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Today is Wednesday May 29th, our second official work day in Takoradi which came right after a relaxing long weekend in celebration of African Union Day. Our first two days so far have consisted of organizing and discussing our work schedule for the next couple of weeks along with meeting the YCI stakeholders and partners of these projects.

Today began with a scheduled meeting with the Regional Coordinator of the National Youth Authority (NYA), Mr. Papa Assan. The NYA is a branch of the Department of Youth and Sports in Ghana responsible for implementing and overseeing various policies and programs aimed at empowering Ghanaian Youth in the areas of education, employment, environment, Health and HIV/AIDS, just to name a few – all of which aligns with the focus areas of many of YCI’s projects as well.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 3.00.54 PM

On Tuesday we also met with Ghana Education Service (GES), a branch of the Ministry of Education. The purpose of the meeting was to acquire permission from the Metro Director of Education, Mr. Nana Imbeah to allow us to work with the schools in Takoradi. This is a requirement that all NGO’s and private organizations working with the schools in the community must attain before they start any projects. The meeting went very well and we acquired the approval with flying colours – the officials were very enthusiastic about the YCI projects we have planned.

One thing I really appreciate so far about these last couple days were the meetings with the GES and the NYA and the active involvement of the government with YCI projects in Takoradi. As an NGO, YCI places strong emphasis on the engagement of members within the communities and on their partnerships which includes the Government. The fact that we sought permission of the government before we proceeded with our work with the schools, really shows how much value YCI places on aligning our work with the expectations of the communities we are working in before any work is done. This greatly reassures me as a non-local that my work here has been approved by the people that will be benefiting the most from it – the youth.

Here is an overview of the projects we have planned in Takoradi, which is the Western Region of Ghana also known as ‘Oil City’.

1. Personal Hygiene Workshop: This workshop will be focused on educating men and women in three selected schools in Takoradi about the best ways to wash hands along with personal, food and kitchen hygiene best practices in an effort to prevent prevalent diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, among others.

2. Environmental Iniatives: We will be creating workshops focusing on waste collection, waste management and recycling plastic in 3 selected schools working alongside waste management companies in the area. The initiative is also aimed at helping to establish environmental groups in each of the selected schools which will be responsible for organizing activities such as clean-up days and tree-plantings as well as sustaining environmental awareness within the schools.

3. Research on Youth Entrepreneurship: Working alongside our partner YMCA and local volunteers, we will be conducting a baseline questionnaire with local young entrepreneurs to find out more about their experiences, challenges and successes with starting their own businesses. The questionnaire will be analyzed to produce a report. The report then will inform the next group of volunteers who will design workshops addressing the findings of the surveys in terms of types of training and information the entrepreneurs could benefit from, e.g. how to write a business plan or ways of attaining capital to start a business.

 Happy World Environment Day! WED 2013

In case you hadn’t heard, yesterday was World Environment Day! Here is a recap of what it’s all about and how you can get involved.

“Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint”

World Environment Day is a yearly event aimed at being the most widely celebrated day for positive environmental action around the globe. The celebration began in 1972 and is used as a tool by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to create worldwide awareness of the environment, and encourage political attention as well as positive action. Activities in support of this day occur globally throughout the year, and climax on June 5th.

Through World Environment Day, the UNEP seeks to “personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.” World Environment Day provides a chance “for people from all walks of life to come together to work toward a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.”

food

This year’s theme focuses on food waste and food loss. Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint is the new campaign launched by the UNEP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), in collaboration with a growing list of partners from both the public and private sectors, to give attention to, and create solutions relevant to developed and developing countries alike.

According to the FAO, every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted – this is equivalent to the amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, 1 in every 7 people go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die from hunger every day.

Food Waste: A Shame for Humankind and the Environment

We cannot ignore the challenge of food waste. Approximately one third of all food production fails to make it from the farm to the table. According to the UNEP, global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, therefore making food production the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change. This is not only a massive hunger problem; this is a massive environmental problem. Food waste is a tremendous drain on natural resources, causing severe negative environmental impacts. When food is wasted, so are all the resources and inputs used in the production of that food.

In developing countries, food loss can be attributed to inadequate storage facilities and lack of information on proper storing techniques, low investment in food production systems and poor infrastructure, pests, and inefficient supply chains. In developed countries, a substantial amount of food is wasted at the consumption level. For example, food is thrown away by households as well as by retailers in the food and beverage industry and subsequently rots in landfills, releasing large, unnecessary quantities of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – causing detrimental effects to the environment. Significant amounts of food are also lost as a result of buyers being insistent on cosmetic perfection for retail.

