By: Nicole Heaney
It has officially been four weeks since Judy and I arrived in Ghana. Although we have yet to meet the half-way point, I think I can safely say we have developed a flair for workshop facilitation! This task has proved to be easier than expected due to the help and support of our team; this includes YCI members, YMCA mentors, and volunteers and partners from local NGOs in Koforidua such as 4H Ghana.
So far we have successfully implemented 9 workshops! The improvements in these workshops are due to general observation, feedback from our YMCA mentors and our new M&E (monitoring and evaluation) system. This new M&E system consists of a pre- and post-test to accurately measure workshop participant’s knowledge on our subject matter to improve our future workshops. We decided to test participants’ knowledge on the subject matter of our workshop before and after the workshop, using the same questions, to measure how much they had learned. From our M&E tests, we have discovered that the topic of Youth Advocacy is a relatively new term for most workshop participants, particularly for the Junior High students. Although this term is new, it has not distracted the students from being active and eager to learn. I am so impressed with the energy from all the participants, but I must say the energy from the Junior High and High School students is my favourite; they are so lively, friendly and full of fresh ideas for their communities. On days when I feel tired, or might be suffering from homesickness, these students never fail to lift my spirits up and I become absorbed with their positive energy.
This past weekend, Judy and I went to a beach club nearby on Lake Volta. We were accompanied by our coworkers, and our close friends William and Theo. The club was called Sajuna Beach Club and consisted of various activities for everyone to enjoy: a pool, football field, beach volleyball, trampoline, boat tours on Volta Lake, and a restaurant to get food and drinks in. I really liked this spot, and I hope we can go back because unfortunately we spent the whole time in the pool and never got to enjoy the other facilities! I am especially interested in the boat tour. Judy and I had a lot of fun swimming and trying to teach our friends how to swim (or even just float!) Everyone at the pool was very friendly to us, and we had a lot of fun playing pool games.
As we approached our third week, we hit our biggest struggle thus far: a national school strike. Teacher unions across Ghana are striking against the government for unsolved pay and reimbursement of transfer funds and vehicle maintenance. The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) are all on strike, so basically all of the school institutions are affected. With a full schedule of workshops taking place primarily in schools, this strike has the opportunity to bring our programming to a halt. Our program coordinator, William, has further impressed Judy and I with his negotiation skills and has managed to convince most of the teachers to come into the schools so that we may still facilitate our workshops with the students. This has resulted in some rearranging of the time slots, with most workshops being moved to the early mornings, but at least they are not being cancelled altogether!
I am astonished to see so much support from the local teachers who genuinely care about their student’s education. They welcome us with open arms and have expressed great gratitude for our services. Despite the strike, they are there to support their students, which is a refreshing sight. I hope the government of Ghana and the teachers can come to an agreement soon so we can continue our programming. Judy and I feel confident with the workshops we have been perfecting, but are still aware that there is always room for improvement. Next week we have some school debates which will be new for us, but I am personally very excited about them. We also have a Go Girls Conference this weekend that we are eagerly preparing for. I can’t wait to see what ideas these Ghanaian youth change-makers will develop!
Nicole Heaney is a YCI Ambassador currently working in Koforidua, Ghana.
To learn more about YCI’s Ambassador programs and how you can get involved, check out our program calendar.