Tuesday, 12 December 2017

African Crafts and Trade Fair - BICAF visit

Bolga International craft and arts fair (BICAF) was integrated in March 2014. The first BICAF was in 2014 at the Jubilee Park in Bolga(tanga), 2017 this year was the fourth consecutive year at the
The Trade Aid Team at BICAF.
Photo credit: Trade Aid Team
venue. This particular annual event is always held to promote local business and fair trade at the regional, national and international level, during this event people from various regions and countries comes to showcase their cultural staff and African customs as well.
Being part of Youth Alive project, we had the opportunity to present the work that we have being doing in Navrongo communities. We have been round the various school having sensitisations on youth confidence, child marriage and raising the self-esteem of young girls in the communities, we also used that
Jay and Narian doing a presentation
on Youth Alive's work.
Photo credit: Tahidu Rahama
opportunity to encourage parents who were around at the BICAF event to create good relationship with their children to build the confidence to make them responsible people in the future.

Well, another project part of International service in Tamale called RAINS also had a presentation on the topic (KAYAYE) which is done in the three northern region where young people go to big cities to get money which they end up by putting themselves to certain danger. They encourage parents to let their children stay in school to become better people in future which will help prevent the kayaye.

Still on BICAF, I expected to see more people coming in to get some materials and staff because it was a fair trade but it turns out to be the opposite. All that we needed was to get people to buy the stuff that was being showcased at the venue. However what
BICAF. Photo credit: Google
excited me the most was when I saw the bracelets which were weaved because I am learning to do this myself. It was one of my expectations that was met and I was really happy to see that.

Above all there was a great energy and good atmosphere, seeing the talent and skills that was showcase by African people was very amazing. At least almost everything that presented there was made by the hand and also with natural resources was being used as well.   

Author: Tahidu Rahama 

The Compass of Our Life

SHS Sensitisations

“A person without a goal is like a ship without a rudder” Thomas Carlyle.

We all have a future and a tomorrow to see but sometimes we feel like the future is yet to come, but hey! , the future is actually today, NOW!! . Your future would depend on your daily agenda. If you want to be recognized in society, if you want to leave a hallmark worthy of recognition, then, it’s better to start now. Have a goal and don’t lack a sense of direction.
Pupils at Navrongo Senior High.
Photo credit: Cameron Johnson

If Ghana can attain the sustainable development goals to end poverty, have quality education, then it depends and lies on the shoulders of you and I. And making sure others also see the need as well because development is achieved not single-handedly but collaboratively.

For this reason, the International Citizen Service, Youth in Active Development Team in Navrongo, Upper East Region working in partnership with Youth Alive whose aim is to have a Ghana where every child can live a life of dignity and self-worth organised a talk dubbed “Charting the future, The Future is Now” at Navrongo Senior High School.

Diverse dreams we do have, different aims to achieve but success they say doesn’t come on a silver platter. During the talk, we told them that being in the Senior High School is a stepping stone for
Myself presenting to the SHS class.
Photo credit: Nana Opoku-Ware
greater things ahead and with hard work, time management, having schedule a time table, having an effective revision techniques, knowing your strength and weakness, knowing how you can learn and turning to peers for good assistance, you can reach that height.

Quoting Adams Hoschid “Work is hard , Distractions are plentiful and time is short”, we made them aware that distractions are bound to come our way , eat up the time, but the person who remain focused, straight on what to achieve, stay discipline, not badly influenced, working hard would chart a great future.

We admonished them to identify the different types of learners they might be, either audio, visual, tactile and showing them the pyramid of retention, they should be willing to teach their colleagues as well because according to the National Training Laboratory, teaching others makes you retain 90% of what is taught and possibly using a Mind Map.
Myself presenting to SHS.
Photo credit: Nana Opoku-Ware

Therefore, building yourself up for the future, they need to strive to further their education, learn new skills (communication, computer, networking, social media), volunteer, have internship with organizations, be engaged in extra curricular activity such as joining clubs (writers and debate), attending seminars and talks among others.

We concluded by quoting Anthony Shay “Life is what you make it, so make the best out of it”

Author: Narian Lincoln
Cameron presenting to the SHS Class. Photo credit: Nana Opoku-Ware

Adapting to host homes and a new culture

What is it like living in a host home and immersing yourself in a totally new culture?

