Friday, 23 March 2018

Navrongo…an experience like no other

Photo credit: Tom

As we come to the end of our 10th week on placement here in Navrongo, we have all had the experience of a lifetime. The integration between the UK and Ghanaian volunteers has grown to become like one big family. Along our journey we have shared differences between our different cultures and have gained a lot of stories to reminisce about. We as volunteers have reviewed our experience during our time on placement including how we have found the ICS programme and the excitement of working alongside Youth Alive.
Rosie (Photo credit: Gloria)
I, being the youngest of the group, have greatly come to love Ghana and working with Youth Alive has given me a massive insight into topics I have not thought about in a lot of detail before. I believe the ICS programme really opens your eyes to issues that are happening all around the world. During the whole of the 10 weeks I have become my own person and have found a great passion for the topics we have been focusing on,especially women’s rights. I have developed many skills that I will continue to put into practice after our placement ends and have enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to my absolute limits.

Osman and I (Photo credit: Rosie)

Osman, on the other hand, said that from his time on placement he has learnt a lot from the ICS programme especially from the interaction with the local community members. He has developed skills that he never thought he previously had and he has become a better typist! Overall, this experience for Osman has helped to expand his network of contacts and that both ICS and Youth Alive are helping to create a positive change. He would encourage people who have the heart to volunteer to join this programme to not only help make a positive impact but to also develop themselves as a person.

Gloria and I (Photo credit: Rosie)
Following on from this, the nurse of the group, Gloria, has had a wonderful time on placement and has found it to be very educative. Working alongside Youth Alive, Gloria has found it be very informative and supportive. Continually, the topics that we are focusing on are very close to her heart, especially child marriage. Gloria looks forward to seeing a world where women will be heard just like men. She has gained a lot of skills such as confidence when speaking in public.

Mahera and I (Photo credit: Rosie)

Mahera has found the programme to help her personal development and has found the experience to be very eye opening. Over the course of her placement her writing skills have improved greatly.

Nathaniel and I (Photo credit: Mahera)
Nathaniel, who is a local citizen of the Navrongo district, has had a very different experience with being so close to home. The programme has moulded him into a good team player which has made him feel more comfortable and confident within himself. He has also found working with Youth Alive to be very useful and an experience he will never forget.

Alice and I (Photo credit:Elizabeth)
Alice, who is also from the Upper East region of Ghana, has thoroughly enjoyed her time on placement and has grown in confidence over the course of the 10 weeks. She has learnt many skills that will be of use to her when she returns home such as her public speaking skills and she has also had the chance to practice her typing.

ICV TL- Shasha (Photo credit: Tom)

Whilst our team of volunteers have learnt the Navrongo way of life, our team leaders have also been adapting to the change of living away from home. The In-country team leader Shasha has found it to be particularly great working with Youth Alive especially when it comes to the sensitising of the communities and local schools on key issues that are affecting them personally.

For the last few weeks of our placement, we were still busy as ever carrying out activities. Firstly, we carried out peer education sessions in all the 4 local schools (Tampola, Gaani, Biu and Vunania). The topic that was discussed focused on ‘Adolescent reproductive health’and created many interesting discussions among the students.
Gloria guiding our peer educators through Adolescent Reproductive Health
(Photo credit: Shasha)

As a continuation of our work we have also coached students to appear on our last radio session discussing adolescent reproductive health. This helped to educate the pupils and the locals. 
Students of Vunania and Gaani Junior High Schools on Nabiina Radio (Photo credit: Osman)

Whilst also trying to see the beauty of Ghana before we leave, our team leaders took us outside the office for our guided learning at Tono Dam. This was a very interesting experience learning about the history of one of the largest dams in West Africa.
After Guided learning at Tono Dam (Photo credit: Tom)

Our ten weeks on placement wouldn't have been successful without our driver, Alhaji Sandow. He has been so patient, supportive and a father to us.
with our driver, Alhaji Sandow (Photo credit: Shasha)

Overall, our experience has been exhilarating and has challenged all of us in many ways and as a team would like to thank all the readers of our blogs, the ICS programme and Youth Alive.

Written by Rosie Paine

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Meet Aganalie Anuda, as we celebrate women

 International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women in the past and present. In order to commemorate this day, we are looking into the everyday life of a regular woman, this will include her daily challenges, future ambitions and the role Youth Alive has played in her community. Her name is Aganalie Anuda.
Aganalie Anuda
 Aganalie lives in the Dasendema part of the Biu community in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Her main source of income, like most others in her community comes from farming rice, millet and maize.Even at the age of 54,she still loves to sing and dance and is very active within her community. She helps support her husband and five children with whom she lives with.

Being a farmer comes with its own challenges. Due to the lack of combined harvesting machines, most if not all the farmers in the area harvest the crops by hand. The work usually starts early in the morning at 6 o’clock, with the day ending around 7 o’clock in the evening when it starts to get dark. While some prefer to take a break at midday when the sun is at its most intense, others carry on working in the scorching hot sun. The days are long and laborious for both men and women alike. However being a women comes with extra family responsibilities after work hours such as cooking for the family.

For a lot of people who have never been to school, they have problems with confidently voicing their opinions in community gatherings. Aganalie on the other hand was one of the most vocal people during our sensitisation on women’s rights. Instead, a lack of education has only held her back in terms of entering an alternative professional occupation.

