Light for Children February 09′ Report

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10th of March 2009

Light for Children February 09’ Report

The future is now

Written by Sebastian Lindstrom, LIFOC Co-founder (Sebastian@lightforchildren.com)

I just spent 6 weeks in Ghana working with the Light for Children team. The country has now a new government; the opposition’s slogan ‘change’ echoed louder than the defeated  NPP parties ‘moving forward’ approach . Ghana is, however, moving forward and changing at the same time; Oil will soon be exported and Sino-Ghana trade is picking up. Will Ghana be the first African nation to reach “middle income country”-status on the continent?

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9,600 children under the age of 15 are living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana at the end of 2003. Nearly 170,000 children under age 17 have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Only a few of these children receive assistance such as food aid, health care, protection services, or educational or psychosocial support – Light for Children wants to change this. 

Thanks for your ongoing support; progress is just around the corner. Together by fighting HIV/AIDS and promoting education we can move Ghana into a new era of growth, strength and unity.

 

 

 

What is takes to be a volunteer

Written by Patricia Kelly, LIFOC Volunteer (pgkelly17@gmail.com)

Arriving to Ghana as a volunteer you will be met with many rewards, but also with some challenges. In Ghana the approach to work is different from what you have likely experienced at home. There is no exact time schedule, things will get done at an easy pace and no one is any rush. People here are some of the nicest that you will meet, and when you first start at your placement they will not want to push too much work on you, instead you will be asked to relax. As a volunteer you will need to have the motivation and persistence to find where you fit best, and where you can contribute the most. There are many areas and opportunities for you to offer assistance and to make an impact, but you need to be willing to push a little and look for those places. Patience will be one of your most important attributes as well, you will need to be able understand that things will take some time; you need to just lean back and enjoy the process.

There are so many great opportunities to help in Ghana, and if you arrive with an open mind, the enthusiasm to help and the flexibility to change with the situation, you will find that volunteering in Ghana is one of the most rewarding and worthwhile experiences of your life.  

 

Me and Ghanaian culture

Written by Juuso Raunio, LIFOC Volunteer (juusor@welho.com)

I’ve always been interested in African culture, especially the music, and it was also one of the reasons I came to Ghana. Being a musician myself, it has been exciting to meet many musicians here and to learn to know the culture in an authentic environment.

In Ghana music is everywhere, it is a major part of everyday life. Anywhere you go you can hear big sound systems playing the latest highlife, hiplife and reggae hits, and even when someone is making fufu, the local food, there is a rhythmic way to pound it. You can see taxi drivers honking their horns and it sounds like music. It is also common to see people dancing on the street, often alone, just because the vibes were too hard to resist.

The best way to know the culture is to get in touch with the locals. I have met interesting people from traditional drummers to Rastafarians, and I have seen many different sides of Ghana and realized the diversity of her culture.

When I talk about African Vibes, it’s not just words.

 

Street Children

Written by Joanna Bevan, LIFOC Volunteer(joannita@hotmail.co.uk)

Light for Children has been recently looking into the social phenomena of street children in Ghana. Mike along with a group of volunteers went to the central Kumasi Market to investigate the situation.  Poor conditions in the north of the country and an agricultural industry relying on just one harvest as opposed to two elsewhere in the country has led many people to migrate south in search of work. Many end up working as ‘kayayoo’s’ carrying things in the market. The only place to sleep is in the market once the stalls have closed.  We were in the market from around 10pm and we found many people sleeping on the streets, children included. Often they become trapped in this situation and are forced to rely on ‘susu’ collectors to look after their small earnings. It was very strange to see the usually busy market quiet and sleeping and It was surprising just how many people live on the streets. Light for children is looking into setting up a program to help street children providing them with skills to achieve a better future.

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Journey of Hope

Written by Patricia Kelly, LIFOC VOlunteer (pgkelly17@gmail.com)

In Ghana the rate if HIV infection in the population exists at about three percent, a rate lower than that seen in many other African countries. At Light for Children one of the most important activities for the volunteers is the presentations about HIV which are given to children in the classrooms called the “Journey of Hope”. The goal of these presentations is education to ensure that the HIV rate remains low in the future generations. As volunteer with Light for Children for seven weeks one of my roles was to give these presentations to Junior Secondary School students. 

