When Jason Nkansah ’21 was in middle school, he was teased and bullied for his weight. Over time, he developed insecurities about himself - avoiding social circles as much as possible.

Years later, now as a college student, Jason is no more the defenseless middle-school kid who was at the receiving end of jokes and ridicule from his friends. Having overcome his troubling experiences from bullying, dealing with insecurity and feeling unaccepted, he believes his story is one members of the Ashesi community need to hear.

So when he heard about the Human Library, he signed up, alongside 20 other volunteers.

“Before this, I had never told my story, but I felt people needed to know that I went through experiences like this,” he said. “As human beings, we hurt people and do get hurt at times, and perhaps there’s someone who felt or is feeling like I did, so I owe it to them to share how I overcame my struggles and insecurities.”

Organized by the Office of Diversity and International Programs, the focus of the Ashesi Human Library was to encourage open conversations and provide a platform for people to share their stories with other members of the community. 

“In the long term we believe the stories shared will help us understand the diverse groups we have on campus, as well as help people connect and empathise with one another,” said Benardine Holdbrook Ghanson, Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

In 2000, two Danish brothers started the Human Library as a movement designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue in a community. Over time, the initiative has spread worldwide, and has been adapted by a number communities to help people share conversations that matter to them.

For its first edition, Ashesi’s Human Library attracted faculty, staff and students alike, many of whom shared very personal parts of their lives.

“The Human Library serves as a spring board for other initiatives aimed at building strong connections within members of our community,” Ghanson said. “ So we hope to leverage the connections made to help build a more tolerant community.”