Introducing the Koforidua Team!

By: Judy Cerovski

The YCI Koforidua team - Shalibu, Nicole, William, Vera, Theo, Joe, Emmanuel, Judy and Reindolf

The YCI Koforidua team – Shalibu, Nicole, William, Vera, Theo, Joe, Emmanuel, Judy and Reindolf

Time is going by so fast that it is hard to believe that we have been in Ghana for four weeks now! Almost every day has been spent either facilitating a workshop or planning for future workshops. It’s easy to get lost in all the work. However we could not have done it without the help of our amazing team. So I’d like to spend a bit of time introducing them in detail, as they deserve a lot of recognition.

Firstly, there is William Appiah the YCI Project Coordinator in Koforidua. He has really done an amazing job organizing the workshop locations and dates and compiling the schedule. He may seem a bit overly official at times, but is always on time and pays attention to the details. The last several weeks, some of our workshops have been post-poned and cancelled due to the ongoing teacher strike. William has been trying really hard to ensure the continuation of the workshops throughout this period. Although some schools were unable to participate, he was able to get others on board if we came early enough in the morning or brought refreshments for the students. William really deserves the recognition of being a supportive and caring colleague who is very passionate about youth development in Ghana.

Spelling out YCI after hiking up a mountain in Koforidua

Spelling out YCI after hiking up a mountain in Koforidua

Next, there are the members of the YMCA Mentorship program. This would include Reindolf, Shaibu, Emmanuel, Vera, Theo and Joe. Reindolf and Shaibu are the senior-most volunteers whom help support the programme even though they are busy with their National Service Duties. Every student who finishes university studies must complete a year of National Service Duty where they are placed in different sectors around the country spreading their knowledge to local areas. You could consider it an internship of sorts.

Emmanuel and Vera have been very active from the beginning, showing us around the town from the get-go. Both offer YCI great local expertise and workshop knowledge. Emmanuel is especially talented in motivating the participants. They take heed of what he says, possibly since he is studying to be a pastor; his ability to take lead really shows in workshops. Vera is particularly good at engaging participants in small-group activities. As she is a student herself at the Polytechnic College, she understands the types of questions other students may have and she is able to explain the activities well to them.

The most recent members of the YMCA mentors have been Theo and Joe. Originally it was just Theo but he was slowly able to convince his cousin Joe to join as well. Since they are both local teachers, they make a great addition to the team in their knowledge of students and educational training. They are both very eager to participate and offer their skills which the team is very grateful for.

Lastly, there is Janh. He is a German volunteer with YMCA who has also joined our team. He has been a great asset with his photography skills and added support. In the upcoming weeks, we hope to utilize him more in workshop facilitation so that he can also develop his skills as an instructor.

Participanrs engaged in group discussion at the Go Girls ConferenceIt has been great working with such an amazing team. There are times when workshops do not go so smoothly and other times when we expect the participants to be rowdy and instead they are the opposite. Regardless of which situation is the result, our team is there to support the workshops and ensure the youth are engaged. On Saturday, we had some unexpected last minute set-backs to our program. We were to host Koforidua’s first Go Girl’s Conference. It is a conference aimed at educating young girls about the Millennium Development Goals and encouraging them to take up a leadership role by designing their own projects that can help achieve the MDGs. Originally there were supposed to be 50 participants, but on the day of the conference there were only 4 whom had arrived. The morning was spent making some last minute changes and the YMCA mentors were busy trying to get in touch with the participants. In the end, the conference was able to be held with a total of 14 volunteers. Although we had expected a greater turn-out, we were very appreciative of the participation given. Hopefully the next conference will be a bit more successful.

That evening the team decided to get together and celebrate Theo’s birthday! It was a great opportunity to relax with the team and really show how much we appreciate their support and guidance. We have only known the team for a short period of time, yet they already feel like family. Nicole and I are very grateful that we could experience such close friendships while away from home. We think our team is super awesome!

