Weekly update from Koforidua.

This week was a pretty eventful and busy for the entire group, with a lot of things coming together as the week progressed.  That is not to say it was ad-hoc planning by any means, but we did have to sort of go with the flow and prepare accordingly.  The week began with a nice day-cation (for the guys at least) when on Saturday Nick, Ali-Chuma, and I went to Boti falls and hiked to Umbrella Rock with Wonder.  The falls were a sight to behold – I couldn’t believe the relatively small stream held what looked to be thousands of gallons of water that dumped over it every second.  It was nice being able to get so close to the falls, but of course it would have been nicer to be able to go in the water, especially because there was a large mangrove tree or two that blocked the view a little bit.  I don’t want to sound nit-picky though- it was great.  The hike was great too and the view from Umbrella Rock provided one of the best views of Ghana I have seen yet.

Boti Falls

Sunday’s weekly meeting with the mentors went well.  We broke up into two groups, one went over the HIV/AIDS workshop that was to be held on Monday and the other started prepping for Global Handwashing Day.  The mentors in the HIV/AIDS group went over with us YCI volunteers what they had done in their previous two HIV/AIDS workshops within the last year, so that we weren’t repeating information from groups before, although at times the mentors did have trouble recalling specific activities that they had already done.

The HIV/AIDS workshop on Monday also went quite well I would say.  It was our third workshop together with the mentors and the information was familiar to the them so participation and discussion was much more prevalent and enthusiastic this time.  The post-test showed that the mentors did learn something (improved 15% from the pre-test) and was the highest average score yet, which was encouraging to us.  I really think they are ready to get out to the local schools and do some workshops with students themselves.  If they keep to the outline we used and use the same content I think they would certainly be comfortable and competent teachers to young students in need of information.

Joseph, Disa, Teddy and Ali-Chuma conducting a demonstration on handwashing in a school

The next big thing we did during the week included school visits Wednesday morning and afternoon to promote Global Handwashing Day.  At the meeting on Sunday, we decided that the two communities we would be working in would be: Zongo (a muslim community) and Railway, so we planned visits to schools in those areas to encourage students and faculty to attend. We also wanted to invite them to participate in a poster-making contest about the importance of handwashing.  The two schools we went to in the morning were Sarkodee and Pentecostal (each was at 7:30 so we, the YCI volunteers and some mentors, split up into two groups).  Sarkodee went well.  We were given about 20 minutes to present to one large group of probably 50 students.  Teddy was great at leading the presentation because he was very knowledgeable.  We had provided him with the information and he knew it well and was very enthusiastic when he imparted it to the students.  He did a great job.  Pentecostal was a little more hectic, though that is not to say that it was poorly done by any means.  We were under the impression that we would only be presenting to the junior students, but apparently when the other group, (I was in the Sarkodee group), arrived and were introducing themselves to the faculty, they thought that the information would be helpful and useful for the entire school!  So, after we finished at Sarkodee, we went over to Pentecostal to help out the other group.  We had two sets of resources, and enough people for three groups, and we worked our way through the entire school.  The last school we visited was Peace Preparatory at 2pm, and that also went smoothly.

Thursday some YCI volunteers and mentors went to schools in the Zongo community.  I stayed back to work on the HIV/AIDS workshop.  Ali-Chuma and I went to speak to the Health Services Administrator at the local ministry, and then we began to work on the letter we need to write to begin our tree-planting initiative.   At 10am and 1pm – the volunteers and mentors were Back to the Bible and Kwame Nkrumah.  The first one went well, like the previous three, but Kwame Nkrumah was more difficult because it was a presentation to the entire school all at once (Viviane said they crammed some 250+ people in a room built for 50 students).

Daniel, Jake and Viviane at the Odwira Festival

Today, Friday, Viviane and Disa went with the Zongo assemblyman to finish up preparations for tomorrow’s event (they went to local mosques and spoke with the Imams and local chiefs, and got chairs and a canopy, etc).  I worked on this blog and Nick and Ali-Chuma got the soap for tomorrow.  Ali-Chuma also did a radio interview today with the help of one of the YMCA mentors, Rachel, who works at a station, to promote our handwashing event.  When Viv and Disa got back, while Ali-Chuma was at the interview, the four of us YCI folks rode with Daniel (Ofosu) to the festival that was going on in his home town of Akropong-Akwapim.  It was a marvelous thing, really, to me at least.  I had never seen anything like it – Chiefs and Queenmothers were being hoisted into the air on platforms, decked out in golden crowns and jewelry.  Twelve gage shotguns were being shot off into the air (they were not blanks, they were legit cartridges, I picked up one from the ground as a souvenir).  This was a whole new experience for me.  My favorite part was seeing how ecstatic certain groups of people got when the chief of their community passed by.  It was like they were representatives of their favorite football team or something.

A Durbar of Chiefs during the Odwira Festival in Akropong-Akuapem in the Eastern Region

Tomorrow is Global Handwashing Day, and I think it promises to be a success.  From what the Zongo assemblyman told the girls today it should be.  More to come on that in the next post from our Team.

– Jacob Michaels, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2011

For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category. 

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