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The” Journey of Hope” gets the children to begin to think about their futures, asking them to consider what they want to do and how they want to get there. In all the schools that I had the opportunity to visit I found that the children all have very high ambitions, in every class there are multiple future doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, scientists, etc. They have amazing dreams, and in the presentations we encouraged the children to consider how their choices in life may affect them reaching these goals.

In the “Journey of Hope” we would teach about consequences along with HIV prevention by visualizing their goals as an island, the three major methods of HIV transmission prevention as boats, and the obstacles to their future goals (ex. being HIV positive) as crocodiles in the water. The children are then given a cast of characters and asked to put each in a boat. This is usually the most enjoyable aspect of the presentation as there was always lots of laughter, with everyone wanting to volunteer and contribute their opinion. The presentation would conclude with a question session. This was when I feel I offered the most valuable contribution, to be able to clear up common prejudices that are held about HIV. Confusion was usually about the different ways that HIV can be transmitted, as many of the children feared that they could become infected in a variety of ways which they could not.

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I was extraordinarily impressed by the children; every class that I meet could answer many questions about the virus, showing that education programs in the country have been quite successful. Hopefully through “The Journey of Hope” presentations I was able to reinforce to the children what they already knew about responsible choices and avoiding HIV, and to clarify aspects of HIV they did not understand to reduce stigma against those who are infected

 

Monthly Socialization Meetings

Written by Joanna Bevan, LIFOC Volunteer(joannita@hotmail.co.uk)

Saturday 21st February saw Light for Children’s monthly socialization meeting. The event gives everyone  involved with the organization a chance to interact, give updates and voice any concerns. We were pleased to have Marius de Bryun, representatives from JICA  (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) as well as many volunteers from Sweden, UK, Canada, US and Holland among our guests.  The children enjoyed playing games with the volunteers, whilst the caregivers and families held meetings and listened to a pharmacist. We all shared a meal of Jollof rice and agreed the meeting was a great success.

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Football Coaching in Ghana

Written by Ludvig Leffler, LIFOC Volunteer (monstret_ludvig@hotmail.com)

My name is Ludvig and I am 23 years old and I’m doing volunteer work as a football coach.
The boys in the team are aged between 13 to 15 years old, hence it’s a difficult age to work with.
We start practice around 6.30-7.00 am, just before the sun rises. At this time it’s not too hot, however, the problem is that many of them are late!

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 We practice from Monday to Thursday and on Fridays we have games against other schools.
One of the constraints I have had was that at first the team only had one football. We then bought 5 new ones for them,  after two weeks we only had two left cause the other balls were ‘gone’.(?) One of the most important things I am trying to tell the children is not to use any drugs. I think being a part of a team sort makes this mission much easier.

 

HIV Clinic

Written by Patricia Kelly, LIFOC Volunteer (pgkelly17@gmail.com)

I worked as a volunteer at the Chronic Care Clinic in the Kumasi South Hospital for five weeks. The clinic treats patients which are HIV positive and those who have diabetes. This may seem like a random mix of conditions but it is purposefully done. Due to the huge stigma which is associated with HIV, the patients who are HIV positive would not come to a clinic which was known to the general public to treat only those infected with HIV. The patients risk losing their families, friends, jobs; essentially their major support systems if those around them were to find out that they are HIV positive. This devastating truth was one of the first things that I learned at the clinic. Everyone there knows and understands this major problem, they are extremely caring and supportive to all the patients, being there to listen and offer any help which is needed at any time.

My role as a volunteer was to come in on the clinic days when the doctor was present to have consultations with patients. All the patients want to see the doctor to share their complaints and get in depth personal treatment. So on clinic days dozens of people of all ages would be lined up for hours just waiting for their chance to speak with doctor. On these days the entire staffs of nurses and assistants were always on their feet, running around getting all the information that was needed to ensure that everyone got their opportunity to see the doctor. No matter how many people were waiting and how long it would take, everyone gets a chance to be seen. No one will be turned away for any reason. My role on these days was to take the patients’ vitals and record them in their files. It was a simple job, but important because it kept the flow moving and freed up the nurses to take all their other information in Twi while I worked.

The part that I enjoyed the most was interacting with the patients and staff at the clinic. Everyone was very open and kind, willing to take time to answer my numerous questions. The clinic functions as a safe environment, where the patients do not have to be afraid of their status, and can truly understand that the disease does not define who they are. I felt as a volunteer my most important contribution was interacting with and touching the patients, helping foster the sense of security that the clinic offers to them.

 

 

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