Meet Courtney Bullard, Co-Founder and Executive Director at The Pearl House Academy, a non-profit that provides physical care, emotional support, spiritual development, and life-changing academic/vocational opportunities to girls in Ghana.
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Courtney Bullard leapt faith when she decided to bring light to the lives of several vulnerable girls in a faraway country of Africa. It all started when her husband visited Ghana, Africa, with his students and came back with frightening stories of young girls being sold into slavery and child marriage. There was no hope for these girls, and Courtney couldn’t stop thinking about them. She was already running Individually Designed ministries in the States, an organization that focused on reaching and empowering teenage girls with the message of Christ’s love. Being someone who lives across the ocean from them, she wondered how she could help the girls.
The next thing she knew, she was in Africa, visiting orphanages and assessing the situation. She realized that they need to have someone with boots on the ground, an American who could help them. She found that person in Courtney Garland who moved to Ghana to run a home for teenage girls. Together they, along with Bullard’s husband, started working on establishing The Pearl House Academy. They connected with a local pastor and sought their help to find girls who can come live at the house.
The name The Pearl House Academy is inspired by a verse in the Bible, The Parable of the Pearl, also called the Pearl of Great Price. The girls are valuable and priceless like pearls. She says that pearls have value and worth, but you don’t see it until they are brought to the surface. In the same way, these girls have value and worth, and a lot of them were realizing it for the first time. First, ten girls showed up at the house and then a batch of another ten. That’s how they started The Pearl House Academy with 20 girls back in 2013. These girls were poor, orphans, or had only one living relative. Presently, the non-profit houses 49 girls.
Sharing the mission of the non-profit, she says, “The Pearl House Academy and Esombo empowers, protects, employs, and educates women in Ghana, West Africa. Because of The Pearl House Academy, girls’ lives are forever being changed. They know how to dream and to dream big. They know what hope looks like, and they want to pass that along, helping to change their nation. Because of Esombo, Ghanaian women are being employed and empowered through the jewellery and soft goods being sold!”At a walking distance from the house, they have set up a Pearls Academy with almost 300 students. It is a co-educational school, where the girls of the house study in an environment where they are taught to raise their voices and realize their potential. The boys are educated in the same environment to learn the right values. The forty-employee non-profit is gearing up to take in more kids very soon.
In another region of Ghana, they have started a Pearl House Career Center where they work with girls between the ages of 17-22 years old who have missed the education opportunities. This includes single moms with no way to provide for themselves and their families. They run a two-year program, teaching these girls English, reading, writing, running a small business, etc. The school had its first graduating class last year. These women work in their own shops sewing up to 10-15 dresses a week.
Talking about the challenges they faced while setting up the non-profit, Courtney notes that the girls come from different regions in Ghana, and most regions don’t necessarily get along well. They brought them to one household to live together where they quickly grew fond of each other and are like sisters now. Another issue was that most of the girls did not speak English, making it difficult for their team to communicate with them. The Pearl House is a safe haven, and they need to let these girls know of their safety, which can only be done through proper communication. She states that trust must be earned and that it takes time for the girls to realize they no longer have to live in fear.
Courtney and her team have brought a huge change in the lives of these girls. Knowing that she can help not one person but so many give her immense happiness. Leaving a motivating message for her readers, she says, “We all have one life that we can use to make a difference in other people’s lives. It starts from knowing who you are, your value, worth, and purpose. This can lead you to make an impact and make every day count. You matter. Your voice matters. Your life matters. God loves you, sees you, is for you, and is cheering you on. You are never alone.”