Celebrating Theo's birthday, from left to right Vera, Judy, William, Nicole and Theo in the middle front

Celebrating Theo’s birthday, from left to right Vera, Judy, William, Nicole and Theo in the middle front

Judy Cerovski is a Youth Ambassador with YCI, currently working in Koforidua Ghana. To learn more about YCI’s Ambassador programs in Ghana, Tanzania and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

Update from the ‘All Girls Summit’ in Takoradi, Ghana

By: Claire Whitty, Jillian Head and Caroline Kent

On Thursday November 27th, we held the All Girls Summit at the YMCA Vocational School in Takoradi. Girls from Nana Brempong Public School, Jaycris International Education Centre and the YMCA Vocational School gathered together to share their ideas and launch their projects

Ghana photo 3

The project team from Jaycris

The girls participated in a series of workshops based on the 2010-2015 MDGs, public speaking, confidence-building and leadership. They put these skills to use by implementing a project within their schools based off of an MDG. Three of the 4 groups chose Environmental Sustainability. The other groups focused on Improving Maternal Health, Combatting Malaria and Cholera and Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger.

The girls presented their projects with confidence and clarity. Each project proved interesting and held potential. For example, the group from Nana Brempong that focused on Environmental Sustainability had already created and dispersed dust bins to each classroom in their school. The group from Jaycris that focused on Combatting Malaria and Cholera had numerous products meant to prevent their community from contracting the diseases. All of the participants had clearly thought about what needed to done in their community to help their chosen MDG. They were also beginning to design and implement ways in which they could help.

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Our “invited guests” table

We had a guest speaker, Henrietta, from the Ghana Education Services. She is the Girl Child Co-ordinator at the GES, who works to encourage Ghanaian girls to attend school. We were inspired by her talk given at the SHEP Co-ordinators workshop in October. Therefore, we thought she would be an excellent motivator for the participants. She spoke of the importance of women leaders within the diverse communities of Ghana. We also had women from African Women International attend, as well as some representatives from the Head of State. All of our invited guests offered advice and support to the girls.

Furthermore, we had a student speak who had participated in the project last year, Christabel. She was incredibly inspiring and spoke of how the project had improved her as a person. She even stated that she had found the “real her” through her participation in this venture. She seemed to give hope to the current participants that they can also succeed within this project, as well as become leaders within their communities.

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The entire group of attendees and participants

Overall, each project plan seemed promising. The girls had visibly benefited from the workshops given. They seemed enthusiastic about their projects and we are confident that they will continue to improve and implement their ideas within their schools.

Claire, Caroline and Jillian are Youth Ambassadors currently working with YCI in Takoradi, Ghana.
To learn more about YCI’s ambassador programs in Ghana, Tanzania, and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

Making Friends in Stone Town

By: Vanessa Murphy

Vanessa Murphy - Old Fort

Vanessa in Stone Town, Zanzibar

There’s a difference between travelling somewhere and living somewhere. Walking around Stone Town, Zanzibar, it’s very easy to see these differences amongst foreigners. The more I settled in to my life in Stone Town, the more I began to love my time there.

During the summer of 2014, I worked for YCI at their office in Mwanakwerekwe, Zanzibar, teaching a class to young people interested in working for NGOs as part of the Emerging Leaders Program. Stone Town was only a 20 minute dalla dalla ride from where I lived, and my contact point for the rest of the world. Mwanakwerekwe is a bustling market area for locals on the island and a truly authentic Zanzibarian cultural experience. For those times I needed a little more quiet and a break from being the only ‘Mzungu’, I would head into Stone Town to sit by the beach, drink a coffee, or do some shopping.

On my first few visits to Stone Town, I was hassled just like the other foreigners walking into the city. I was asked to ‘just take a look’ in the shops; questioned about what activities I would like to do that day; offered Henna painting and cheap Indian-inspired Ali Baba pants; and challenged with a wide array of Swahili greetings. This meant I was new.

However, the more I ventured into Stone Town, the more Swahili I returned the challenges with, and the more I joked with those approaching me, the faster I began to fit in. Being a ‘White Rasta’ helped me stand out and be remembered of course, but generally relaxing and speaking to people is the fastest way to turn from a money-toting tourist to a Swahili Rafiki.

