It’s the week of June 9th, 2013 and we’re already in our 4th week in Takoradi. I am amazed at how quickly our time here has passed! Its been a such a wonderful time and we’ve had the pleasure of working with some great people at YMCA – Madam Winifred and Rhoda, Madam Emelia and of course Nana and Ama our key partners who have been such a joy to be around and get to know over the last few weeks. We’ve felt so comfortable and at home here, all due to the hospitality and warmness of the people we’ve met. From the staff at the Worker’s College which includes Cudjoe who is always smiling, to cab drivers, to people walking on the streets who stop to greet you, to the merchants at the market like Auntie Rose who helped me find some materials I needed for one of our workshops – everyone is friendly and a willing to offer a helping hand.
Most recently we worked on environmental awareness workshops, which we had planned to host at 3 different schools: the YMCA Vocational Training Institute, Fijai Secondary School and Bompeh Secondary School. The number of students for these workshops is much smaller than the last workshops we delivered on personal hygiene. The lattar had about 1200 students and although we were able to interact with the students and successfully carry out the activities, the interactions were a bit impersonal due to the large number of people and the activities were a bit rushed. The environmental workshops, however, were with a total of 150 students, with about 50 students in each workshop, which made it much easier to handle and allowed for more interaction between us and the students. The smaller number also allowed for more flexibility with the material we presented.
At first I found it difficult trying to create a workshop on waste and plastic waste management given that waste management issues stem from the lack of provisions for adequate supply of trash bins in cities, separation of waste and recyclable materials, and regularly scheduled municipal waste pick ups. Sadly, due to this lack of regulation, sometimes people resort to their own ways of disposing of the accumulated garbage if the pick ups are late for days or maybe weeks or if there are not enough trash bins around the city. Also, at times people might not be able to afford the polluter pay system here or are not willing to pay for it and so the best option for them is to improperly dump their garbage, burn it or dig a hole to burry it. The polluter pay system is basically people paying for the amount of garbage they create and this can be anywhere from $10 a month for 240L bin collection to about $140 for large communal bin pick ups. After reading some articles about some of the initiatives taking place around environmental awareness put forth by the municipal government and private garbage companies like Zoomlion it became clear to me that educating the students and creating awareness about things like the dangers of improper dumping, burning garbage and plastic, and littering are a vital part of the overall efforts to improve the system.
So in the workshops, we placed emphasis on plastic waste management which is a big issue here. Drinking water is almost entirely consumed out of plastic water sachets or water bottle, which creates a lot of plastic waste. In fact, water sachets make up about 85% of waste in Ghana alone and it’s almost never disposed of correctly. We had an activity planned called ‘pollution plays’ where groups of students were given scenarios such as ‘you just finished your water sachet and there is no bin close by’ and they had to make a 1 minute play acting out the right and wrong ways to handle the scenario. We found this game to be very effective and the students really took it above and beyond by doing their own debrief at the end of each skit discussing the actions that took place in their play as they related to real life. It was really wonderful to see them get so engaged with it and have fun with it. We are hoping to have our last environmental workshop at Bompeh next week which would wrap up the workshops in Takoradi and then we are off to our next city – Kof Town!
– May El Ali, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013