Aganalie Anuda displaying her Right as a woman

Farming, being seasonal work in the Northern parts of Ghana means that, there is no work for half of the year. This puts a financial strain on farmers during the dry season. Aganalie told us, because of this, it is difficult for her to put all of her children in school. Despite the financial challenges, she is determined together with the husband to give all 5 an education. Her main motivation is to work harder so her children can go on to pursuing professional careers, therefore they can live more comfortable lives.

Although her priority is her children, Aganalie has aspirations of her own. Within the next year she hopes to advance her farming work into a bigger business. By purchasing grains in the north and selling them in the south in large quantities, she can make a much larger profit so it would be easier to support her family throughout the whole year.

Asked when she first heard of Youth Alive and international service, Aganalie replied it’s been about 3 to 4 years. She believes Youth Alive and International Service have positively helped the Biu community to develop in many aspects. Sensitisation on different issues delivered over the years, has educated the people. As a result, the community hardly sees disabled babies being killed which was the practice in the past, family disagreements and domestic violence. Instead, there has been an increase in female children attending school and disabled people being empowered by being able to take part and contribute in community gatherings. Furthermore she mentioned that some local students have gone on to become teachers and others work in hospitals as nurses and doctors.

After speaking to Aganalie we discovered the importance of Youth Alive’s work in the community, helping women like Aganalie herself, feel empowered. She is an ordinary woman that is one example of a role model to her family and community. And it is ordinary women who achieve small but great things.
Happy International Womens Day!
Written by Mahera Hussain and Rosie Paine

Friday, 2 March 2018

Our quest to curb Alcoholism and adapting to new culture

 As our placement continues and we completely settle into Navrongo we have appeared on Nabiina Radio with Alfred the host where we spoke about the activities that we will be carrying out during our time here.  This has helped us to reach out to the citizens of Navrongo and let them know why we are here and how we are planning to help the communities. In the coming weeks, we as a cohort will continue to visit all the schools within the 6 communities (Within the communities there are 4 schools which are Vunania, Gaani, Biu and Tampola). We work in all of these schools and have visited all of them to coach some of the students to appear on the radio discussing the topic of alcoholism. Our team and our partner organisation, Youth Alive, believes that alcoholism is a big issue in these communities and that these radio sensitisation will help make a positive impact.

Volunteers coaching students of Tampola JHS for Radio sensitisation
The first school that we visited was Tampola. Upon arrival, our team leader went to see the head teacher to inform him about our mission. We requested that the head teacher provide us with the names of students who had represented the school on the radio show last year. Furthermore, the head teacher selected five students for us but we requested that he should add a particular student who was answering fluently during our last sensitisation on child marriage. We ended up coaching 6 students altogether. We discovered that the students were very willing to talk about the issue of alcoholism in their community and we believe it is not only important having our team talk about alcoholism, but to also give the students a chance to speak on what they believe the effect is of alcoholism in the community.

Volunteer Rosie Paine leading a peer education session at Tampola JHS
As a team, we also carried out peer education sessions with students so they are able to pass the information on to their peers. We discussed the causes, effects and prevention of alcoholism and before we began we did an icebreaker known as ‘concentration’. This proved to be very important as it helped the nerves of the students and put them in the right frame of mind to learn. Generally, most of the peer education sessions had around 6 students and several were able to give us a definition of alcoholism however, others either struggled or were just shy. This showed us that they are aware of what alcohol can do gives us the opportunity to help them build their knowledge further. In addition, the students felt confident that they would be able to educate their fellow classmates once we had provided them with the research we had carried out.

Tuo Zaafi (TZ) served with Ayoyo and guinea fowl
 Over the 6 weeks that we have been in Navrongo we have experienced a lot of culture differences with one of the most prominent being the difference in cuisine. Local dishes from Ghana include TZ which is served with Ayoyo soup, Banku with Okro stew, Jollof rice, Fufu and rice balls with ground nut soup. For the UK volunteers the food can be quite challenging but is also a great way to immerse ourselves into the Ghanaian culture and give us new experiences.

Another big cultural difference that we have experienced is the language barrier. Nathaniel, who is from the local area, is able to speak the local language of ‘Kasim’ and has helped us hugely with the sensitisation we have carried out in both the communities and the schools. Continually, we have all been learning the local language of ‘Kasim’ from Nat and have been able to communicate on a basic level with the locals of Navrongo. This is a great new skill that we have learnt on our placement so far and will help with the next half of our placement.

A shrine at Tongo Hills
Recently, we attended our midterm review which was held in Bolgatanga and we visited the cultural site of Tongo hills. This was a very interesting experience as we met up with team Pagsung and learnt about the history of this astonishing and ancient area. For example, we were introduced to the local chief and were shown some shrines that they use to make sacrifices using animals, such as goats and sheep. These practices were shocking for some of the UK volunteers as making sacrifices are not at all common within the British culture yet, it really opened our eyes to the beliefs of others.

Overall, as the halfway mark of our placement in Navrongo has come and gone we have all adjusted to the culture, food and have adapted to a different way of life. Our team has shown great passion when tackling the topics of child marriage, financial literacy and alcoholism. Although a lot has been achieved so far, we believe that we can accomplish an awful lot more by the end of our placement.
Written by Rosie Paine

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