Sunyana, Ghana, Africa - St. George has found a new and exciting connection with a city about its same size in Western Africa. Sunyani, Ghana is located in the heart of the tropical rainforest and a group of its residents have been the recipients of a good will donation from the Huntsman World Senior Games.
The population in Sunyani is very poor as compared with standards of living in America. Most of the people live in mud shacks or one room housing. They cook outside on open fires; there are generally no bathroom facilities nor indoor plumbing and running water, and electricity is sporadic at best. Most have no cars, no TV. The children have no toys or games. The people worry about what they will eat each day, so athletics and sports are not prevalent in their lives-- with the exception of a love of soccer. Groups of young Ghanaians and children are often seen playing in the dirt roads with balls made of paper and packing tape and goals of sticks or rocks or whatever is available. When the possibility of a sporting event like the Olympics became a reality, they were excited beyond belief.
Gary and Kathie Thayne, long time residents of St. George, are currently serving an LDS mission in Sunyani, Ghana and contacted the Huntsman World Senior Games about the upcoming event. The management of the Games generously donated old medals to be given to the winners of each of the competitions.
On January 4 and 5, 2013, the first annual Sunyani Olympic-type event was held comprising nine sports which included basketball, volleyball, table tennis, javelin/spear chucking, 100 meter run, relay race, three-legged race, tug of war and of course, soccer. All ages competed and many played with bare feet. Over 170 athletes participated and 60 gold and silver medals were awarded. Days later, many were still seen being worn by proud recipients. They would proudly point to the motto of the Games which is imprinted on each medal and says “to foster worldwide health, friendship and peace.”
A bond of friendship and appreciation has evolved and these new-found friends in Africa proudly point to the map of the United States and St. George, Utah. They will never forget the kindness and generosity shown them. The medals they won hang proudly on mud walls, rough-hewn doors and still around some of their necks and will be their proud possessions for many, many years. What a great way to start the New Year!