Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

Light for Children August Activity Report

September 11, 2012

The month of August saw the departure of two volunteers, Cecilia Skoglund, a Swedish volunteer and Marie Lorans, Danish volunteer who came to have their internship with Light for Children.

The month of August also saw the monthly socialization meeting which was organized on the 25th of August, 2012 at the Cultural Centre. The socialization brought together our caregivers and HIV kids where we interacted with each other and even shared food together and had a nice time.

Also, donations were made to some of the children and the caregivers. Abigail Owusu, received donation from Inner Wheel, from Australia through Catherine Charles, a former volunteer. She was so happy and showed her appreciation by thanking Light for Children for the kind gesture.

Also, Gideon Asamoah and Isaac Boahen received donations from Rhianydd Griffith from the United Kingdom who is also a former volunteer.

Donations were also made to Maria Amoakohene who lost her daughter last year as a start-up capital for her business.

Abigail Owusu receiving her donation from the Executive Director of LIFOC- Yaw Otchere Baffour.

Gideon Asamoah and Isaac Boahen, the two orphans receiving their donation from the Director as their grandmother looks on.

Maria Amoakohene receiving her donation from the Executive Director of LIFOC.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

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”.

The Volunteering experience

December 25, 2007

Written by: Georgia Tanner, Volunteer (georgiatanner@gmail.com)

Background

  • Toronto High Schools HIV/AIDS peer educator
  • Volunteered in Costa Rica at an eco-tourism destination
  • Bachelor’s Degree from University of Western Ontario in Political Science & English, where Georgia spent more time on various extra-curricular and volunteer projects than on class material
  • Spent 2 months at Light for Children doing HIV/AIDS education, outreach and intervention programs, following her dream of becoming a fufu connoisseur and consuming as much of her host mum Maria’s “red sauce” as humanly possible
  • Currently in Canada working on Light for Children fundraising initiatives and wishing she was back in Ghana

BLOG

I decided to volunteer with Light for Children Ghana without knowing what to expect; my knowledge about Ghana came only from a travel guide book and what I read online, and the scope of my knowledge about HIV/AIDS in Africa was equally limited. Although I knew about the AIDS pandemic in Africa and was aware of the problems of accessibility and the complex funding challenges that many countries face, I don’t think I was able to fully understand the way the disease affected so many aspects of life in Ghana, nor was I able to put a human face to the disease in an African context.

My experience of the disease was confined within the context of the Western world. Although I had lost a family friend to AIDS when I was quite young, in my world, the fight against AIDS seemed to be one we were winning. I knew that the ART drugs were getting better all the time, that the disease appeared to be under control, and that medical research was constantly making progress. Realistically, I knew that the situation wouldn’t be as promising in Africa, where a variety of problems make access to the latest drugs, medical care and education difficult. However, until I arrived and saw firsthand how difficult it was to be living with AIDS in Ghana, I didn’t understand just how frustratingly unfair the situation was.

As soon as I arrived in Kumasi to work with Light for Children, I began to hear stories of AIDS and meet those who were most affected by it. As I listened and learned, I realized that even though I knew about the AIDS pandemic, even though I was aware of the shocking statistics, I had never before faced the human element. Confronting the reality of the disease and its devastating affect on people who I would come to call my friends was the hardest part of the experience for me. At times it was difficult to keep a positive attitude, and sometimes I gave in to very bitter sentiments over the unfairness of it all.

However, the example set by Yaw Otchere Baffour, my host father and the founder of Light for Children Ghana made it easier for me to approach the problem and realize the ways I could help to make a difference. Although Yaw deals with serious and disheartening situations nearly every day, he remains unwaveringly positive. I distinctly remember the first night we arrived in Kumasi at Yaw’s; he told us it was his dream that every HIV positive child would realize that he or she could be an achiever. Throughout the experience I saw again and again how dedicated Yaw was to this dream; while I was there I watched him work tirelessly on committees and boards, saw him visit the homes of those affected by HIV/AIDS and give them support and advice, and I saw the hope he gave to the AIDS support group he helped to organize.

Although I knew there would be a local response to AIDS, I am ashamed to say that I didn’t expect it to be as widespread, innovative, and effective as it was. People like Yaw impressed me with how much change and hope they could bring with so few resources. Because of the local connections Yaw has, Light for Children is able to help people individually in a personal way, which is important to fighting the feelings of isolation that HIV/AIDS can bring to a family. Before I went to Africa, I thought that the Western aid organizations would be the biggest presence in Ghana, which simply isn’t the case: the locally-run NGOs dedicated to fighting AIDS were the ones I saw making a difference.

As I realized how effective these local organizations were, I felt a little ashamed. Although I was making a difference and helping the organization, wouldn’t it have been better if I had just given Light for Children (or an organization like it) the money I had spent on the plane ticket? In one of our frequent conversations about aid NGOs, Yaw explained to me why oversees volunteers are important. My presence in Ghana with Light for Children showed the people there that many of us in the West do care about the AIDS pandemic, and we were able to trade information about how each of our countries were dealing, and what kind of support they offered. International volunteers at Light for Children were even able to speak about these things on the radio in Ghana, and share our experiences with a larger audience. In addition, so many people see or hear about AIDS in Africa only through the Western media, which only shows a small part of the problem. The stories that HIV/AIDS volunteers bring back to their countries help to put a human face on the problem, which encourages and inspires people to take action on this distant problem.

Back in Canada, I feel as if my perspective on Africa and the AIDS epidemic is forever changed. Problems, issues, and people that once felt distant are now close to me, and I hope that even though my time in Ghana has ended, my work for this cause has just begun.