Think.Eat.Save encourages you to increase your awareness of the environmental impact related to your food choices and guides you to make informed decisions that will allow you to witness the power of collective decisions {that you and others make} to reduce food waste, save money, and minimize the environmental impact of food production in order to force food production processes to become more efficient. Making informed decision can mean selecting foods that have less of an environmental impact such as organic foods, and buying locally so that foods are not flown halfway across the world thereby reducing emissions. Similarly, choosing fair trade products helps to support sustainable production with higher social and environmental standards.

Addressing the enormous waste in today’s food systems will not only curb the hunger gap, but will also improve the wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable. As actors in the global food chain, we must act to promote environmental sustainability and socially equitable food systems, which will reduce our environmental footprint and help to ensure that everyone has enough to eat.

Change the Way You Think About Food

So, what are you doing for World Environment Day?

For more information:

 ~ Lisa Gaudry

Youth Challenge International Alumni of the  Costa Rica 2007 program and an active member of the Young Writers/Speakers Program

We have closed the environmental chapter of their project with several events involving youth from six local schools, the Environmental Protection Agency, Parks and Gardens, mentors from the YMCA and ZoomLion.

World Environment Day (June 5th) was celebrated with tree planting exercises in three schools. YCI partnered up with the Environmental Protection Agency who provided transportation and volunteers. Parks and Gardens generously donated nearly 100 seedlings which, rain or shine, were successfully planted and caged from animals. The students helped out enthusiastically – even showing up at 6am at one school in order to dig the holes! – and now each tree has been assigned to at least one student so they may have direct responsibility for caring for their environment. Upon speaking with the headmaster at one school, we learned of the saying “when the last tree dies, the last man dies.” We were impressed to see that the students all knew the phrase.

Youth from local schools at the tree planting activity.

Prior to this event, we put on a total of five workshops in schools addressing the plastic waste problem in the community. Students learned about the “lifecycle” of a plastic bag and the negative effects each stage of its life could have on the environment and on all the people who depend on it. At some workshops there was enough time to do a plastic re-use craft wherein the students got to make cause bracelets from old plastic bags to show their commitment to properly disposing of and using plastic responsibly.

Finally, as a follow-up to the workshops, we organised a community clean-up event in partnership with ZoomLion – the street cleaners of Ghana. So many students from the schools enthusiastically volunteered that we had to limit numbers. Within an hour, the students and volunteer ZoomLion workers had filled three tricycle bins to overflowing with rubbish from around the market. Check out this link to see some media coverage of our events!

One student paying particular attention to his sapling.

We hope that our efforts have encouraged the students to take pride in their community and have left Koforidua a cleaner and greener city. We are now starting up the YMCA mentorship program with a new batch of fresh trainees for their initial skills workshops.

-Laura Stocker and Denise Lipscombe, Youth Ambassadors, Ghana 2012

YCI is currently recruiting a team of 8 volunteers for our fall project in Ghana. For information on this 10 week program, click HERE

This blog was originally posted at naendaafrica.wordpress.com

Here we are – day 53 of our stay in Tanzania and day 4 of Ramadan. It’s hard to believe we’re packing up tomorrow and getting on the ferry back to Dar on Saturday morning and then on Monday we’ll all be en route to our far flung corners of the world and it will be at least nine months before we’re all back on the same continent.

We finished up our last project yesterday – the Small Business Workshop was wildly successful. The participants were engaged, asked lots of questions, gave us great feedback and learned a lot about how to take the next steps towards starting a small business. It was a great note to end on. We had wrapped up our environmental education campaign on Saturday and we all breathed a sigh of relief to see the end of the project. True to form, the final event proved difficult to organize and stressful to take part in since nothing seemed to be going the way we planned.

Norah and I have been loving Ramadan as it’s given us an amazing opportunity to get closer to our host family. Throughout our stay we’ve been eating our meals separately from the family. Family meals are not a significant part of home life here as they are at home, but during theiftar (the evening meal where the fast is broken) we (all the women) sit together in the living room on the floor with our dishes piled high with food laid out around us and talk and laugh while we eat until Norah and I inevitably end up laying on our backs holding our bloated, full bellies whining that we should have eaten more pole pole, slowly.

It’s been a strange and tumultuous eight weeks; some parts were amazing and others were really hard, but as we’re learning, that might just be part of traveling and doing development work. For some of us, like me, this was the first time I’ve been this far away from home and it’s only the beginning of a year-long volunteer trip to Africa. After this, I’ll be heading to Uganda to work in a hospital until April. Norah’s heading up to Arusha for a week-long climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ben’s off to China, Daphne’s coming back to Zanzibar to relax with her dad and then meeting up with her mom for a safari at the Masai Mara and Hyun’s heading back to D.C. to start a super cool job with a top consulting firm.

