Candice North ’04 helps orphaned children in Ghana get an education

Candice North

In Ghana, K-12 education is not free, so orphaned children tend not to attend school unless someone sponsors them. Candice North ’04 is addressing that need. She started the nonprofit Building One Community at a Time (BOCAT) which works to enroll orphaned children in Nalerigu, Ghana.

As a first-generation student who grew up in rural Montana, North chose to attend Ripon College because she wanted a strong undergraduate experience. She also sought a supportive environment where she wouldn’t be overwhelmed like she would have been at a large university.

North majored in biology and minored in psychology, and her Ripon experience included finding a small, unique set of friends to grow and develop with. “With the intimate atmosphere of Ripon, you can develop these lifelong friendships that continue to be reliable as life challenges arise,” she says.

After graduating from Ripon, North attended medical school at the University of Arizona.

She now is an adult hospitalist at Sutter Sacramento Medical Center where she performs rounds on patients and coordinates inpatient care. She has been exceptionally busy caring for COVID-19 patients.

Her psychology experience from Ripon is useful for her as a physician as she analyzes body language “to decide what approach to take when discussing difficult topics. … Are these people who welcome hugs and my display of emotions in delivering bad news? Or are these people who want it clear and concise and then I step away?”

Her interest in global health began while she was at the University of Arizona with the guidance of Dr. Ron Pust, a pioneer in the field. “I graduated with a Global Health Distinction Track from UA-COM and have so far spent multiple months in Ghana and Kenya, a month in Cameroon, and a month in Nepal,” she says.

North and her husband, Mohamed Cisse, started their nonprofit because Cisse’s father was a community and government leader in Nouakchott, Mauritania, who always made sure that he knew that not everyone had access to the opportunities that he had. Also, North grew up in a working-class family and knew that she had doors opened for her and mentors keeping her focused. The couple realize the importance of helping when they can. “Now that we have relative professional success, it became time for us to start paying it forward,” North says.

North focuses her efforts on Nalerigu because she fell in love with the community after she spent a month there volunteering as a fourth-year medical student in 2012. There she met and has stayed in touch with Isaaka, a young leader in nursing school. North returned to Nalerigu with her husband in November 2019, met students they are sponsoring and toured their school.

Continuing with her goal of paying it forward, North brought two family medicine residents with her “in hopes of instilling the same spirit of philanthropy for their future.”

Jillian Heidenreich ’22
Monroe, Wisconsin