Who are we? Read our Story

All children should have the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to break the cycle of poverty, raise healthier families, and help build their communities.

A quality education is the basis for a productive life, and we work especially hard to train our teachers and inspire our students. Globally, there are 58 million children that are not able to go to school. Accessing education is particularly difficult for vulnerable girls born into poor communities. As a child grows older, the fight to get an education becomes even harder. His or her family must be willing to pay school fees. That child risks long, often unsafe walks to school. If she is a girl, she is much more likely to be forced to marry at a young age. And that child will often lack access to healthcare and the support he or she needs to learn.Nusem

To address this, the Happy Kids School educates 200 vulnerable children every day. With a staff of 18 teachers, children are taught from nursery age up to junior high. The school originally lacked the resources, skills and staffing to properly educate the children, and as such many students are still behind academically.

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We are still working to improve the educational quality of the school, namely through building teacher capacity around literacy and numeracy skills, strengthening the ability of our school administrators, and encouraging Parent Teacher Associations to support students and staff. The school also teaches in English, and focuses on literacy activities. We are sure to engage our children and staff in workshops in gender equality, first aid, and HIV/aids prevention. Through the use of the internet cafe, we are working to implement technology that broadens our students horizons.

The school follows the Ghanaian curriculum, with additional international resources typically being implemented into lesson planning. The classes are also engaged in practicums including IT classes in the internet café and farming practicums.

 

The Ghana Team

Founder

Elizabeth Gbone

Elizabeth founded Happy Kids in 1995 as a response to the wide array of orphans and vulnerable street children in Gbi-Wegbe. Without pay or assistance, Elizabeth started holding classes under the shade of a large tree. Determined to help the children grow out of the poverty they born into, Elizabeth named the school “Best Foundation Happy Kids Preparatory School.” Happy Kids eventually relocated to a one-room mud-brick building. They had no books or pencils or paper, and Elizabeth struggled to feed the many children that stayed at the orphanage. She survived only on donations from the community. Her children, Patience and Emmanuel, started working to help her as teachers in the school. Since beginning to work with Kelsey in 2010, Elizabeth has worked tirelessly to maintain the projects and improve the school. She lives at Happy Kids 24/7 and has sacrificed everything to push it forward. Elizabeth is a modern day hero who has truly dedicated her life to creating opportunity for children that need it most.

Elizabeth founded Happy Kids in 1995 as a response to the wide array of orphans and vulnerable street children in Gbi-Wegbe. Without pay or assistance, Elizabeth started holding classes under the shade of a large tree. Determined to help the children grow out of the poverty they born into, Elizabeth named the school “Best Foundation Happy […]

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Program Director

Godsway Agyagbo

Godsway grew up at Happy Kids as Elizabeth’s step-son, and works as a Program Director and serves as an invaluable team member who helps to manage and oversee our livestock and farming projects, and also works consistently to plan empowering and income generating projects for the kids. He is a smart, dedicated, and loving force for our kids and organisation. Godsway is a brilliant and creative person who is always seeking out unique, community-based solutions to the challenges Happy Kids faces. Godsway is currently studying Graphic Design in Accra at a University, all while being the guardian and adviser for our oldest kids that are entering and/or progressing in secondary school.

Godsway grew up at Happy Kids as Elizabeth’s step-son, and works as a Program Director and serves as an invaluable team member who helps to manage and oversee our livestock and farming projects, and also works consistently to plan empowering and income generating projects for the kids. He is a smart, dedicated, and loving force […]

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Program Manager

Emmanuel Agyagbo

Emmanuel (“Emma”) is Elizabeth’s son, and the driving force that pushes progress forward in Ghana. Emma is also Happy Kids link to the outside world. Despite being one of the brightest students in his class, Emma decided to sacrifice numerous other jobs and opportunities to work at Happy Kids. He is a brilliant computer technician, and manages the Internet cafe full time. He teaches the computer literacy class to the children and in the community, and periodically fixes computers in town to bring in an income. Emma is also a skilled Project Manager, and has learned to manage Happy Kid’s variety of projects and budgets. He handles the finances and assists in managing the teaching staff. Emma works all hours of the day to keep us updated on the children and projects, and to continue to market Happy Kid’s variety of income generating projects. Emma is our voice and our talent.

Emmanuel (“Emma”) is Elizabeth’s son, and the driving force that pushes progress forward in Ghana. Emma is also Happy Kids link to the outside world. Despite being one of the brightest students in his class, Emma decided to sacrifice numerous other jobs and opportunities to work at Happy Kids. He is a brilliant computer technician, […]

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Director

Knox Odumah

Over the last decade, Knox has been involved at various levels within the volunteering field and youth development work. He is deeply passionate about volunteering and working with children to educate them and provide a forum for them to begin making a difference. These projects have included improving the lives of those in destitute communities, working with vulnerable populations, and bridging the gap between those from more affluent backgrounds with those less privileged in society. This passion influenced his decision to study Youth Development Studies at the University of Ghana and to further gain experience over the last decade both locally and internationally.