Vanessa Murphy - Faki at Forodhoni Market

Faki at the Forodhoni Market

Zanzibarians are always looking for a joke, always looking to chat, and love making new friends. This is what makes the island the paradise it is. By the time I left Zanzibar I had friends all over the island, but the ones I had met in Stone Town were an interesting group…

Emmanuel, a young guy in the Old Fort who works selling tourist wares. He first wanted me to buy jewelry but in the end, he took care of my kitten called Moose and made sure he was fed and safe.

Okey Dokey, a fun-loving Rasta with big thick dreads who knew everything going on and every tourist in the area. No matter where I went on the island, he was there.

Big Mama, who first ripped me off by over-charging me for Henna painting, soon became a friendly face around town yelling ‘Vanessa!’ in crowded markets and along the street.

Faki, a past student of YCI’s with the biggest smile in town. He ensured I was well fed at the Forodhoni Night Market where he ran a table selling mountains of sea food, breads, and samosas.

By the time I left Zanzibar, I couldn’t walk into Stone Town without seeing and talking to someone I knew every 10 meters. I was no longer asked to buy things, but instead was asked how my day was. I was no longer offered Henna, but instead offered tea. I was no longer challenged with Swahili, but conversed in it. I was a friend in Stone Town.

Vanessa Murphy - Sun Setting in Stone Town

Sun Setting in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Vanessa Murphy was a YCI Youth Ambassador working in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

To learn more about how you can get involved with YCI’s projects abroad, and to view current opportunities to become a Youth Ambassador, click here.

Adapting To Life In Zanzibar

By: Jacqualine Sommerfeld

Jacqualine photo 2

Arriving in Tanzania after a very long plane ride from Canada was surreal. A wave of heat hit me in the face as soon as I stepped outside. It is hot and it is beautiful. Zanzibar is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean. It is the place I will call home for the next 5 weeks.

Living in a small village has been a major adjustment. I think I am still going through a bit of culture shock. The biggest difference is living in a Muslim community. I have had to learn a lot about what is culturally acceptable, and I have put forth an effort to be respectable. My homestay family is great. I was actually surprised that a lot of them speak English. Although, I am trying to learn Kiswahili, it is always nice to be able to communicate with them in English if there is something important I need to get across.

Jacqualine photo 1

I started teaching classes at Labayka last week. One challenge I have faced is the fact that the project I am working on is very open-ended. Initially, I didn’t know exactly what I should teach or what had been taught already. Because of this, I was stressed out when starting to plan my lessons, as I had never taught a class before, let alone plan a lesson! Over time, I realized that I need to focus on the skills and expertise that I have, and use them to the best of my ability. I have also learned that it is best to go with the flow.

The students are really awesome and when I am stressed out about all of the problems that I have to face I try to think about them, and how important my time here is. So, basically I am making it work. I am here to do a job and make a difference, so that is what I am going to try and do.

Jacqualine is a YCI Youth Ambassador currently working in Tanzania. Check out our upcoming Ambassador projects in Ghana and Tanzania in our program calendar!

YCI Celebrates International Volunteer Day!

Today is International Volunteer Day! This is a chance to recognize and celebrate volunteerism, honoring those who give their time to make a difference.

In celebration of International Volunteer Day, YCI wants to honour our amazing volunteers! Read on to learn what inspires them to volunteer abroad.

Aleatha Bedard-Poole Ghana 2014 “I volunteer to invest in others and empower individuals to do the same!”

Aleatha Bedard-Poole Ghana 2014
“I volunteer to invest in others and empower individuals to do the same!”

Ali-Chuma Tabaro Koforidua Ghana, 2011 “What inspired me to volunteer beyond my desire to make a difference for others less fortunate is the opportunity to do so with the guidance and support I receive volunteering with YCI.”

Ali-Chuma Tabaro Koforidua Ghana, 2011
“What inspired me to volunteer beyond my desire to make a difference for others less fortunate is the opportunity to do so with the guidance and support I receive volunteering with YCI.”

 Allison Burney Guyana, 2012 “I see volunteering as an opportunity to learn about the world by experiencing aspects of another country, including the culture, food, language, and lifestyle. I want to meet the people there, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.”

