Ghanaian community shares grief with Newtown

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Jan. 21, 2013
Ashley Weeks holds a memorial service for the Newtown victims. Photos courtesy of Henry Weeks. - Contributed Photo

Throughout Connecticut and across the country, groups have sent their support and their blessings to those who lost family members in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown. One group of Ghanaian immigrants living in East Hartford, known as Ghana Youth Educational Outreach, have shown support for the victims by organizing a memorial service and also by making visits to the town.

In this group is Ashley Weeks, 17, who has been working with GYEO and the Ghanian community to in East Hartford to help the victims of Newtown. Henry Weeks said his daughter, who attends Capitol Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford and works with the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), held a memorial service for victims of the shooting. Weeks said he and his daughter plan to meet with the families of the victims, and that his daughter continues to volunteer there. “She’s a community organizer. She does a lot,” said Henry Weeks.

During the memorial service, members of the community called for President Obama and Gov. Dannel Malloy to improve security in schools. One line from the service read, “Mr. President, Mr. Governor, we look forward for you to act to implement something meaningful to protect your children.” The memorial also called for lawmakers from both parties to agree on meaningful gun legislation.

“They have to sit down with the president to prevent such an ugly act from occurring again,” Ashley Weeks said in her memorial.

Ashley's father, Henry Weeks, said that the Ghanaian community has felt strong bonds to Newtown after losing two of their children - Marcum Asiamah in East Hartford and Malrick Donkor in Manchester - to drownings in public high schools. Weeks said, “It’s the same with the children in Newtown. We feel for Sandy Hook Elementary School, and feel that this is something we have to do.” Weeks said the community is still looking for answers about the drowning deaths. “We’re trying to find out answers from the town and the state of Connecticut why this is going on. Both of them didn’t have any lifeguards on board at the time, so we are still waiting for answers,” he said.

Weeks said that the town’s primary Ghanaian church, which holds meetings at St. Mary’s Church, has received an outpouring of support. Weeks said the church received a letter from former Ghanaian First Lady Ernestina Naadu Mills shortly after the incident. Weeks said that members of the Ghanaian community in East Hartford have made several visits to the Newtown area, including the memorial service his daughter helped to hold there.

The Ghanaian community has also undertaken an effort to raise funds for families of the Newtown victims. Weeks said that members of his church have contacted organizers in the town to determine what is needed from fundraising efforts, and that the church will likely run a fundraiser in the next several weeks.

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