Weather Forecast


Lakefield natives to volunteer in Ghana orphanage

Map of Ghana1 / 2
Adrianna Cranston (left) and Aaron Brandt, both natives of Lakefield, will travel to Ghana in May to volunteer at an orphanage for two weeks through the International Volunteer HQ program. Submitted Photo2 / 2

LAKEFIELD — A couple of Lakefield natives will travel next month to Ghana, in western Africa, to work in an orphanage program alongside other volunteers from around the world.

Adrianna Cranston and Aaron Brandt are participating in the International Volunteer HQ program, which sends thousands of volunteers to work in more than 20 countries annually. Established in 2007, the IVHQ has hundreds of different projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Cranston, a 2013 graduate of Worthington High School, learned about the program through a book she read in a common readings program at St. Cloud State University, where she is a freshman majoring in business management with a focus in human resources.

After doing some research about the program online at, she connected with the volunteer organization last November and began setting up the details.

“I was doing some research, and Ghana was pretty safe,” Cranston said of her choice for volunteer service. “It worked for the time frame we wanted to go … to come back and still work for the summer.”

Cranston and Brandt are dating, and when she mentioned the opportunity for a volunteer experience in Ghana, Brandt said he’d like to go as well.

“I’ve had a lot of friends who have volunteered overseas. I definitely wanted to do that,” Brandt said. “I think it would be a good time — a good opportunity to do this year … and definitely a good opportunity to help an orphanage.”

Brandt, a 2011 graduate of Jackson County Central High School, is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he is pursuing a double major in accounting and finance. He is the son of William and Rhonda Brandt of Lakefield, while Cranston is the daughter of Dan Cranston of Lakefield and Michele Hawkinson of Marshall.

While in Ghana, Brandt and Cranston will stay with host families. Each morning they will go to an orphanage to wake the children, get them ready for school and walk them to school. The volunteers can then choose either to stay with the children at school or spend the time doing other things. When school is finished for the day, the volunteers walk them back to the orphanage and spend the remainder of the day with them.

“(We will) play with them, make their food, take care of them and basically spend time with them,” Cranston said.

The children in the orphanage are all ages, said Brandt, ranging from the really young to teenagers of 15 or 16.

Having seen images of the orphanage online through her research of IVHQ, Cranston said she’s excited for the experience.

“I’m excited to hang out with the kids and the memories I’ll make,” she said. “I always wanted to study abroad. I like traveling, and I like to help someone out while I’m doing it.”

“It’s going to be a good eye-opening experience and it’s going to be a great opportunity,” added Brandt.

They will depart from the Twin Cities May 13, with layovers in Chicago and London. In all, the trip will take approximately 25 hours.

Both Cranston and Brandt said their families have been supportive. They had to raise money to pay for the trip, opting to sell butter braids to family and friends. The major cost was airfare, with the program fees amounting to $300, with another $200 to $300 to cover their time in-country. There was also the cost for visas and a series of six shots required for travel to Ghana.

“They’re excited, and they think it should be fun, but they’re also pretty worried,” said Cranston of her parents. “My dad’s a small-town farmer, and not a lot of people do that around where we’re from — he’s a little nervous about it.”

Brandt and Cranston are expected to return to Minnesota May 31.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330