Allison Burney Guyana, 2012
“I see volunteering as an opportunity to learn about the world by experiencing aspects of another country, including the culture, food, language, and lifestyle. I want to meet the people there, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.”

Stephen Cornish, Executive Director, Doctors without Borders Canada CRIV and CRV 1993/94 “Volunteering allowed me to gain experience, grow as a person and to begin what has become a life-long vocation in overseas assistance. I continue to serve as a board member for YCI thus giving back in a very small way; for what I received as a young YCI group leader many years ago.”

Stephen Cornish, Executive Director, Doctors without Borders Canada CRIV and CRV 1993/94
“Volunteering allowed me to gain experience, grow as a person and to begin what has become a life-long vocation in overseas assistance. I continue to serve as a board member for YCI thus giving back in a very small way; for what I received as a young YCI group leader many years ago.”

Samuel Legay Guyana 1990 “Looking around and seeing so many things to be done to be done in my country inspired me to volunteer in an effort to help others and give back to my country.”

Samuel Legay Guyana 1990
“Looking around and seeing so many things to be done to be done in my country inspired me to volunteer in an effort to help others and give back to my country.”

Stephanie Hanson,  Mwanza, Tanzania, 2013 “I am inspired to volunteer because I know the way towards progress is to emulate the change you want to see in the world. I beleive that our responsibilities to help others do not end simply because our borders do – everyone deserves to have their rights upheld.”

Rakshin Kandola Costa Rica (2011-2012) and Ghana (2014) "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill. I was inspired to volunteer so that I would be able to give others. I have always had a passion for helping others in any way possible and this lead me to the path of volunteering.”

Rakshin Kandola Costa Rica (2011-2012) and Ghana (2014)
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill. I was inspired to volunteer so that I would be able to give others. I have always had a passion for helping others in any way possible and this lead me to the path of volunteering.”

Nikki Owens Koforidua, Ghana, 2009 “What inspires me to volunteer? Everything! Meeting new people, the never-ending learning opportunities, the chance to influence and help others while giving them them the chance to partake and learn the skills to better their community themselves.”

Nikki Owens Koforidua, Ghana, 2009
“What inspires me to volunteer? Everything! Meeting new people, the never-ending learning opportunities, the chance to influence and help others while giving them them the chance to partake and learn the skills to better their community themselves.”

Nathalie Landry Tanzania, 2012 “I volunteered with YCI and continue to volunteer in my community, because I believe in the power of community and learning from each-other. By opening up to others, we gain a better perspective about our world and how we truly all want the same things: health, happiness, love, safety, security, an education, the chance to be free and choose our own paths. Volunteering, sharing skills and knowledge and forging new friendships makes me feel connected and empowered.”

Nathalie Landry Tanzania, 2012
“I volunteered with YCI and continue to volunteer in my community, because I believe in the power of community and learning from each-other. By opening up to others, we gain a better perspective about our world and how we truly all want the same things: health, happiness, love, safety, security, an education, the chance to be free and choose our own paths. Volunteering, sharing skills and knowledge and forging new friendships makes me feel connected and empowered.”

Marlee Jordan Ghana, 2013 “Seeing the difference you can make in the lives of others is what inspires me to volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity to see how others live in other parts of the world and embrace the culture. For me, volunteering has a way of empowering you to work harder and try to positively contribute to the lives of others. It was so rewarding to interact with the youth and the memories made in Ghana will continue to nurture my personal and professional choices.”

Marlee Jordan Ghana, 2013
“Seeing the difference you can make in the lives of others is what inspires me to volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity to see how others live in other parts of the world and embrace the culture. For me, volunteering has a way of empowering you to work harder and try to positively contribute to the lives of others. It was so rewarding to interact with the youth and the memories made in Ghana will continue to nurture my personal and professional choices.”

Julien Morissette Vanuatu, 2005 “I volunteer to convey energy to others, and to learn about myself.”

Julien Morissette Vanuatu, 2005
“I volunteer to convey energy to others, and to learn about myself.”

