Recipient’s big heart underscores meaning of Tentanda Via scholarship

By Elaine Smith

Since 2019, Inis Tagbor has been on the board for Heart of a Child, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that she and her high school friends founded to assist youth in impoverished areas of Accra, Ghana. Her volunteer work is one of the reasons she earned one of York University’s Tentanda Via Awards, scholarships that recognize undergraduate students who have demonstrated resilience in overcoming significant personal barriers in the pursuit of a university education and changemakers who are committed to progressive and sustainable development issues. 

“We started the NGO after Angel, a friend of mine, spoke about seeing children at orphanages,” says Tagbor, a member of the Ewe tribe, who is now vice-president of the organization. To me, community is a big deal. No one gets to choose how they are born or who their parents are. It’s not your fault that you’re in the orphanage and can’t get out without help. Her speech touched me and a group of us came together to help.

“I started working with Heart of a Child at 14,” she adds. “We’re focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we’ve been feeding children through food drives. We’ve also raised fund to take three children for major surgery in hospital.”

With all four members of the executive now in university, two of them outside of Ghana, they are finding the NGO’s work harder to fit into their schedules, but, says Tagbor, “I am still able to remember why we started the organization in the first place and it keeps the fire burning.”

Tagbor became interested in York University after a recruiter visited her high school in 2022.

“After two years of taking high school for granted, I realized I had to get serious and began to study really hard,” she says. “Because I had become obsessed with choosing a university, I wanted options, so I put in the work on the last lap.”

The work paid off and Tagbor has fulfilled her dream of attending York where she is majoring in political science

“I’m glad I love to read, because coming from Africa, I had to catch up on my knowledge of the Canadian political system,” she says.

She hopes to add a communications minor later. During high school, she was a debater, earned a number of literature prizes and started a podcast geared toward the Gen Z market and focusing on social issues, entertainment and education, something she hopes to revive eventually.

In addition to the cold weather, the biggest shock Tagbor has had is the sticker shock from the harmonized sales tax (HST) of 13 per cent.

“The taxes are impossible, especially since I don’t have a job yet,” she says. “I always convert the amount back to Ghanaian cedis. It makes me very frugal, because I think to myself, ‘This amount could feed a family of five in Ghana.’”

Since she attended a boarding high school, Tagbor is quickly settling into life in residence and hasn’t found it difficult to make friends at York.

“I am very independent, but here in Canada, it has really shown me how much I can miss home,” she says. “Here, my mom can’t just drive down to see me.”