Thursday, 15 February 2018

Let's Create Change Through Education

“If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old.” (Lord Chesterfield).

 For this reason, International Service Ghana is in partnership with Youth Alive to assist in alleviating vulnerable children in Northern Ghana. We, the fourth cohort, will be working alongside Youth Alive in the Navrongo Municipality of the Upper East Region to continue with the work carried out by the previous volunteers.

By the time we had finished our pre-placement training and completed our team plan, the third week was upon us. In the third week, we decided to start our entry into the communities by visiting the five main municipalities we will be working within (Vunania, Janania, Gaani, Tampola and Kapania.)

On our arrival into the communities, we felt our first job was to try and gain an understanding of how well communities had grasped the information that had been delivered by the previous cohort. We found the areas they had focused on included problems with child marriage and teenage pregnancies. The responses we received to the child marriage questions were impressive across all of the communities showing they had really taken on board the information that had previously been delivered.

Next, we queried the members of each of the community about alcoholism in their municipalities and to our surprise we were greeted with laughter. We found this response was due to the major social issues that alcohol had caused over the years and the intake levels were very high. On conducting our own research we found there has been a study carried out by ‘Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health’ which had stated that the Upper East Region in which we are working has the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the whole of Ghana with the youth being the most affected group. From there we decided it was vital that the risks of alcohol had to form a major part of our sensitisation and overall work.

At Gaani, the community members were able to tell us detailed information on what the previous cohort had taught them about child marriage and how implementing what they had learned had really helped their children to focus on their education.  
Volunteers with community members of Gaani

The team then moved to a twin community, Tampola and Kapania, where community members’ responses to the questions on child marriage were very impressive due to the sensitisation of the previous cohort. However, when moving on to the problems with alcohol they stated that this had been a problem in the past but they had managed to seriously reduce the problem within the last five years.

The Chief of the community Mathew .A.A. Kaligri, expressed joy for the work done in his community so far and made it clear that he hopes our cohort continues with the good work.
Volunteers with community members of Tampola and Kapania

We then proceeded onward to Vunania. Here we found that once again the pattern continued of a great understanding of issues with child marriage and teenage pregnancies.

The community members once again empathised that alcoholism kills a lot of people in the community and even thought the mortality threat was more than HIV and AIDS. Therefore, alcoholism is a major problem in the community and they are thought it was a great idea to work with us to educate the youth on the negative effects and health implications on excessive intake.
Volunteers with community members of Vunania

Finally, we visited Janania to carry out the same activities. Again, the community members’ reply to the questions on child marriage was good. And with regards to alcoholism, they unanimously agreed that alcoholism is a big challenge to the community and they will be very happy if we help them do something about it.

Volunteers with community members of Janania
After our visit to all the communities, the leadership agreed that the youth are the most affected group. Therefore, educating the youth on the negative effects and health implications of alcoholism will help minimise this threat and we were told the only way to attract the youth for the awareness raising sessions is to use football. 

Even though the interventions of International Service in partnership with Youth Alive on child marriage is yielding positive results, we shall use the occasion to throw more light on the effects of child marriage to further curb the situation. Child marriage has been a threat for some time in these communities.  

As a result, the sessions have shown the team that it is clearly the youth that we need to target to try and change attitudes and this will be done through sensitisation and raising of awareness. We will be organising a football gala competition for these communities in our subsequent weeks to capture the youth for the sensitisation.

Written by Osman Issah

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Meet Youth Alive's Cohort 4 and how far we've come!

 From the left to the right are Rosie, Shasha, Alice, Macauly, Mahera, Sophie, Gloria, Mitch, Osman, Tom, Lizzie and Nathaniel.

It’s been a challenging but exciting journey so far for us volunteers. From adjusting to heat to the bumpy bicycle commute to work and adjusting to the food. Most of us UKVs (UK volunteers) have never had an experience like this in our lives. Equally, it has been just as challenging for the ICVs (in country volunteers).

However, they are getting used to living in a different region of the country with much more severe weather conditions and language barriers. For most volunteers, the biggest challenge of all has been dealing with the cultural differences that are common practice in the area of Navrongo, in the Upper East Region.

After our week long orientation in Tamale we set off on a 3 hour drive to Navrongo. During which, the environment seemed to get hotter and dustier as a result of it being the Harmattan season. Despite being warned in advance, we were still unsure of what to expect. In spite of the scorching heat, we were excited by the prospect of finally meeting our host families and settling in. For some us it was very different to what we were used to (especially the UK volunteers).

Macauly and Nathaniel then found that they have the added experience of not having constant running water. This can sometimes result in them having to collect the water before bathing and using the toilet without a flush. Despite the mass poverty, we have found that many members of the community have welcomed us with smiles on their faces and have shared what little they have with all of us.

Grilled tilapia with pepper
The Ghanaian food is something that some of the volunteers (particularly the UKV’s) have struggled to adjust to. Ghanaian cuisine largely consists of carbohydrates served in sizeable portions with either meat or fish.

Mitchell, the group’s vegetarian, has loved everything he’s tried always leaving an empty plate. Although the food types are the same, some of the ICVs have found slight variations to the dishes they consume in their home Regions.

For example, Fufu, which is always served with a variation of soups, is made from yam in the north but is made from cassava and plantain in the South. Lizzie, originally from the Ashanti Region, found this very strange when our host mum made us fufu and it was not as she was expecting.