Hello my name is Jay and I arrived in Navrongo 9 weeks ago. As its now my 10th week on my volunteer placement I wanted to share some of my experiences from living with a host family and help to give a sense of what to expect from life in a host home for anyone who is thinking about it in the future. 

I think it's important that I clarify at the beginning that life in a host home is a different  and unique experience for every individual. Everything I talk about in my blog is purely my own opinion and experience. 

This is my first ever experience living with a host family so I didn't really know what to expect. In fact there was a part of me that was nervous knowing that I would be living with a family that I had never met as well as having to share a room with my counterpart Ekow who I had only met a few days before. I have never
Ekow & I at a visit to
 Tono Dam. Photo credit:
Cameron Johnson
shared a room with anyone before either. Everything that I was about to go through was brand new to me. 

Our host parents arrived at the police station shortly after we first arrived in the town.   Right from the start they were warm and welcoming towards Ekow and I which put my nerves at ease. After we arrived at the house we were shown to our room where we dumped our suitcases off and then proceeded to the living room. We spent the next hour just chatting to our host parents getting to know each other. They seemed interested about where I was from in the UK and how I was finding Africa thus far. They reassured us that we were just to treat the house like it was our own home. This made me feel very welcome into the family and I knew I was going to enjoy myself in this house. 

My host parents even now are still very caring towards my well being and security. I had to explain to them that I would not be able to take any Pepe or pepper within my meals as I'm not great with spicy food. Even
now they still do not include any of this in my evening meals which I think is really courteous of them. I must say the large portions of meals we are given each night I am also really impressed with.
My bedroom. Photo credit: Jay Seymour

When it comes to facilities, I have been really lucky. We have a really good shower that is actually quite powerful. Of course I wasn't expecting any hot water to come pouring out but you eventually get used to having the cold showers. 

Whilst being here in Navrongo I have had to adapt to some culture differences. I think the main difference between here and back in the UK is how many more people are religious in Ghana and they take their religion very seriously. As much as I respect this, it can be quite overwhelming at times when trying to justify your reasons for not following a religion yourself. 

Anther adaption that we have to make in this the new environment is the local foods and drink. For me personally I knew this wasn't going to be a massive issue as I am able to enjoy most foods from around the world. I have come to love some of the dishes that my host family have served up for me. TZ  with goat and Fried Yam with soup are my two favourite and I always look forward to the evenings where we have these two meals. Spice has always been a problem with me growing up. This set me back a bit with some of the
Our team visit to Church.
Photo credit: Katey Forster
food as it is traditional for the meals to be filled with Pepe. However my host family have been very considerate of this issue and stopped putting spice in my evening meals. I have discovered a love for the local hot chocolate that I consume day and night during meals and before I go to bed. It is much more delicious than the hot chocolate I would have back home. 

The people of Navrongo are incredibly friendly people to be around. Wherever I go I will get a 'Hello' and a 'good morning' every single day. Children are always fascinated to see us UK volunteers when we walk or cycle through town.mi assume that a lot of them are quite new to seeing a white person. We are often referred to as 'fella fella' by the locals which means white man. It make me feel like a celebrity. You also realise instantly what a minority you are. It's amazing that being a white person you are now the odd one in the town which is a feeling I have never experienced. 

Last but not least I think the weather has been the biggest challenge of living in Ghana. Most days temperatures can hit up to 38-40 degrees which is really hard to bear on a daily basis. Fortunately this problem isn't too bad when we are working inside the office as we have fans. Days where we head into the communities become more difficult and we have to drink a lot of water consistently to cool ourselves down. 

I am now looking forward to spending my last week in Navrongo. I can already tell that saying goodbye to my amazing host family will be heartbreaking but I will be coming back for a visit in the near future. Living in a host home has been such a great experience and I would love to do it again some day.

Author: Jay Seymour

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Girls NOT Brides!!

GIRLS NOT BRIDE! Unite for children

Child marriage is a global phenomenon that affects both girls and boys, albeit girls are the most affected. It can be defined as a marrying below the age of 18 years. Under the United Declaration of Human Rights it is a violation of fundamental human rights.
Even though many nations are signatories to this document, the act is still widely practised due to poverty, gender inequality, non-enforcement of the law, among others.

