Westmont Magazine Out of Africa
Student body president hopes to return one day to his native Africa
As a political refugee from tumultuous Sierra Leone, Mark “Jay” Ofori has had a difficult, painful life. The student body president lost his mother when he was 4; his father, who was politically active in the Sierra Leone government, perished at the hands of rebels in a civil war when Jay was 15.
Suddenly, Africa was no longer safe for him. Although his grandparents lived in Ghana,the country was flooded with political refugees, and Jay had to flee to Costa Rica instead. “It was difficult to move, especially going to a country where I didn’t speak the language,” he says. “I didn’t know anybody, and I found myself in a place where there was no hope for me.”
Jay began attending Escazu Christian Fellowship Church in Costa Rica, where he met Tom Ghormley, the owner of a Costa Rican real estate agency. The American eventually adopted Jay and encouraged him to attend Westmont after graduating from high school. Four of Gormley’s nieces are alumnae: Kathleen Sieck ’98, Molly Le Pley ’03, Elizabeth Le Pley ’05 and Harriet Ghormley ’06.
“When I was in the 11th grade, I came to the United States for the first time to look for schools,” Jay says. “I fell in love with Westmont.” The 22-year old junior is majoring in political science. As president, he has been active in securing funds for improvements to Kerr Student Center and improving on-campus lighting.
Not surprisingly he hopes to work with the United Nations, become a diplomat and eventually return to Ghana. “I have a really good opportunity,” he says. “By studying in the United States, I have made connections with people who are willing to give a helping hand to other countries.”
Although he became a Christian at the age of 6, his faith didn’t grow until he left Ghana and began to see God’s provision in the midst of the turmoil in his life. “I consider myself truly blessed,” he says.
“Although my parents passed away, I’ve had relatives and friends who have graciously taken care of me. Traveling and living in Costa Rica and coming here, I feel that God is calling me for something bigger.”