Katherine Lemay Koforidua, Ghana, 2014 “As an educated, healthy, and well surrounded young woman, I believe that it is my duty to go out and be a positive member of our global society. A channel for me to be just that is through volunteerism.”

Katherine Lemay Koforidua, Ghana, 2014
“As an educated, healthy, and well surrounded young woman, I believe that it is my duty to go out and be a positive member of our global society. A channel for me to be just that is through volunteerism.”

Kayla Kozan Ghana, 2013 “I'm inspired to volunteer by the opportunity to educate but more importantly, the opportunity to become educated in the traditions and beauty of another culture.”

Kayla Kozan Ghana, 2013
“I’m inspired to volunteer by the opportunity to educate but more importantly, the opportunity to become educated in the traditions and beauty of another culture.”

Kendra Seignoret Guyana, 2012 “I volunteer because I believe it is important to participate in and to give back to the community, be it local or on a global scale. It is also a fantastic way to possibly inspire others while definitely being inspired myself to continue living life to the fullest.” — with Kendra Seignoret.

Kendra Seignoret Guyana, 2012
“I volunteer because I believe it is important to participate in and to give back to the community, be it local or on a global scale. It is also a fantastic way to possibly inspire others while definitely being inspired myself to continue living life to the fullest.”

Kayla Seguin Costa Rica, 2011 “Being part of something big and an effort toward change is what inspires me to keep volunteering and/or donating. From the people you meet and cultures you learn about to the sparkle in people's eyes is all I need to know that volunteering, caring and helping others is one of the greatest gifts.”

Kayla Seguin Costa Rica, 2011
“Being part of something big and an effort toward change is what inspires me to keep volunteering and/or donating. From the people you meet and cultures you learn about to the sparkle in people’s eyes is all I need to know that volunteering, caring and helping others is one of the greatest gifts.”

Madhab Bastakoti Ghana, 2013 “I love sharing my knowledge and skills with some charitable organization. In doing so, I also develop new skills and new ways of thinking.”

Madhab Bastakoti Ghana, 2013
“I love sharing my knowledge and skills with some charitable organization. In doing so, I also develop new skills and new ways of thinking.”

Marco Chan Accra, Ghana, 2014 “I am inspired knowing that I will be able to shares skills that I have learned in school to help people in developing regions succeed in building successful businesses.”

Marco Chan Accra, Ghana, 2014
“I am inspired knowing that I will be able to shares skills that I have learned in school to help people in developing regions succeed in building successful businesses.”

Jill Osler Guyana, 2005 “My inspiration for volunteering is that I want to continue to strive to help improve the quality of life of the community around me."

Jill Osler Guyana, 2005
“My inspiration for volunteering is that I want to continue to strive to help improve the quality of life of the community around me.”

Jessica O'Reilly Guyana, 2013 "I want to make an impact in the lives of others - small or large, it is all as equally important."

Jessica O’Reilly Guyana, 2013
“I want to make an impact in the lives of others – small or large, it is all as equally important.”

Jessica Lockhart Vanuatu, 2006 “I grew up in a small town in northern Alberta, where the value of community involvement was instilled in me from an early age. Volunteering in both our local and global communities provides a unique opportunity to interact with and learn from people that we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet.” Tag PhotoAdd LocationEdit

Jessica Lockhart Vanuatu, 2006
“I grew up in a small town in northern Alberta, where the value of community involvement was instilled in me from an early age. Volunteering in both our local and global communities provides a unique opportunity to interact with and learn from people that we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet.”

Jeremy Neeposh Costa Rica 2009; Vanuatu 2010; Costa Rica 2012 “I volunteer to see, experience and live a day-to-day life of people from all over the world. Volunteering gives you just that, its the best way to experience the world.” Tag PhotoAdd LocationEdit

Jeremy Neeposh Costa Rica 2009; Vanuatu 2010; Costa Rica 2012
“I volunteer to see, experience and live a day-to-day life of people from all over the world. Volunteering gives you just that, its the best way to experience the world.”

