Archive for June, 2010

Fieldtrip to Wa in the Upper West Region of Ghana, June 18-20 (Photo essay)

June 28, 2010

Time to wake up from the long bus ride and feel the energy of Wa!

Horns blared, trumpets sounded and people shouted as our bus drove along a caravan of National Patriotic Party (NPP) supporters whilst we entered Wa.


On the roof of the Child Support-Ghana Residence building complex under construction, Eric Coomans shared with our volunteers and interns his work on sheltering deprived children.


At the feet of this child lies the dream of a grass-root NGO. This piece of land will be used for development of Child Support-Ghana, including the construction of a school.

“My body’s nobody’s body but mine–” The Child Sexual Assault outreach team led children of Child Support-Ghana to sing the catchy theme song towards the end of the workshop.

An apprentice of the dressmaker and hairdresser training centre under Child Support-Ghana talking to Sebastian.

Our interns and volunteers hop on the pick-up truck of Child Support-Ghana, which would take them to a local pub to watch the Ghana vs Australia match with locals.

The moment of suspense as the Black Stars prepared to shoot the penalty shot.

The entire house raved as the Ghanaian scored!

The afterparty was a dance with children, who were awesome dancers!

An inspiring session with Emmanuel Volsuuri in which fund-raising for NGO, microfinance, among other issues, were discussed.

David, intern from HKU, helped the chef to fan the fire as she prepared to fry the fish for our lunch.

Waiting for our lunch with rumbling stomachs, we watched how cassava was cut into cubes, boiled and pounded to become fufuo.

The bus we boarded for our return journey after a hurried lunch.

“Together we are working to build…”

“GHANA!”

Photos and text by Joanne Lai, Volunteer, Light for Children

Open Space with…

June 21, 2010

Whilst in Wa, the Hong Kong University students along with Sebastian, Philippa, and Tina were fortunate enough to sit and talk with Emmanuel Volsuuri, who has been working with NGOs in Ghana for a number of years. This was a great example of information sharing between Light for Children and Emmanuel, who is a wonderful source of local information, offering great insight to the role, impact, struggles, and successes of NGOs in Ghana, and more specifically the Northern Region.

The issue of microfinance was first on the agenda. Emmanuel took us through the trials and tribulations of working in this field: how initial loans directly given to people in rural Upper West were perceived as gifts, with repayments almost non-existent, after years of aid and charity work forming a handout mentality amongst the people. They were able to break the cycle with a system tried and tested in Senegal. Here is a brief rundown of how the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) works.

With emergency capital available from the NGO, the community itself pooled its money and loaned it to each other.  Gender specific groups formed within each village, meeting weekly to air ideas, issues and find group-led solutions. (Grouping by gender tended to prevent male domination in meetings, and avoid tensions between husband and wife when the time came to go home!). With an NGO representative present, each member of the group contributed money, literally placing it into a box with three different compartments. Each compartment had its own key, and the three keys were given to three different people, while one person took charge of the box each week.

When someone wished to take a loan, he or she would present a plan, and the group would decide whether or not loan the group’s money, and how much interest would be added. A loan of 10 Ghana cedi may be repaid with interest of 1 Ghana cedi after three months, for example.  At the year’s end, all interest would be divided amongst the group members. Any money borrowed from the NGO would be repaid at this point without interest.

This microfinance method empowered and involved the community, and rate of repayment was far higher because the responsibility was divided equally amongst group members.

This was a practice that had been passed from Plan International’s Senegal branch, through Plan Ghana branch and to RAAP (Rural Aid Action Programme).  Unfortunately, one of the issues Emmanuel also brought forth was the often unwillingness of organizations to share successful practices out of fear that other NGOs would ‘steal their funding’ – or unhealthy competition that was too common among some NGOs. When asked how many people working for local NGOs chose their work because of their passion to help others versus the financial gain, he said he thought maybe 3% worked because of their passion.  When asked about foreign NGOs, he ventured 0.5%.

While these figures may be a bit extreme his point was that way the funds an NGO raise are distributed is often far from ideal. He cited a local NGO director who used his NGO’s money to fund his own political campaign and a foreign NGO who held an overly lavish holiday party that included copious amounts of food, Champagne, wine, and many invited guests.

Overall the image is positive, with empowerment and organic growth being the standout factors that are causing passion to win over profit. Keep up the good work and we hope to hear much more from you soon!

Light for Children is hoping to host Emmanuel in Kumasi soon for a knowledge sharing forum and further collaboration between our NGOs and regions of Ghana. Many thanks to him for sharing his time and valuable experience in our Open Space discussion.

To Accra and beyond!

June 21, 2010

The Light for Children interns ended their week at Lake Bosomtwi for a rest and play – and a march back to the main road in the midday sun. All good exercise!

On Monday, Sebastian and Philippa left the CSAP interns behind to travel to Accra for a Global Giving www.globalgiving.org meeting Tuesday morning. A great example of a workshop reaching out to partners in the developing world who are struggling to raise funds in remote areas of Ghana. Everyone came away with something useful from the social media networking introduction, whether they were a permanent member of the fund raising platform like Light for Children, or just stepping into the online community like many others.

