director and producer for Burlington Community Access Television.

"I read about people who do so many things for others," he said, "and I wish that I could do only half as much as they do."

Sarkodie-Mensah, a native of Ghana who came to the United States in 1982, gives credit for his inspiration for spiritual and public service to the Brothers of the Holy Cross, who taught him at St. John's Secondary School in Ghana. "They spend their lives working for others. You can see the face of God in what they do."

Members of that religious teaching congregation, many of whom are Americans, extended influence and care to their students far beyond the classroom walls, he said.

"I went to St. John's to get an education, but I was so taken by the other things the brothers did for people. They would clean sores or treat people who had been bitten by snakes. They would carry people to the hospital on their backs if that was the only means of helping to save them. It made no difference to them if you were Catholic or Muslim or whatever.

"On their school vacations, they would return to America and go from church to church begging for money, clothing, even toothpaste for the people who needed it," he said.

"My last headmaster came down with malaria. He could have gone back to the United States but he said that he wanted to remain 'home' in Ghana. He wanted to keep on helping people.

"They didn't have to do all that they did. They were the best teachers I ever had in my life. I would like to pay some of that back."

Sarkodie-Mensah said that accompanying BC's Ignacio Volunteers to underdeveloped nations has been an especially rewarding experience. "Anytime I go to one of those countries, it's like going back home. I think of the brothers and try to give something back as they gave to me," he said. His duties as an Ignacio Volunteer have included teaching language skills, building library collections, working with the dying at Mother Teresa's House and with lepers at St. Monica's Hospital, both in Kingston, Jamaica.

"We learn so much about ourselves," Sarkodie-Mensah said of his volunteer work. "Look at the world around us - we take so much for granted.

"There will be a time when I can't lift a spoon to my mouth," he said. "So while I still have the strength in my body, I want to try to be of service to other people."


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