Erin Scott Tanzania, 2012 “I'm inspired to volunteer by the very organizations I work with. I love volunteering because it gives me the opportunity to help others, learn new things, and engage with my local and global communities.” Tag PhotoAdd LocationEdit

Erin Scott Tanzania, 2012
“I’m inspired to volunteer by the very organizations I work with. I love volunteering because it gives me the opportunity to help others, learn new things, and engage with my local and global communities.”

Emma Luker Tanzania, Zanzibar, 2013 “I am inspired to volunteer by all the other hardworking and passionate volunteers that I know who work together to achieve the common goal of making the world a happier and more equitable place. Plus the friendships you make and the adventures you have along the way are pretty inspiring too, making you just want to volunteer more!”

Emma Luker Tanzania, Zanzibar, 2013
“I am inspired to volunteer by all the other hardworking and passionate volunteers that I know who work together to achieve the common goal of making the world a happier and more equitable place. Plus the friendships you make and the adventures you have along the way are pretty inspiring too, making you just want to volunteer more!”

Danielle New Arusha, Tanzania, currently; Tanzania, 2013 “I volunteer because I want to use my skills and knowledge as a teacher in a positive way to benefit the youth of Tanzania. I not only want teach but learn as much as I can -- each day I learn as much from these amazing youth as they do from me. “

Danielle New Arusha, Tanzania, currently; Tanzania, 2013
“I volunteer because I want to use my skills and knowledge as a teacher in a positive way to benefit the youth of Tanzania. I not only want teach but learn as much as I can — each day I learn as much from these amazing youth as they do from me. “

Angela Mark Guyana, 2011 “I volunteer because I love to make connections between people. It is only through genuine connection that we learn about each other and ourselves.”

Angela Mark Guyana, 2011
“I volunteer because I love to make connections between people. It is only through genuine connection that we learn about each other and ourselves.”

Arielle Goldschlager Volcan Irazu- Costa Rica, 2008 “Volunteering creates a community unlike any other because it is based on altruism, it truly is something magnificent.”

Arielle Goldschlager Volcan Irazu- Costa Rica, 2008
“Volunteering creates a community unlike any other because it is based on altruism, it truly is something magnificent.”

Bhabi Neupane Ghana, 2013 "My passion to work with people inspires me to volunteer. I believe volunteering gives hands-on skills at work and rich experience of travel and culture of different places."

Bhabi Neupane Ghana, 2013
“My passion to work with people inspires me to volunteer. I believe volunteering gives hands-on skills at work and rich experience of travel and culture of different places.”

Carol Church Guyana, 1995 “I was inspired to volunteer as a leader because I felt my career choice in the corporate world, was missing something. I felt removed from the challenges of others in the world. I have always enjoyed working with kids/youth and loved watching them grow and mature. Guyana challenged me both spiritually and intellectually. We had to be problem solvers. When I came back I had my bank sponsor a 5K race in downtown Toronto to raise money for YCI. All in all, it was a great experience. My niece followed in my footsteps several years later as a Challenger.”

Carol Church Guyana, 1995
“I was inspired to volunteer as a leader because I felt my career choice in the corporate world, was missing something. I felt removed from the challenges of others in the world. I have always enjoyed working with kids/youth and loved watching them grow and mature. Guyana challenged me both spiritually and intellectually. We had to be problem solvers. When I came back I had my bank sponsor a 5K race in downtown Toronto to raise money for YCI. All in all, it was a great experience. My niece followed in my footsteps several years later as a Challenger.”

Charis Jung Ghana, 2014 “The joy on the faces of the people I've encountered and their passionate pursuit of their dreams inspires me to volunteer.”

Charis Jung Ghana, 2014
“The joy on the faces of the people I’ve encountered and their passionate pursuit of their dreams inspires me to volunteer.”

Christine Hunter Tanzania (Zanzibar), 2014 I volunteer because “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” ― Horace Mann.

Christine Hunter Tanzania (Zanzibar), 2014
I volunteer because “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” ― Horace Mann.

Cynthia Thompson Vanuatu, 2006 (yikes it's really been that long!) “I'm fortunate enough to have the time and ability to volunteer. I figure if I can help, then why not?! Not everyone is so lucky.”

