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NEWS | Jan. 7, 2015

Soldier gives back to homeland

By Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Many U.S. Service members from Joint Base Langley-Eustis spent time indoors with their families on Christmas Eve, staying dry and warm while celebrating the holiday season. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Francis Aduoffei, McDonald Army Health Center logistics noncommissioned officer-in-charge, and a few of his friends, spent their Christmas Eve at a storage facility in the pouring rain, focused on giving back to others.

Aduoffei came to the United States from the poverty stricken area of Asafo-Akyem, Ghana, 16 years ago. Since then, he has dedicated his time to two things: the Army and gathering donations for women and children for his home village.

"I was in the United States for two weeks before I saw a 'Be all that you can be' commercial and decided to join the Army," said Aduoffei. "I have been so fortunate since I came to the states so I decided to collect clothing and dried foods for those in Ghana who still have very little."

Aduoffei is no stranger growing up with little food and clothing. When he came to the United States, he vowed he would never forget where he came from and the struggles he overcame. While deployed to Iraq, he wanted to help the people from his home village, but he wasn't sure how, until he had a recollection of the 17 women he knew who worked in the cornfields in Ghana.

"Before I came to the United States I had just two pairs of pants and one pair of shoes," said Aduoffei. "A lot of the women were wearing the same clothing every day and didn't have much food for their families so I knew I needed to do something."

In 2009, Aduoffei began acquiring garments while stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Throughout his deployment to Iraq and permanent change of station to Fort Eustis, Virginia, he managed to continue collecting with the help of friends and the local community. He collects donations throughout the year, and requests a shipping container once he has enough to fill it.

Aduoffei drives to Fort Sam Houston twice each year to collect items such as bedding and clothing from graduating students at the Medical Education and Training Campus.

"When the students graduate, their bedding is too bulky to travel with so the school offers to collect those the students don't wish to take to their first duty station," said Aduoffei. "On my last trip I brought back more than 200 comforters and sets of sheets."

This holiday season, Aduoffei sent his ninth shipping container to Ghana, full of dried and canned goods, clothing, mattresses and more than 5,000 notebooks and reading books for students in the local schools; the second shipment he has sent this year.

"I'll talk to anybody about what I do so I can collect more," said Aduoffei. "I get a lot of the donated books and clothing from local churches and Soldiers on the installation who know about my mission."

According to Aduoffei, he has used what the Army has taught him about the importance of accomplishing a mission to make his shipments a success.

"When I was deployed, the mission didn't always go smoothly, but we kept going," said Aduoffei. "Because it isn't always easy, you have to be committed and you can't give up. Even when I am tired, I keep going."

Aduoffei believes by feeding and clothing the people of Ghana, he can help with more problems than what can be seen by the naked eye. Food and clothing can also help improve the Ghanaians' health, education and self-confidence, according to Aduoffei.

"If you are hungry, you can't focus to learn. Also if you are hungry and malnourished, you could get sick," said Aduoffei. "If I give you a nice shirt, your self-esteem could be raised. Then you could have the confidence to go and get a good job to help support your family and community."

In the future, Aduoffei says he hopes to see others follow in his footsteps so donations will grow.

"If my donations change just three lives, then I've made a difference," said Aduoffei. "If those three people decide to start their own donations and change three more lives, it can grow outward and more Ghanaians will have the same passion as I have."