Knox strongly believes that we should all be the change we want to see in the world. Through this mantra, he decided to pursue social work within his career in order to provide a helping hand to the vulnerable. This drive and passion is something that has attracted Knox to Happy Kids and  their mission to empower children by giving them resources to create a future not defined by their circumstances.  His ability to help provide vulnerable children access to education health care, housing, nutrition, and income generating skills is what has inspired him to work with Happy Kids.

Previously, Knox held the position of Project Supervisor for Platform2 from 2008 to 2010, and Project Supervisor in Newfounlad in Canada 2013-2015 where he was responsible for supervising groups of between 16-48 British volunteers on projects such as teaching, construction and childcare. He has also supervised a group of volunteers from the International Student House, Cross Culture Solution, Gbi Special School for Intellectually Disabled Children.

While in Canada,  Knox volunteered with Canada World Youth, The YMCA, homeless shelters, community kitchens, gave presentations at local schools, and assisted at a community clinic doing outreach work. When he returned to Ghana, he continued his outreach work by assisting on a water and sanitation project and by providing his expertise to the Daughters of Africa. This latter project allowed him to work on building the capacity of young women in the community and create awareness on HIV/AIDS in collaboration with St. Francis Xavier hospital in Assin Fosu. He later returned back to Canada as Project Supervisor on the same project.

With all of these experiences, Knox has gained strong leadership skills and a strict work ethic. He works effectively with groups and individuals of various cultural and religious backgrounds. He can respond to and adapt quickly to new situations and maintain a high level of motivation in his work, which he uses to boost group morale and keep projects on track. Knox always carries out tasks with diligence and enthusiasm.

Over the last decade, Knox has been involved at various levels within the volunteering field and youth development work. He is deeply passionate about volunteering and working with children to educate them and provide a forum for them to begin making a difference. These projects have included improving the lives of those in destitute communities, […]

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The US Board

President

Kelsey Finnegan

Kelsey began working in Ghana in 2009 as a volunteer in a local school. Recognizing the desperate state of Happy Kids, Kelsey began fundraising for and managing construction of infrastructure projects in 2010. While still studying in University, Kelsey returned to Ghana each year to implement new projects that would support long-term sustainability. Eventually, Happy Kids was formally registered as an NGO in Ghana with Kelsey acting as Director and President of the US Board. As President, Kelsey supports both the Ghana and US based teams in strategic planning, children’s welfare, fundraising and overall management and mentoring of project staff. With her expertise on Africa and career in development and humanitarian work, Kelsey is particularly well versed on non-profit management, Ghanaian culture and each of the Happy Kids children. In the 9 years since she began working in Ghana, Kelsey has  worked with refugees in South Africa, spent four years managing nationwide projects for genocide survivors in Rwanda, and has worked as a consultant for the United Nations in conflict zones including the Central African Republic. Kelsey and Happy Kids were honored by President Bill Clinton at CGIU as a Commitment for Action in 2011. She was also a featured speaker at Google Headquarters for Talks@Google in 2015, as well as the “World of Warriors” ESOMAR social good research summit in 2016. Kelsey is currently based in New York City where she is pursuing a Masters Degree at Columbia University in International Affairs, specializing in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy. Her commitment to Happy Kids is long-term, and she continues to support Happy Kids from a distance.

Kelsey began working in Ghana in 2009 as a volunteer in a local school. Recognizing the desperate state of Happy Kids, Kelsey began fundraising for and managing construction of infrastructure projects in 2010. While still studying in University, Kelsey returned to Ghana each year to implement new projects that would support long-term sustainability. Eventually, Happy […]

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Vice President / Director of Special Programs

Cassie Rosengren

Cassie Rosengren is Co-Founder Digital Knack, a boutique recruiting firm that helps socially responsible tech companies build teams and scale culture in the United States. With a B.S. in Communications and Entrepreneurship from UCSB, Cassie’s career started in Marketing & PR where she took special notice of Corporate Social Responsibility Programs. At a young age, Cassie was lucky to travel globally. With an early awareness that each of us are inextricably connected, she felt it would be a part of her responsibility in this life to empower those capable, yet not accessible to resources of survival, growth and development. 5+ years ago, Cassie started to work at Happy Kids as a volunteer – it was love at first sight and since then, Cassie has dedicated her social impact efforts to Happy Kids. Over the years, she began to see a need for long-term, sustainable support to help raise our children, prepare for future generations, and generate local sustainability on the ground in Ghana. As the Vice President of the U.S. Happy Kids Board, Cassie is the bridge between the Ghana Management Team, and the U.S. Team. She supports Kelsey Finnegan, President of U.S. Board, with ensuring that all programs and initiatives necessary to deliver well-rounded child development including education, nutrition, creative expression, love and personal growth are in place for Happy Kids. Cassie also increases awareness and donation engagement while spearheading the Volunteer Program and Strategic Partnerships (US and Ghana).

