OUR STORY BEGAN WITH SHADRACK FRIMPONG, AND HIS COMMITMENT TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
Cocoa360’s inception was guided by the deep-seated frustration that accompanied the grave poverty that its founder experienced first-hand as a child growing up in Tarkwa Breman, a cocoa farming village in rural Western Ghana without electricity or running water. At age nine, he contracted an infection that nearly resulted in the amputation of his legs. Several months passed before his parents could find enough money to send him to the nearest hospital, five hours away. Years later, he would become the first person from his village to attend college in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, he graduated with a B.A. in Biology after being awarded the $150,0000 President’s Engagement Prize (PEP), one of Penn’s highest competitive honors for graduates (Ozio, 2015).
With seed funding from the PEP and another $15,000 from the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, he founded Tarkwa Breman Community Alliance (later renamed Cocoa360). A crucial step after winning the SH and PEP awards was forming a team and establishing an organization for operations. It was easy to recruit people to pursue the vision; peers from Penn, including some young visionary Ghanaians, were inspired to join him. The founder led the team as the Executive Director, his colleagues took over roles in financial management, partnerships and fundraising, and creative design. Together, they went to Tarkwa Breman where they were welcomed with support in guidance and land donation. Led by the community leaders, including the Chief and the Council of Elders, the Tarkwa Breman community provided 50 acres of land for Cocoa360’s work. They also worked with the community members to create a Village Committee (VC), a decision-making body comprised of the most respected citizens in the community, to ensure that the organization’s work reflects the interests of the community and to provide operational counsel for Cocoa360’s leadership (Larbi, 2015).