As it is not currently the fruit season, the varieties are very limited with mostly only papaya (popo), bananas and oranges available at most stalls. We did find a poster with the phone number of a pizza place but found the prices too pricey for our modest allowance so we’ve decided to order only on special occasions.

What’s more exciting is that Rosie and Alice discovered a shop opposite the Ghana Commercial Bank that sells McVities Digestives and KitKats! The lack of familiar food types have contributed to a couple of volunteers feeling homesick so we try and spend as much time as we can together after work hours. Our favourite place to dine at the moment is Perseverance Spot, where they serve sausages and the best grilled fish in town!

Shortly after arriving in Navrongo, we had the exciting task of choosing our bicycles and scouting out the office. Once in the office, we settled down to watch ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ while Emmanuel (our bike maintenance man) fixed up our bikes for the many miles ahead.

Cycling to the office and back the first week was a pain in the bum (literally) but as the days wore on we all got used to it.

And on market days, town being full of people walking, people on bikes, people in yellow yellows, people in cars - you get the gist - there’s people everywhere left, right and centre, and riding a bike can be very intimidating.

Lizzie and I have the longest commute out of everyone, being about 40 minutes, but with our heavy meals we all can do with the exercise and hope to have very toned legs by the end of the placement!

Having some limitations with the information and resources from the previous cohorts, we decided that our first week was going to be used to concentrate on research in three key areas. These are child marriage, alcoholism and financial literacy. 

Talking about these issues within the group raised passions and motivated us to come up with strategies to tackle these problems. What’s really motivating is when the children and toddlers get excited at the sight of us and greet us everywhere we go.

For example, while on a hunt for lunch myself, Rosie and Sophie ran into a young girl who proceeded to hug our legs calling out “fela fela” which means white person. We’ve been told on more than one occasion that seeing volunteers here in Navrongo gives the people here hope, and that’s all we need to keep us going.

It has been challenging and emotional however, we have managed to get this far with each other’s support and we hope we can make a positive and lasting effect in Navrongo and the nearby communities. Thank you for reading and we hope that you continue following Youth Alive on our journey to make Navrongo a better place. Until next time.

Written by Mahera Hussain

Friday, 15 December 2017

Final words from Cohort 3!

It’s hard to believe that our 10 week placement is almost over. Today is our last day in the Youth Alive office and on Sunday we will be leaving Navrongo to make our way to Tamale for the debrief event, before we all go back home. I’m sure I can speak on behalf of my entire team in saying that this has been a truly interesting experience which none of us are likely to forget any time soon. There have been ups and downs throughout our time here, but we have persevered and worked hard in our attempt to make a lasting impact in the communities in which we have worked.

In 10 weeks we have;
  • ·          Participated in 4 radio shows as guests discussing
o   Youth Confidence
o   Child abuse
o   Family Planning
o   Summary of our work in the 10 weeks
  • ·         A women’s sensitisation carried out in 4 different communities discussing the encouragement of children to continue in education, how to deal with teenage pregnancy, etc.
  • ·         A community sensitisation on family planning in 3 communities
  • ·         3 Senior High School sensitisations on preparing them for the future after school.
  • ·         A Junior High School sensitisation on Child Marriage in 4 different schools.
  • ·         A Junior High School sensitisation on Youth Confidence in 4 schools.
  • ·         Participated in a girls club at one of the Junior High Schools.
  • ·         Had 10 Guided Learning sessions on understanding human rights.
  • ·         Had 2 project visits from LIFE and Trade Aid.
  • ·         Visited Sandema to see team LIFE and Bolga to see Trade Aid and BICAF.
  • ·         10 blog posts including this one.
  • ·         Visited Tongo Hills and experienced authentic Ghanaian culture.
  • ·         Carried out 4 community exit meetings with community members and Chiefs.

Listing all of the things that we have done like this makes me realise just how much we have achieved in 2 and a half months. 10 people who had never met each other before participating in the ICS programme have come together from varying backgrounds, put aside their differences, worked strongly together and entered deprived areas of Ghana to alleviate the plight of vulnerable people. One thing we all have in common is our passion to help those in vulnerable positions and do what we can to impact the lives of those in deprived areas here in Navrongo. The members of the communities themselves which we have worked in have been incredible. They have welcomed us warmly, listened to us, asked us questions, taken on board what we have to say, laughed with us, prayed for us and been an absolute pleasure to work with. We may have been there to teach them, but they have taught us more than we could have ever anticipated.

For many of my team this was their first time away from home for an extended period of time and I am extremely proud of everyone for powering through their homesickness on down days and getting on with the work at hand. This was not my first time living away from home but this experience was still tough on me at points. Moving away from home (whether it be thousands of miles or even just a few hours away from your hometown) is never going to be easy, especially since the culture may be unbelievably different from what you are used to. I think my team has acted as an incredible support network for each other and we are very lucky to all get on so well.

The team goes beyond working together. We have celebrated 3 birthdays, visited Tono Dam, been to the swimming pool (almost every week), toasted marshmallows, been to a wedding, carved watermelons for Halloween, played and taught each other card games, played scrabble, had movie nights, visited Church, watched football and rugby together, visited each other’s host families, spent hours chatting, getting to understand everyone’s cultures, gave secret Santa gifts and have visited Obama’s tea spot and the Prison Canteen more times than we can count.

I would like to use this final blog post to thank my team for being so wonderful and supportive. These 10 weeks wouldn’t have been the same without you!




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

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