Ibrahim Anyars Salih '16 left his hometown of Aboabo Kumasi, Ghana 10 years ago, at the age of 16, to come to the United State of America to receive an education and play basketball, one of the most popular sports in his native country. His goal was very clear--to use his education to enhance the lives of those I left behind.
Salih arrived in Maryland in 2008 and attended Glenelg Country School in Howard County. He graduated high school in 2010 and, helped by a basketball scholarship, went on to attend Hill College in Texas. In 2012, he transferred to Howard Community College. After receiving his Associates Degree in 2014, Salih matriculated to Hood College. Salih graduated from Hood with a degree in business administration and currently works as an assistant salesforce administrator at Zephyr, a software company in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. He has been married to his wife, Ayat Salih, just over a year.
"I definitely feel Hood College prepared me both academically and socially for my adult life and career," said Salih. "I learned to be a team player, but also to lead when appropriate or necessary. I improved my communication skills, which was especially difficult, as English was not my native language. Academic and social activities gave me the opportunity to practice voicing my opinion, listening, and responding to others in order to reach a compromise."
Last month, Salih had the opportunity to visit his hometown in Ghana and provide community service to the village. The first phase of his 9-day mission was holding a basketball clinic. Salih met with his former basketball team to help the players enhance their basketball skills and share his experiences as a former student-athlete in the U.S. He talked to the younger players (ages 16-22) about what it takes to become a good teammate and the importance of sportsmanship.
"Thanks to Hood College men's basketball coach Chad Dickman, who donated beautiful jerseys, shorts, and shirts to give out to the team, I was able to provide many players with much-needed basketball clothing and gear. The guys loved the jerseys and were very appreciative. They were screaming and jumping up and down, excited about how beautiful the Nike jerseys were. They usually get their clothes from the local stores in Ghana which is not nearly the quality of the ones that Hood College provided. They were extremely grateful and you knew from the excitement on their faces that they were very happy," said Salih.
"It's really moving to hear that you played a small role in a person's happiness half the world away, and seeing the pictures was absolutely awesome. The world needs more people like Anyars. He looks like he could have been an NFL linebacker, but he's one of the most caring, genuine, courteous, appreciative, positive people I've ever met. There aren't enough words to express what a great person he is and we were very lucky to have him on our campus a couple years. For him to contribute the time and money he does to help out his native community is extremely inspiring and special," stated Dickman.
The second phase of Salih's mission was visiting a community health clinic, which provided medical treatment for close to 120 patients. The patients were examined for symptoms of hypertension and diabetes while being provided with health education materials.
"We also were able to distribute multivitamins, Ibuprofen, and prescription medicine for high blood pressure and blood glucose. In addition to health screenings and educational literature, we provided reading glasses to those in need. Community members were asked to bring any prescribed medication they were already taking, then were informed if the new medications could be taken in conjunction with the old medicine or not, and in many cases, the old medication was replaced," said Salih.
The final phase of Salih's mission in Ghana was visiting the Salih Self-Development Center and Vocational Training Center, which was coined by Salih to honor his family. Salih described one of his favorite parts of the center, "During our visit we had a discussion with 12 students about the importance of learning a trade or vocation, and in their case, to sew clothing. Some students relayed how positive their experience has been in the environment created by the SSDC Sewing Center. We saw the culmination of this experience in the beautiful designs of clothing that were made by the students for their village. Construction of the new sewing center is underway, which will allow us to accommodate more disadvantaged children who are interested in learning sewing skills."
Salih's work isn't done. He was so moved by his visit that he is determined to return to Ghana once a year to help out in similar capacities. "I feel there is a lot of potential for these people to grow individually and players to grow as athletes."