In order to become a permanent member of Global Giving, one project must raise US$4000 in four weeks. Light for Children achieved this with its Child Sexual Abuse Prevention programme, currently in effect thanks to the generous donations. However, many NGOs in the developing world struggle to raise funds online as their networks may not be large enough to mobilise such funds quickly. We heard from NGOs requesting that conditions be relaxed, time extended and the money-limit lessened. Global Giving is active in 85 countries and made it clear that no exceptions could be made.

Cooperation was also an issue of contention. Some NGOs voiced their fears concerning collaboration and how other NGOs might steal their volunteers, grants or funds. The competitive element is difficult to overcome. Global Giving simply pointed out that even in the banking world, where profit is king, if one company does well it pulls the others up with it. This is truer still in the development world, where the final aim is to help the communities you do work in. Counter intuitive as it may sound sharing resources brings even more to the table. It is a Buddhist idea that the more you give, the more you will receive, and this is especially true with funding from foundations. Cooperation breeds transparency, accountability, shared resources and growth – no wonder people are more likely to grant you funding if you are open to collaboration.

Look out for our next Global Giving project, coming soon to a computer screen near you!

Connected with partner organisation JICA, who have recently become New JICA, merging the aid and cooperation sections (like Peace Corps and US AID combined) to make them the largest aid organisation in the world with 97 overseas offices working in 150 countries. Sebastian, Philippa and Eric (freshly arrived from Sweden to volunteer) met with Mr Fukoi, Yuko Enomoto and Seiko Tomizawa (from the Japanese embassy) for a dynamic session, with more meetings to follow! JICA’s new office is looking great – as is the shop with all its covetable Ghanaian handicrafts.

extended family in Accra

A million thanks to John and Holli who looked after everyone in Accra. Holli contributed writing to Light for Children’s Obroni Wo Ko He ? book and continues to write her excellent blog about Ghana and life in Africa at http://hollisramblings.blogspot.com/. We all thoroughly enjoyed sharing past experiences and future plans with experts on Africa 😉 Hoping to see you again very soon!!!

Out on their own, the HKU interns did sterling work on the CSAP programme, reaching out to hundreds more students over the week. Now in Wa over the weekend, the interns are seeing a new region of Ghana, and visiting partner NGOs doing similar work in rural condition. This weekend is all about sharing, best practice and cooperation. We Go Do in WA.

Light for Children April 2010 Report

June 15, 2010

14 June 2010

Written by Yaw Otchere Baffour , LIFOC Director and Rhianydd Griffith, Ex-LIFOC volunteer (rhi@hotmail.com)

Light for Children April 2010 Report

Ghana win kicks off the African World Cup!

Ghanain striker Asamoah Gyan has insisted that Ghana’s victory over Serbia at the World Cup on Sunday will be the catalyst for the rest of the African nations in the tournament. South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria unfortunately all failed to win over the weekend before the Ghanians became the first African team to claim three points as they beat Serbia 1-0!

Gyan’s 84th-minute penalty won the game after Serbian defender Zdravko Kuzmanovic was judged to have handled the ball.  The striker, who plays for Rennes in France, said: “This is the first time the World Cup is being held in Africa so it is a happy moment that an African team have won against a European team. This was for our family here and all our family back home who were expecting it. Not only Ghana but the whole of Africa.”

Midfielder Andre Ayew, son of one of Africa’s acclaimed heroes, Abedi Pele, acknowledged that the win was an important one for the continent but insisted it was three points first and foremost for his country.  He said: “Yes, this is the first time the World Cup has come to Africa and every time an African country plays, the fans get behind them. 
But for us Ghana comes first and not Africa. For us it does not matter whether we are the first African team to beat a European one, we win as a team and it was important for us to win the first match.”

The Serbs, who were making their debut in the tournament, were prepared to concede that Ghana had outplayed them. Defender Branislav Ivanovic said “Ghana deserved to win,” he said. “They created a very difficult situation for us. Ghana has improved a lot in the last year and even without Michael (Essien, who is injured) it is a really good, strong team.”  And for all the protests by Kuzmanovic that it was not a penalty, his fellow defender, Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic, had no quarrels with the decision. He said: “As for the penalty, he touched the ball. We had a few chances, we did not score and were punished. They won and deserved to win.”

It has been said that the Ghana team, that featured former Tottenham (a UK team) player Kevin Prince Boateng in midfield, had dominated play with slick passing movements which only tended to break down with a poor final ball.

The sending-off of Serb defender Aleksandar Lukovic in the 74th minute effectively ended Serbia’s hopes.  Lukovic’s dismissal allowed Ghana, who could end up being England’s opponents in the last 16, to make the most of their superior possession.

Serbia’s next match is on Friday against Germany, who began their tournament by beating Australia 4-0 last night.  Ghana’s next match will be against Australia on Saturday 19th June.

GO GHANA!! Wave that flag!

