Skip to content

Student Spotlight: Going Bald for a Cause

Neptune Day celebrations for the Spring 2014 50th Anniversary Voyage.

When Rachel Marra, a student at SUNY New Paltz, decided to join the Spring 2014 voyage, she made a promise to herself: on Neptune Day, a longstanding SAS tradition, she would shave her head and donate her long, beautiful hair to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. She also pledged to raise money from friends and family back home and donate it to an autistic center in Ghana – with Sarah, her 33-year-old autistic sister, in mind.

Rachel used an online fund-raising platform called GoFundMe and asked her friends, family and strangers to sponsor her to shave her head and “raise money for a home for children with disabilities in Ghana.”  She and her father called the campaign “I’m Ghana Go Bald!”


In her post, on GoFundMe she wrote: “Please sponsor me to shave my head and together we can improve the lives of those in need!” By Neptune Day on March 17, she had raised $1,030.

Rachel and her sister Sarah, the inspiration for her fundraising.

Rachel knew that she wanted to donate to a program that helped those with disabilities. Her older sister Sarah inspired her. ‚ÄúShe has made a huge influence on my life. She is one of the most amazing people I know,‚Äù Rachel says. Sarah has a great support system at home, however ‚Äúthere are many people around the world like her who aren‚Äôt nearly as lucky.” There are many who “don‚Äôt have the resources or support that they need in their life,‚Äù Rachel says.

Rachel and her father, Michael, looked into homes, schools and other programs in Ghana for those with disabilities and found the New Horizon Special School. This program does not receive government grants, but is funded by school fees, proceeds from their school shop, fund raising activities and donations from individuals and organizations. The school‚Äôs main objective is ‚Äúto develop each child’s potential to the fullest so that he or she can lead [a] productive and satisfying life.‚Äù

Rachel appreciated their mission and got in contact with the school principal, Vanessa Adu-Akorsa. Ms. Adu-Akorsah was overjoyed to hear about Rachel and her sister and was astonished by the significant donation.

Doing this made me more aware of the conditions and living situations for people with disabilities around the world and it makes me want to do something to improve those conditions.

New Horizon Special School

“SAS really gave me this opportunity,” Rachel said. “If I were to do this same fundraiser at home I probably would end up donating to another cause, but when you’re in a country you see people in need and you want to help them.” Sadly, while Semester at Sea was in Ghana the school’s children were on holiday break so Rachel did not get to visit with them as planned. However, she still donated the money to the program.

Thanks to SAS, Rachel was able to do more than just visit with children at an orphanage and hand out donations. Rather she has been able to really “help these kids and potentially give them a better future.” She never could have done this without SAS and she never would have if it weren’t for her sister.

  • Life at Sea

Related Articles

Who’s On Board? Meet Dorcas, our Tutu Ubuntu Scholar
Read More
Semester at Sea updates Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 itineraries with new destinations on three continents
Read More
Spring 2023 Voyage: By the Numbers
Read More