It started with Rick Haskins’ desire to give his parents a memorable Christmas present — something that wouldn’t wind up stored in the back of a closet. In the process, he launched a humanitarian aid org that has changed lives in a village in Ghana.
Haskins, CW’s exec veep of marketing and brand strategy, has spearheaded the drive to build two schools, a latrine system and other public health services in the village of Barakesa since 2007, when he donated the money for an elementary school that would be dedicated to his parents, Joan and Richard Haskins. Now Haskins’ non-profit org, Cast a Pebble, is taking the model developed in Barakesa to four other villages in Ghana, and possibly other countries down the road.
Haskins, who is ankling the CW later this summer, is heading back to Ghana next month to help oversee various Cast a Pebble initiatives.
“We know what worked on one village; now we get to start expanding nationwide,” he says.
Haskins’ interest in Ghana was spurred by his brother-in-law, Stephen Alder, who heads the Public Health division at the U. of Utah. Alder’s students over the years had conducted extensive research in the West African nation, but there was never enough funding to implement recommendations for improving conditions in villages like Barakesa.
With Alder’s help, Haskins devised a partnership program in which he donated the money to build an elementary school, so long as local residents contributed the land and helped with the construction. Once the elementary school was completed, they began work on a secondary school, followed by the latrine system to combat the prevalence of malaria and dysentery.
Haskins has big plans for Cast a Pebble — he will soon step up fundraising efforts — but he is gratified that his original goal of doing something worthwhile in his parents’ name has long since been fulfilled.
“Ghana is a wonderful country with wonderful people,” he says. “The biggest benefit to me came on the day the (elementary) school was dedicated when all the kids made a video saying ‘Thank you, grandma and grandpa.’ “