As hard as some of this trip was, I’m glad to have it behind me as I move into the heart of Africa, to the mountains, the gorillas and the hospital. I learned a lot here. I learned a lot about myself and how I work in stressful situations. I learned a lot about living in a developing country, even though Zanzibar isn’t exactly the most underdeveloped part of the world. I will be especially sad to say goodbye to Sabrina, one of the interns here who has become like a guru/aunt/mom/friend to us, showing us the great restaurants and how to safely get around at night. I will also really miss our dear program director, Shaib. His unending patience with us and our antics is truly admirable.

So, kwaheri, Zanzibar! I don’t know when you’ll see me again (despite being asked repeatedly if I’ll please come back by strangers, usually men, on the daladala), but I will miss you!

There were lots of great moments on the trip, so here are some pictures to recap some of our favorites:

First day in Dar - fresh faced and bushy tailed

Splunking in Mangapwani!

 

Making new friends in the Jozani Forest

Waste sorting workshop

- Hillary Knight, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011. 

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

Hi, my name is Ben Bloomfield and I am a volunteer with YCI in Zanzibar for the June-August project.  This past Friday our group conducted a joint health outreach section with our partner Social Economic Development Organization(SEDO) in the Chumbuni community.  We have been working with SEDO for the past month on planning and executing a series of workshops and outreach events to build the organizational capacity of SEDO and to help improve the quality of the environment in the area.  The event on July 8 was the first event we have conducted in the Chumbuni area to directly impact the community.

YCI facilitated SEDO’s involvement in the planning of the activity to maximize their contributions and ideas in order to make the process a learning experience for the organization.  Sitting down with the group to map out the planning process took a lot of time, mainly due to the necessary translations of each step and idea for the event.  SEDO had a very traditional layout in mind for the event in which an audience of secondary students would sit and listen to a series of presentations around health and hygiene, whereas YCI saw the event as an opportunity to directly engage the community in a series of interactive events to improve community knowledge.  A compromise was reached after some discussion and we settled on an approach that would include both perspectives.

The YCI Team

On the day of the event our group put the final touches on our presentation materials.  This process was a lot of fun and took us back to our arts and crafts days at camp.  We made a large poster of what could pollute a community, several water bottle devices to kill flies and pour water, a hand painting and washing activity, and a storyboard of the oral-fecal cycle.  After getting our materials together we piled into the van and headed off to Chumbuni.

At Chumbuni we made camp in the office of the school’s principal and waited for the school day to finish.  It was pretty fun to see the students peering out the windows of their classrooms with curiosity at what the wa-zungus were up to at their school.  Once class let out, chaos erupted.  There must have been over a thousand kids running around happy at the end of class and revved up to see what YCI had in store for them.  We went up to a courtyard at the center of the school to begin setting up our events.  This process was a little hectic because instead of the audience of 70 students we were expected over 600 showed up.  The group took the change in stride and quickly figured out how to scale up our demonstrations.  After the students filed in and took their seats the MC gave a brief overview of what the event was going to consist of and made a series of introductions.   After that a local drama group gave a presentation on the perils of environmental degradation and the importance of hygienic practices including hand washing.  The drama group was animated and was followed by a young female community member who sang about the environment who was, in turn, followed by a lecture from a Zanzibari health professional about hygiene.

The drama group performing a skit about the importance of sanitation

The crowd began to get antsy right in time for YCI to spring into action with our fun interactive activities.  We split up into 5 individual areas with the assistance of local volunteers to translate and help facilitate the activities.  The kids at the event were extremely enthusiastic about our approach and quickly began to help teach their peers the basics of our programming.  It was a little bit difficult to move the crowds to the different stations due to their size and the general anarchy about the event at this point.  Our partner organizations were very interested but a little bit dubious of the nature of our programming.  We explained that frequently children learn best while doing, and that the interactive nature of our educational programming might help to really have the information stick in the heads of the kids.

A series of interviews and surveys of the participants who were leaving the event showed that most attendees learned new information bout how to wash their hands and when to do so.  The partners were pleased with the event because it raised their prominence in the community and gave them some exposure to ministry officials.  Our team was very happy with the event  as well because it gave us an opportunity to directly go into the community and interact with youth.  We also feel like we made a contribution to the general welfare of Chumbuni.  We are looking forward to conducting more events in Chumbuni improving SEDO’s ability to organize and execute effective health programming.

- Ben Bloomfield, YCI Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011

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

As an IYIP intern with Youth Challenge International, I have been given the opportunity to work on two areas that I am very passionate about – the environment and international development.  I thought I had a good idea about what working on environment and international development would be like. I thought I might be educating people on conservation issues like climate change and the need for tree planting, but where my internship has taken me is far from what I had anticipated!