Globally, about one in seven adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) are currently married or in union. More  than  700  million  women  alive  today  were  also married  before  their  18th  birthday. (UNICEF).

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates among the regions followed by Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa. To reduce these numbers progress needs to accelerate.

In Ghana, 1 in 5 girls are married before the age of 18 which is the highest rate in West Africa which is alarming. The Upper East has the highest rate in Ghana with 39.2% of girls marrying before the age of 18(MICS, 2011). According to experts, the rate may increase if action is not taken.
We (ICS International Service and Youth Alive) decided to take an initiative to sensitize young girls and boys about the alarming rates of Child Marriage in their region and Ghana as a whole, the causes, effects and what each individual can do to help end this serious issue through interactive and active learning.


Narian preparing posters for our sensitisation.
Photo credit: Tahid Rahama      

We had the sensitizations in four (4) schools, Biu Jhs, Gaani Jhs, Tampola Jhs and Vunania Jhs. The team were divided into two (2) groups with each group taking 2 schools, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Chloe, Jasmine and Katey taking a rest in
the shade between sensitisations
Photo credit: Ephraim Ekow Eshun

Katey, Jasmine, Chloe and I would go on to work with the kids at Biu and Gaani.
After introducing ourselves to them, we proceeded to give them a scenario on Child marriage and allowed the kids think about it and discuss what they thought was wrong with it. We then talked about what child marriage is and the realities of it in our societies. Presenting the facts on the prevalence came as a shock to them as they did not anticipate the rates were so high in Ghana and the Upper East region.

Why does it still exist?
In discussing the causes of child marriage, most of them were quick to point out poverty, school dropout and teenage pregnancy as causes. They knew that some parents give their girls out to marry
Myself showing the pupils some of the stats on child marriage
prevalence rate.
Photo credit: Nana Opoku Ware
to wean them from their care and also get the bride price that comes with it. They were also well aware that mostly when a girl gets pregnant at an early age they are forced out of their house to live with their ‘husbands’.

However, they didn’t seem to grasp the concept of how gender inequality and our culture causes and perpetuate child marriage. We explained to them how gender inequality which is inherent in our patriarchal culture helps perpetuate child marriage mainly because girls are not given a voice in the society.

How does it affect the girl and society as a whole?
Here we led the children to come out with and discuss what they think are the negative effects of child marriage on both the girl and society. We discussed how child marriage leads to severe health consequences such as STIs and complications during pregnancy sometimes leading to death.
Rahama and Raphael taking kids through a session.
Photo credit: Jay Seymour
Dropping out of school and domestic abuse were also some of the effects we discussed with them.
In order to let the kids understand how child marriage denies the girl child a lot of rights we took them through an activity where we let them tick on the poster what rights they thought were denied from  the girl child and explain why they think so.

This really worked well as they seem to have understood the consequences child marriage causes for the a child bride. The audience engagement was very male dominated in some schools, with volunteers having to encourage the girls to input their thoughts. This is something we highlighted in the sensitization, alongside the importance for children to support peers that may have found themselves in a child marriage situation.  

What can we do to end Child Marriage?
The children came out with sexual health education as an important action to prevent girls from getting pregnant at an early age thus breaking the linkage of teenage pregnancy to child marriage.

A pupil explaining to his colleagues some of the effects of
child marriage. Photo credit: Katey Forster
We also let them know that every individual has a role to play in ending child marriage. We talked to them about the steps they can take when there is a case of child marriage in their communities even if it does not involve them. They can anonymously report these cases to either the chief or assembly men in the area or even call Youth Alive office line which was available to them on the fliers.
They can also in their small ways talk to their friends and family at home and let them know the negative effects of child marriage and the need for everyone to join it the fight.
Besides these, education of the girl child is also very essential. Empowering the girl child either through formal education or vocational skills will go a long way to empower girls to be economically independent and also recognise and stand up for their right.