Cynthia Thompson Vanuatu, 2006 (yikes it’s really been that long!)
“I’m fortunate enough to have the time and ability to volunteer. I figure if I can help, then why not?! Not everyone is so lucky.”

Amanda Armstrong Guyana, 2011 “My passion for what I do and my desire to inspire others is the reason I volunteer. The skills, development, and life-changing experiences that volunteering provides inspires me.”

Amanda Armstrong Guyana, 2011
“My passion for what I do and my desire to inspire others is the reason I volunteer. The skills, development, and life-changing experiences that volunteering provides inspires me.”

Staff Spotlight: William Appiah

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William Appiah is my name and I’ve been working with Youth Challenge International as the Program Coordinator for the Eastern Region of Ghana for the past eight months. As the program coordinator, I contribute to the development of an annual work plan for the country, contribute to the designing of projects, facilitate the implementation of the annual work plan and am directly in charge of volunteers in the Eastern Region, Koforidua. Also, I prepare reports on all projects implemented in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Having studied marketing management for my Bachelor’s degree and having worked with a lot of youth in Ghana in the area of community development, my interest in youth work was whipped up to explore more youth-focused projects and this ultimately landed me in YCI Ghana. As the adage goes “the more you live the more you learn,” I have come to realize that most young people are not focused. They simply don’t have a direction in life which usually leads to unemployment and dissatisfaction even for those who are employed. I will advise the youth to be focused and work towards their goals.

Unemployment is the biggest issue facing young people in Ghana, but I believe young people can still create jobs to employ others. As for young people who are interested in international development, they should learn to adapt to different cultures and be prepared to learn from local people. There is still a lot that young people can do since the future belongs to us (the youth), therefore, they should be the center of all development work so that they can also explore their full potential. I believe YCI will provide many youth with the opportunity to explore their potentials and to become greater people in the future. Long live YCI!

Simmering Away Stigma: World AIDS Day in Takoradi

By: Claire Whitty, Jillian Head and Caroline Kent

YCI volunteer Nicole conducting a demonstration at World AIDS Day events in Takoradi

YCI volunteer Nicole conducting a demonstration at World AIDS Day events in Takoradi

As a final culminating activity, the Takoradi team – with the help of Nicole and Judy from Koforidua – put together a World AIDS Day event on December 1st. The theme of our event was “stamping out stigma.” Therefore, the main event was a cooking competition involving both students from three senior high schools in Takoradi and people living with HIV (PLHIV). The objective was to get the students to understand that certain myths about HIV are untrue. Many students in Takoradi believe that one can contract HIV from being near or sharing food or utensils with a person living with HIV. By having the students cooking together with PLHIV at such a large-scale event we hoped to erase this belief.

The competition went very well. The students were very professional and cooked amazing meals, including both local and international dishes. Four judges assessed the teams based on taste, texture, appearance, presentation, hygiene and teamwork. At the very end all the students attending the event were invited to try the dishes prepared by their classmates.

WAD Takoradi

Other activities featured at the event included an HIV-themed song and dance competition involving the students from all three schools, guest speakers from the Ghana AIDS Commission, Association of People Living with HIV and a Doctor who all spoke to the students about HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and the stigma that PLHIV live with daily. We also had condom demonstration booths and information packets for the students.

WAD Takoradi 3

Overall, the day went smoothly and the students seemed to really enjoy themselves. They asked lots of great questions and were very engaged. They were particularly lively during the song and dance competition. It was evident they had put a lot of work into creating original pieces that conveyed messages about HIV. All of the students who participated in the cooking competition were awarded a prize and a certificate of achievement.

We believe that the impact of the event will reach beyond the attendees and that they will spread awareness about stigma-reduction and myth-busting throughout their schools and communities. We hope that this event will take place again in the future. It is a great learning opportunity for students living in the Takoradi area, as well as a fun social event for the community!

Claire, Caroline and Jillian are Youth Ambassadors currently working with YCI in Takoradi, Ghana.
To learn more about YCI’s ambassador programs in Ghana, Tanzania, and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.