My IYIP placement has taken me to Morogoro, Tanzania, where I am an intern with Faraja Trust Fund. Faraja is a health based community organisation, that is expanding its reach into environmental issues. Due to this I have been researching environmental issues in Morogoro town and how they relate to health.  This has led me to WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Prior to coming here I had never even heard of the acronym WASH before and now as I am diving deep into everything to do with WASH, I am learning so much more about health and how it is impacted by our environment. I have also learned how crucial it is that we address Water, Sanitation and Hygiene issues for both international development and the environment.  The UNDP states that 1.2 billion people live without access to safe water and 2.6 billion without access to sanitation, and according to UNICEF every day 5000 children die from Diarrhoea related illness. These are preventable deaths that are related to water, sanitation, hygiene, which is directly related to our environment and how we take care of it.

So as my internship has taken shape, I am focusing on raising awareness on water, sanitation, hygiene and other related environmental issues like waste management and composting  in an informal settlement  of Morogoro, called Chamwino.

It only takes a walk through Chamwino to see the environmental health issues all around; piles of garbage, burning  garbage next to houses, pools of stagnant water (due to drains being blocked with garbage), poor or no toilet facilities, no place for hand washing … and the list goes on.

In this community I am going to be working with the Primary and Secondary schools to raise awareness and implement activities that will help to make positive behaviour changes around these issues.  I am a strong believer in the power of youth and education to create change, and I feel that by working in these schools it will also lead to changes in the overall community.  I hope that by making the WASH education fun and interactive it will lead students to share what they learn with those around them, their friends and their family. This will hopefully allow the information to trickle down and impact the wider communities’ awareness about WASH.

So far I have done a couple introductory WASH presentations at the primary schools in Chamwino, – I have written about them on my blog at The Sustainable Path  I am now in the process of planning for a more in-depth WASH program to implement at these schools.

I am excited about the path my internship has taken me on, it’s not what I expected! But it has allowed me to learn a lot about WASH, and become passionate about addressing these issues and really linking environment, health and international development together.

Uluguru Mountains: My view on the way to work each day!

The many students at Chamwino Primary School, during my first WASH presentation

Me teaching about the importance of boiling water before you drink it to the Primary school students at Chamwino

- Jamie Van Egmond, IYIP intern, Tanzania 2011

On Monday June 6th, 2011, in commemoration of World Environment Day (WED), the team in Ghana organized a community initiative focusing on the environment and waste reduction in the community of Koforidua. The day included two components: a community clean-up and environmental education.

The community initiative took place at 7am at the car park at Kumasi station and included personnel from Zoom Lion, YMCA mentors, YCI volunteers and YCI staff. Together, we walked around the area with sanitary gloves and bags picking up garbage on the streets. We had many people approach us to ask what we were doing; we let them know that we are keeping Ghana clean and gave helpful tips to reduce waste. In addition, various people went to talk to shop keepers and customers about reusing and also reducing plastic bags. Overall, I felt like we generated a lot of interest and seemed to get through to people. Zoom Lion also mentioned that they would be interested in a possible partnership in the future due to the success of the garbage pick up.  It was a great success!

Community Clean-Up in Koforidua

At 9 am we finished the community clean-up and moved onto the next part of the program which took place at a neighboring school and included outreach to students from three schools. My role during the school outreach was to speak to the students about the effects of not disposing their waste properly. For example, I discussed the environmental hazards and health concerns such as cholera and malaria. I also stressed the importance of keeping the community clean and forming groups within the community to accomplish things that the government may not be doing. For instance, community members can come together to manage, organise and fund garbage pick up in their community and place bins throughout their city.

Once I was done I introduced Mr. Daniel Ofosu, the Regional Secretary of the YMCA in Koforidua, to talk to the students about waste disposal in Koforidua. Mr. Ofosu is from Koforidua and actively involved in environmental activities in the community. It was also a plus that he could speak to the students in the local language (Twi) to eliminate any communication barriers. He had a very interactive speech about changing the mind set of Ghanaians when it comes to waste disposal. He talked about diseases that stem from unsanitary conditions and gave helpful tips on how to improve the situation in their community and to take ownership of it. The students were very much engaged in the discussion and quite knowledgeable about the issues. I feel that we got through to the students, which was the aim of the program.

After the School Outreach

Once the speeches were over, we invited students out into the courtyard where we had set out three painting stations. Two were to paint garbage bins that YCI is donating to the schools in an environmental theme and the other station was to paint a ‘Keep Ghana Clean’ banner that was given to the school for hosting the event. We had music pumped to keep everyone energized and a little bit of dancing in the courtyard as well. The students seemed to truly enjoy this exercise!!

Keep Ghana Clean!

We all enjoyed ourselves during the initiative, demonstrated excellent team work, and had many positive responses from participants and observers. Hopefully, more people will put effort into keeping the community in Koforidua clean!

-Julie Harris, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2011. Julie is two-thirds of the way done her 6-week project in Ghana. The team has been busy working with local Assembly-members, the YCI-YMCA mentorship program and organizing the World Environment Day community initiative! 

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

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