Jay and Rahama leading the kids in a discussion.
Photo credit: Jasmine Eeles

Dear reader,
Child marriage is an evil,  which destroys the future of our girls and rob them of their childhood.
“Ending child marriage will help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by allowing girls and women to participate more fully in society. Empowered and educated girls are better able to nourish and care for their children, leading to healthier, smaller families. When girls are allowed to be girls, everybody wins (UNICEF)”
Let us all in our small ways help end this act by speaking or advocating against it, educating others about it or even reporting cases of child marriage in our communities.
Help End Child Marriage Now!

Blog Author-Ephraim Ekow Eshun

Monday, 13 November 2017

Giving the Navrongo Youth a Voice

Radio Coaching with JHS Students
International service in Ghana partnering with Youth Alive to fight against teenage pregnancy and school drop-out in the Northern part of Ghana.

Our first week in Navrongo, we had a meeting with peer-educators from the various schools which is Vunania, Biu, Gaani and Tampola.

Vunania was the first school to take part in the radio programme "Children's perspectives" and Gaani for the second. Three pupils were selected to take part from each school and the topic that they chose was teenage pregnancy by students of Vunania and school drop-out by the students of Gaani.

The first coaching was done by Jay and Rahama on the topic teenage pregnancy. This coaching was done to prepare the pupil to be able to be confident on the radio show.

In our first meeting with the pupil, we asked them why the topic teenage pregnancy and they said, it was an alarming issue in their community and the district as well, which need to be solve because their friend and sisters are dropping out of school as a result of teenage pregnancy. During the coaching, we also asked them what they think that was the causes of   teenage pregnancy, and some causes that they mention were, irresponsible parental care and control, lack of education, peer pressure and so on.

After which we discuss about the effects of teenage pregnancy, at this point, the pupils sound so affected seeing their colleagues being stigmatised, dying through illegal abortion, dropping out of school and they conclude on this by saying that this problem the youth, need to carry it on their shoulders, and cry to people far and near to support in the matter, however they do thank I C S and Youth   Alive intervention in the three Northern Regions who have come to help tackle these issues, and they do believe that within some few years, with community understanding and commitment this problem  will be the story of the past.

We went on to discuss the roles both the pupil and parents should play to end teenage pregnancy in the district. Some of the roles that were mention by the children are:
  • 1.      Parents should educate their children on their sexual health.
  • 2.      Parents should also provide their children with their basic needs.
  • 3.      Teenage girls should stick to religious laws like Islam and Christianity, which protest against child marriage or having sex outside marriage.

In the fourth weekend which was Saturday, the pupils were taken to Nabina radio to present the issues being discussed on teenage pregnancy.
Students on the radio at Nabina Station.
Photo credit: Chloe Ellis

The pupil did very well speaking on radio for their first time; they were confident and were able to express themselves. They did so by splitting the work among themselves and this made a successful presentation.

After the presentation by the pupil, there was a time that allowed listeners to call to contribute to what the pupil presented. Some of  those who called were able to speak English and some speak the local language[Kasen] which was not well understood but some of the contribution they made was based on the causes and the effect these have on both the individual[victims] and the society at large.
By activating the phone line we ended up engaging our audience in the conversation. Apart from what the pupil mention in their presentation, our audience also looked at it in their own point of view and also came out with their opinions as to what causes this issues and how to prevent them or decline the rate.

It was refreshing to see the conversation provoked by the children among those that called in. The children also received great praise from some, who admired their confidence to approach such a stigmatised topic among the youth. We were also very proud of the children, as their coaches and look forward to more thought provoking discussions with more students over the next few weeks.

Blog Author: Tahidu Rahama 

Rahama and Jay coaching at Vunania JHS.
Photo credit: Katey Forster

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Youth Confidence Sensitisation


In our third week on placement we had our first sensitisation to host within the local Navrongo communities. The topic we all decided to talk about was Youth Confidence. We visited four JHS’s (Junior High School) with our groups that we had been split into. There were two groups of four with both groups containing two UK volunteers and two Ghanaian volunteers.

We started our preparations with group discussions and reading through old reports from previous volunteers. We talked about all the positives that we could take inspirations from as well as looking out for things that maybe lacked; furthermore what we could incorporate into our future sensitisation's. We then discussed ideas we should present to the students. We needed to educate them
 on the basic fundamentals of what is meant by Youth Confidence and encouraging them to share their opinions on issues that affected their lives right now. Our presentation took inspiration from the works from those of the past as well as incorporating our own ideas and activities.