Light for Children April Activities

Oil and Gas Forum

Light for Children undertook a number of activities during the month of April 2010.The major one was the participation in the Oil and Gas Forum held in Accra, the nation’s capital at the Mensoic Palace Hotel. The purpose of the forum, which had school pupils from across the country participating, was to sensitize the Ghanaian child on the oil and gas find in the country.

The forum was under the auspices of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs and was funded by UNICEF and Tullow Oil (the UK firm which discovered the oil supplies). Light for Children was privileged to be selected by the Department of Children to represent Ashanti Region with the pupils, and sent a staff as chaperone.

The four day forum which was held from the 11th to 14th April gave the children the opportunity to understand the critical issues concerning the Oil and gas find in the country. It focused on how long the oil had been in existence, the amount of money needed to drill the oil, the revenue that will accrue from the industry and how the revenue can be used to develop the country.

Participating pupils were given certificates and gifts at the end of the forum.

Monthly Socialization Meeting

The monthly socialization meeting of the care and support component of our HIV programme was held as usual on Saturday the 20th of April 2010 at the Kumasi Cultural Centre. The caregivers were sensitized on the rights of the child and parental responsibility.

Yaw, a Director of Light for Children advised the caregivers to live up to their responsibilities in assuring that the children are given the best of care and guidance in order to grow into responsible adults.

A volunteer from Holland by name Claudia who volunteered with the organization for the past three months had her project come to a close.  Her background as a public health nurse offered her the opportunity to work at the HIV clinic at the Kumasi South Hospital in Kumasi.  She enjoyed her work very much and was able to contribute to the running of the clinic. She leaves at the end of May.

Keeping it real with BUV and CSA

June 15, 2010

Week started with a BOOM. Six interns, all eager to learn the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention programme and push it out to more and more schools in the Kumasi area. Initiation into Ghanaian culture for the Hong Kong students with a Saturday funeral (always a party occasion in Ghana) and a four-and-a-half hour church session – even more singing, dancing and Twi (local language).

Light for Children met with BUV (Basic Utility Vehicle) Ghana http://www.buvghana.com/ a great new initiative for social business in Ghana. Fredrik, Chris and David joined some of the team to discuss how they could move forward with their project:

The Basic Utility Vehicle, BUV is a vehicle for change. This affordable, low-maintenance vehicle meets the challenging rural transport requirements of developing nations, creates economically sustainable transportation, lowers transport costs, stimulates economic activity, and increases rural access to social services.

This week we found a great blog on NGO work and life in general in Africa. Check it out! http://www.ngonewsafrica.org/

Jachie Disabled Craft Centre http://jachiedisabledcentre.org/ hosted us once again as guests for the inauguration of the Federation of the Disabled and Gender Committee. This brought together representatives from blind, deaf, physically disabled and gender rights associations in an effort to combine forces and grow in strength. In typical Ghanaian fashion there was lots of dancing, laughter and adherence to GMT (Ghana Maybe Time)!  Unity brings strength.

Six interns from Hong Kong University reached out to 188 pupils in their first Child Sexual Abuse Prevention (CSA) workshops. Excellent work all of you – especially David, wielding his faux penis to the great amusement of all!

Thanks also to JICA volunteer Misake for her four hours of dedicated Twi teaching. We are all now well equipped to deal with marriage proposals (Meho kunu), to tell Sebastian he is talking too much (Wope kasa dodo) and too loudly (Oyeh dede) and finally, to answer the eternal question OBRONI Wo Ko HE? (Foreigner, where are you going? …….Me ko fiya (I’m going home). Big thanks to Ian Kwaku Utley who wrote our Twi Book and guide to Ghanaian culture: http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781857334746

MEDASE PA PA PA PA!

Interns arrive in the Light for Children office!

June 8, 2010

Light for Children chairman and co-founder Sebastian Lindstrom arrived in Ghana this week with intern Philippa Young.

Meetings in Accra with Yawa Hansen-Quao http://www.leadingladiesnetwork.org/, and Mac-Jordan – find this blogger extraordinaire at http://ghanablogging.com/. Both of TEDX fame doing great work online and offline for Ghana http://tedxyouthinspire.org/.

Next stop was, Atonsu Agogo, Kumasi (home for the next month) to meet with Stephen Yeboah, freelance journalist and founder of NGO OSNERD, working for rural development in Ashanti region. Good luck with the fisheries!

In this busy week LiFoC also welcomed six interns from the University of Hong Kong. Medical student, Joanne, and Social Science students Mandy, David, Joey, Cherie and Serene. They will all be working on delivering the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention programme which will reach out to 4,000 students by the end of the year. Yenko Yenko Yenko!

A real highlight of the week was visiting JICA volunteer Misaki at her placement in Jiachie Training Centre for the physically challenged. There we spoke with the charming Kwabena Biachie, who enlightened us with stories of how ancient Ashanti Kings have formed current cultural perceptions of blindness. Kwabena also reminded us that we are are TEMPORARILY ABLE and could lose this status at any point, so, as his T-shirt requests,

“Don’t stare at me, just give me a smile”.