Ghana Update: Working with Youth

Whoever said kids are the future, I would have to agree with them!

Life in Ghana, working everyday in a youth-centered environment, has changed my perspective on the whole demographic. Being the youngest of three kids I had never really gotten the chance to act as an influence to anyone younger. My previous position as YCI’s Program Assistant allowed me to wet my feet a bit with working with prospective volunteers; however, working in Ghana has brought a whole new set of challenges.

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Leigh conducting a workshop

Working directly as a workshop facilitator in schools, youth groups and churches has been a different ball game all together. Inquisitive would be an understatement. When speaking about issues, many youth in Ghana are new to discussions that allow for many questions, concerns, and sharing etc. No question is too bold…believe me. But the energy in the workshops is great. I’ve grown confident speaking to my peers as they have welcomed me with open arms and attentive minds. I have also gotten quite used to the initial giggles that occur when I first begin speaking. Who knew I have a funny accent?

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Next month we will be implementing a program on Sexual Reproductive Health for girls. Although I have enjoyed substance abuse and entrepreneurship, the upcoming workshops will lean more to my strengths. I focused on Gender and Development in my undergrad, and have always wanted to work directly with girls and women as a group. From my knowledge thus far, SRH is quite a taboo topic. I hope to break down those walls and create an open environment with the intention of giving these young women accurate knowledge and also a voice.  Subjects such as birth control, safe sex, STIs and abortion will be the focus of our workshops as many of these things are not covered in curriculum in schools. Marlee (another YCI volunteer) and I got a chance to speak to a few of the students at Universal High School after a previous workshop and the girls informed us of how most young women get their knowledge about these topics – word of mouth from friends. In addition, much of the information that is being passed along is grossly inaccurate. Many young women seem to be uneasy speaking to adults, doctors or teachers about SRH; therefore, assumptions are made, which can be dangerous. I am very curious about the reaction we will get on this topic.

– Leigh Matassa, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013

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