Cassie Rosengren is Co-Founder Digital Knack, a boutique recruiting firm that helps socially responsible tech companies build teams and scale culture in the United States. With a B.S. in Communications and Entrepreneurship from UCSB, Cassie’s career started in Marketing & PR where she took special notice of Corporate Social Responsibility Programs. At a young age, […]

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Director of Finance

Paul Needels

Paul first learned about Happy Kids in 2011 from his daughters, Cassie and Christy, who are also board members. After a few years and several visits working with Happy Kids children and leadership in Ghana, his love for the kids and passion for impacting Happy Kids mission has grown alongside his involvement – he now acts as Chief Financial Officer for Happy Kids Foundation, working to empower the local Ghana Team to establish and maintain a financial management system that gives way to a transparent, sustainable and high functioning organization which operates on a grassroots budget. Paul is SVP at Informa Research Services, where he consults with the U.S. financial sector.

Paul first learned about Happy Kids in 2011 from his daughters, Cassie and Christy, who are also board members. After a few years and several visits working with Happy Kids children and leadership in Ghana, his love for the kids and passion for impacting Happy Kids mission has grown alongside his involvement – he now […]

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Director of Communication & Sponsorship

Natalie Mancini

Natalie first fell in love with traveling after she graduated college and went on a backpacking trip with friends.  Like most people who travel to developing countries, her eyes were quickly opened to the extreme poverty and dire circumstances that exists in many parts of the world.  Her travels soon began to have a purpose, to find those in need and use her resources and strengths to help in any way that she could.  After several attempts to volunteer with other organizations, she began to feel frustrated with the lack of accountability and transparency she encountered.  She then heard about a Grass Roots Organization called Happy Kids.  In 2016, she made the trip to Ghana and instantly fell in love with the kids.  She saw a need and a clear way to be apart of the solution, confident her support would be used in the right way.  Partnering with the Ghana team and the Director of Happy Kids, Natalie continued to help after she returned home as an advocate for Happy Kids, following up with projects initiated while in country. Currently, Natalie serves as the Director of Communications for the Happy Kids US Board.  Some of her duties include sponsorship communication, managing child updates, and sharing social media content.

Natalie first fell in love with traveling after she graduated college and went on a backpacking trip with friends.  Like most people who travel to developing countries, her eyes were quickly opened to the extreme poverty and dire circumstances that exists in many parts of the world.  Her travels soon began to have a purpose, […]

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Director of Education

Christine Joseph

Christine Joseph was born into a family of educators, so it was a natural fit for her to become a teacher as well. Originally from Kailua, Hawaii, Christine grew up in the United States Air Force, traveling within the continental states until age 26 when she moved to Los Angeles, California and planted roots. Christine is married and has one son who is currently earning his masters degree in college.  Christine has been teaching for 15 years. She started by working with inner-city kids and has since worked with all age groups but specializes in preschool ages 3 to 6 years old. Christine holds two associates degrees in education and humanities as well as a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies with a concentration in child development. Christine has worked extensively with special needs children and physically disabled children. In addition to a full-time teaching position, Christine owns and operates her own dessert business.

Christine Joseph was born into a family of educators, so it was a natural fit for her to become a teacher as well. Originally from Kailua, Hawaii, Christine grew up in the United States Air Force, traveling within the continental states until age 26 when she moved to Los Angeles, California and planted roots. Christine […]

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Director of Fund Development

Christy Mahar

Christy Mahar has been in a product marketer for over 6 years and recently joining a Santa Barbara based property management software company AppFolio, where she drive the go to market strategies that connect their product to its customers and prospects. With a B.S. in Communications and Entrepreneurship from UCSB, Christy found her passion for activism and technology early on. She led student organizations Students Coalition and Dialogue for Peace that raised awareness and funds to alleviate human need domestically and abroad. One of the organizations she became connected to through her work as a student leader was Happy Kids. After learning about the organization and partnering from afar, Christy joined Happy Kids the summer of 2011 and was instantly hooked by the kids laughter, dedication to learn and love for each other. Happy Kids has grown significantly since she first taught a class under palm trees. It is the impact of this progress that makes her incredibly excited and dedicated to the future of Happy Kids. Christy is focused on ensuring we are able to support the future growth of Happy Kids by becoming a US registered non-profit and working with the board to identify future grant and partnership opportunities.

Christy Mahar has been in a product marketer for over 6 years and recently joining a Santa Barbara based property management software company AppFolio, where she drive the go to market strategies that connect their product to its customers and prospects. With a B.S. in Communications and Entrepreneurship from UCSB, Christy found her passion for activism […]

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Creating Opportunity

We work to empower vulnerable children so that they can grow up to be whoever they want to be

What do we do? See Our Work

Empowerment

We implement a variety of projects that empower children to know their value and develop the means to supporting themselves in adulthood.

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Sponsorship

Sponsorship of individual children enables us to support and care for vulnerable children who have been abandoned or orphaned.

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Education & Housing

We provide well-rounded, quality education to 140 students and house 40 vulnerable children and orphans every day.

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Advocating

We work to spread awareness for the benefit of our kids and for children living in poverty all over the world.

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