Being a first time volunteer with an international organization such as YCI made me a bit nervous, but after arriving at the YMCA here in Takoradi and meeting everyone here, I was able to relax and get excited all over again and understand what and how we would be helping out in the community.
Meeting the young girls at the local YMCA was great; through conducting a workshop with them we got to learn what they knew about substance abuse. Their level of participation was exciting and surprising at the same time; I was so happy to see how the girls appreciated us being there and how respectful they were with us.
So far my favorite activity has been the substance abuse workshops. The young girls at the local YMCA in Takoradi are amazing! These young girls were so interested and willing to learn, and they have so many questions. Our substance abuse workshop focused on marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. Most of the young girls understood the consequences of taking these substances; in fact, some of them had answers we had not even thought about! I’ll never forget the surprise looks on their faces when they saw what cigarettes were actually made of. That look confirmed that our workshop was a success and that the girls understood how their lives would be different if they did decide to take any of these substances.
We had the girls create a Dream Tree to keep in their classrooms; we wanted them to look at it every day and understand that each of their dreams are possible. I think the Dream Tree is a very important activity. It goes to make sure the girls understand that their dreams are achievable through hard work and continuing their education. Small activities like this mean so much in a place like Ghana were young women receive less education than men.
The entire school participated in the Dream Tree exercise: we started with the first, second, third and final year students, and eventually each class had a dream tree. The girls really surprised me with their dreams; some of them wanted to be nurses, teachers, fashion designers, doctors, and some wanted to have their own catering businesses. We explained to the girls that the substances we talked about in class could be harmful to them and jeopardize their dreams for various reasons. We also explained to them that it was not forbidden for them to take these substances, but that there could harmful be consequences.
What I loved about this workshop is that we made the girls focus on team work and supporting each other. Now when we have workshop with the girls their level of participation and support for each other is greater than we had ever anticipated.
– Afua Helena Kojo, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013