Throughout the 2006-2007 school year, Rachel Bervell, founder of Hugs for Ghana, had a vision. With the opportunity and resources close at hand, Rachel formulated an organization focused on children, the most vulnerable, yet able individuals, of Ghana, West Africa. As a first generation American-Ghanaian herself, Rachel was familiar with the lifestyles of the many disadvantaged children, and saw her visit to Ghana in the summer of 2007 as a catalyst to serve. Reaching out to several of her peers, Rachel along with Candace Wanner, Elise Wolff, Michelle Kim, and Abbey Blackwell were able to defy the traditional roles of high school students. They showed that anyone had the ability to create something great in others’ lives. During a 14-day period beginning on 29th of May through the 15th of June, advertisements, posters, and flyers were set up and distributed among the high school students of Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Washington, United States, requesting that students should support the motivation of their peer students, and bring, as a first project, stuffed animals and teddy bears. All the stuffed animal toys , the students were told, would go directly to children of Ghanaian hospitals and orphanages. Because of the joy that a stuffed animal could bring to a child, drive was called Hugs for Ghana. The collecting of the toys was administered and sponsored by the Kamiak students in various classes and clubs; the Viscom Broadcasting class announced the progress and reiterated the objective of the drive through out May and June, the Newspaper class covered Hugs for Ghana story, the Leadership class aided the setting up of posters around the school and collected teddy bears from classrooms, and the Kamiak Key Club (a community service group) created articles and collected toys, as well. Because of the charitable goals of Hugs for Ghana, the prospective organization at the time collected over one thousand stuffed animals, which would all encourage the spirit of a Ghanaian child.
Joel Bervell is Hugs for Ghana's former President and current Chief Operation Officer. In addition to the Teddy Bears for Ghana project, Joel decided to direct Hugs for Ghana's initiatives towards improving the education and health care of Ghanaian children. Realizing that many children do not have access to proper education because of a lack of the necessary equipment, Joel enacted multiple school supply drives at his local high school, Kamiak High School. Utilizing his position as Student Government President, Joel rallied his high school and encouraged them to donate school supplies, telling them that the supplies would be hand-delivered to Ghanaian children in orphanages, and remote villages. By the end of two school supply drives over 6,000 pencils, pens, backpacks, etc. were collected. These supplies were hand-delivered by Joel to children in Ghana, Africa during the summer of 2011. Most recently, Joel returned back to Ghana in January 2014 with Michael to deliver sports equipment to children in Ghana. Joel is hard at work planning the first ever group trip to Ghana, a trip that will include multiple Washington State students.