While the rest of us worked on other tasks, Cameron created a well-structured script that was easy to follow and had everything that we wanted to deliver to our audience. We didn’t want it to be a sensitisation where we were just flooding the kids with information. We wanted a fun but constructive interactive session where the children could be physically involved themselves. Our activities would help to develop skills such as communication, self confidence and team building.

The Sensitisation:

We set off as a whole group for the sensitisations. Both teams were dropped off at their first schools for the first sensitisation.  I think our immediate reaction when we got to the school was the shock of how many students we would be presenting to. I had estimated in my head that we would be talking to about 25-30 students so to see about 50-60 students staring at us as we entered in was a bit of a surprise.

Narian and I would present to the first group of children. The sensitisation began with Nana introducing us volunteers and introducing the organisation that we represented. I knew instantly that
the language barrier might be a bit of a setback for me, so I had a quick check with the students that they could understand my accent clearly. I noticed that these children didn’t interact much in the classroom or with their classmates too often as many were shy and afraid to speak out. Luckily then, our activities were very appropriate for getting the children to be more open and bold in themselves. As each activity progressed, the children were coming out of their shells more and more which was a terrific feeling inside and a joy to watch. It was incredible that within the space of an hour we had children who would not say boo to a goose were now standing up in front of their classmates, sharing their ideas and opinions about how they can be more open with their parents and teachers with issues that are affecting them. This was proving that active learning is effective and comes back with positive results.

There were many positives that we took away from the first sensitisations. The content was excellent in the fact that the children were shocked with the facts and statistics that were presented before them. I think for a lot of them it was a proper wakeup call and made them realised that these issues are happening and it does affect them. It seems to me the knowledge was there in their minds but its more about the encouragement and guidance that can help them share their opinions rather than keeping them to themselves.

The second school that we visited was a much bigger shock as we were faced with delivering our sensitisation to over 200 students. Next time we have learnt that we need more communication with the schools to find out the exact number of our audience so we can plan our activities so that it fits that number more effectively.

Over all we have had a very successful sensitisation with lots of positives to take away with us. It has helped us build confidence for our future sessions.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Fight for Youth Confidence!


International Service and Youth Alive’s Fight for Youth Confidence

International Service is a UK based charity that train young adults between the ages of 18-25 and sends them to deprived communities for self-development and to support marginalised communities. As part of International Service in Ghana they work with Youth Alive.

Now what are the objectives of International Service and Youth Alive’s partnership?
1.       Eradication of poverty
2.       Discouraging child marriage
3.       Helping the youth in decision making
4.       Helping the youth to acquire skills
5.       Helping to protect and defend the rights of the youth
6.       Women Empowerment

This blog is focussing on Youth Confidence, an objective that the team are currently working on.

Youth Confidence

What is youth confidence?

Youth confidence is the trust that the youth have in themselves. The youth are the future leaders of every country; therefore, they need maximum attention from our society. They have the potential to contribute towards development, but their voices are not heard in Ghana.

So what are the main causes of lack of confidence in the youth?

1.       Religious laws – traditionally the youth and children are not allowed to take part in decision making, with the perception that they are ‘to be seen, but not heard’.
2.       Lack of knowledge about their rights
3.       Fear of punishment for speaking out from the elders.
4.       They are judged by their young age and not their knowledge.
5.       Cultural customs believe the youth have a lack of a voice
6.       The way they are brought up in their families or society
7.       Divided Youth Society. Together we stand, divided we fall.         

The International Service and Youth Alive partnership are working towards building the confidence of the youth. The channels which the youth can be empowered to make their voice heard are:

1.    Education
2.    Moral training
3.    Community involvement [clean up exercise or communal labour].
4.    Taking part in decision making
5.    Taking leadership roles
6.    Forming youth clubs

The team are advocating these channels through school sensitisations and radio shows.

I believe, if the above causes are well understood by the youth of our generation and the channels are acted upon, their voice will be heard as never before.  Thank You.

Blog Author: Asupah Raphael