Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Creating Impact and Raising Awareness Through Volunteering

My name is Ziblim Abdulai, a volunteer on the ICS RAINS (Regional Advisory and Network System). ICS RAINS project focus on promoting the rights of marginalised societies and also works to promote the lives of deprived communities and societies in northern Ghana. I was very happy and excited when I was selected to be part of the project as a volunteer, because I was not the only one who applied to become an ICS volunteer but, by the grace of Allah, I was able to go through successfully. Through ICS, I have been able to learn and improve on some unique skills through the team members and the project. Some of these include, I have been able to gain more knowledge on computer skills, build on my confidence level, learn how to work with others as a team and last but not least is that, I have also improved on how to speak in public which is quite a bonus to my personal development.

Abdulai Leading the Community Sensitisation in Nanton-Kurugu
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite
ICS RAINS is currently working with three communities in Savelugu -Nanton municipality, which include, Zokuga, Langa and Nanton-Kurugu.  ICS RAINS introduced a project called "SAFE CHOICES" and the reason of  introducing this project is to educate these three communities on their sexual and reproductive health  and on kayayei. Topics that we educate them on about their sexual health are as follows: the use of contraceptives, prevention of teenage pregnancy, and to also prevent them from acquiring sexually transmitted diseases. We also cover topics such as puberty, masturbation, menstruation to mention a few. Kayayei   is our  major target in these three communities, because the majority of the young boys and girls migrate  from  their communities to the capital city of Ghana to work for money. We take this opportunity to educate them on the dangers of allowing their children who  go to Accra to practice kayayei.

ICS RAINS have being able to prepare a sexual health manual which will be given to the the peer educators in the three communities we work with.  These will be done by the staffs of RAINS due to the time factor. In all these three communities, we have peer educators and the role of these peer educators are to educate their community members on sexual health and kayayei on behalf of ICS. ICS will not remain there forever but the peer educators will continue to live with the communities always, and for that matter they can educate and raise awareness on these social issues affecting their lives. This sexual health manual will be given to the peer educators by the RAINS staff which will give them more details and information on sexual health, so that they can also tend to educate their communities on such topics relating to their sexual health.

Our Peer Educators Have a Key Role in the Safe Choices Project
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite

We had three successful community sensitizations in all the three communities and three radio sensitization during our placement. During our various sensitizations in the communities, the topic for discussion was based on kayayei. We found out that kayayei is a big challenge in most of the rural communities in the Northern Region.  Kayayei is when young girls and boys carry heavy goods and wares for a fee due to the lack of jobs in these communities, kayayei brings so many complications and challenges to those who practice it. Some of these challenges include; teenage and unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, road traffic accidents, poor health and sanitation and sexual abuse etc.  Our cohort took this opportunity to educate and create the awareness on these dangers which I think will make them think otherwise, and consider the need for them to keep their young boys and girls in school. So that they can be become useful and accepted in their various communities in the near future and Ghana as a whole.

The Community Sensitisations Have Been So Enjoyable!
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite

Now that our placement is coming to an end, I am looking forward to my posting which will begin between January and February. I completed college of nursing and midwifery Nalerugu. My posting will be done within this period and I will be very happy to start working as a professional nurse. I am also looking forward to seeing my parents and friends and have fun with them because I have missed them for a very long time and I cannot wait to see them.

Written by Ziblim Abdulai

Monday, December 4, 2017

Learning and Developing Knowledge Through Volunteering

The International Citizen Service (ICS) project in Tamale has challenged, changed and transformed me since placement on the Safe Choices project at the RAINS office. ICS has help me to think and reflect on what I am experiencing through my placement, which has impacted me a lot and helped me to take action on issues I feel passionate about. From day one of my placement to date, each section aimed to help me to use my experiences as a reference point for developing my knowledge and skills. ICS experience is like no other. I am in a very unique position of being part of a diverse group. I am always learning new things everyday because it is not only school we learn or study, we learn everyday through the information and experiences we are exposed to in our lives, I understood learning is an ongoing cycle of life experiences, reflection and action. I would like to say a very big thanks to International Citizen Service for giving me this opportunity.
Team Smile!
Photo Credit: Amshawu Amasu

         Here at RAINS, we are working on a project called  “Safe Choices” which focuses on facilitating sustainable, localized and sexual health education and increased awareness of issues like kayayei in order to ensure girls stay in education. We hope to achieve a reduction in STI’s and teenage pregnancy, as well as to help remove the barriers to socioeconomic progression for empowering young people and also encourage young people to go to school. We work as a team in our office, which help us to finish everything we are to do for the day. As a team with a lot of smiles, we show respect for different views and opinions there is often no wrong answer and there is value in diversity of opinions. We start our day with energizers, which trigger us to do a lot as a team and continue with to do list. Everyone participates actively in what we are to do, because the first rule of our team says “active participation where everyone speaks”. This makes sure our work is done smoothly. Initially, this rule was a challenge because I did not like talking, but as a team working together and with loving team leaders who encourage me and make me to know that my voice is needed in the team, I have been able to gain confidence and adapt the habit of public speaking and participation and I will use this opportunity to say thank you team leaders.

Myself Taking a Leading Role During a Sensitisation
Photo Credit: Charlotte Bartholomew
         A lot has been said about our sensitizations in the community and the radio sensitizations which I feel very exited to be part especially the radio sensitization was my best moment. Working with the communities, especially the children’s community club, which I feel passionate to work with, has been a great opportunity to learn. Through our sensitizations I have learnt that community development is about enabling people to make the community they are part of a better place to live and be involved with. It also involves people taking ownership of their own activities and being able to play an active role in change rather than as passive recipient of support. During our last visit to Zokuga, I asked the women’s community club how helpful our sensitization was when we came to their community. Some said they were planning to leave their village for kayayei, but through our sensitization in their community, it has made them to change their mind to stay at home and to think of what to do to make themselves comfortable in the community. This tells us that our sensitizations are really helpful and I’m sure a lot of success stories will continue.

                  Through our human right sessions, I have also learnt that good governance is an important area of work for many charities and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO’s) as it enable countries to be run effectively and deliver services and so support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Good governance is also achieve when access to justice, laws and strong legal system are in place.

           My counterpart Nathaniel Dilling has been my friend and always caring, if I sit with him without talking he will ask “Joshua are you okay?”. He always entertains me, keeps me talking at all times, and also teaches me some tricky card games. He also gives out his laptop for me to develop my typing skills, its fun to stay with him. Our home is a loving place because we have a lot of children always around to make us happy at all time.

Myself and my Nat (left of me) at my Brother's Wedding With my Father and Fellow Volunteers

By Joshua Bartholomew Salifu

Monday, November 27, 2017

Personal Development: Inspirational Women and Invaluable Opportunities

One of my favourite things about deciding to do ICS is meeting different people from different walks of life, all joined in a common interest, of course for different reasons. Some want to use their position of privilege to give back to a less fortunate part of the world, others want to gain experience to be able to help their own communities, and some want to travel and learn more about the world. For myself, I think my motivations are probably a combination of all the above. Having just graduated from university, I am hoping to work in the charity-sector. I hoped that volunteering with International Service would allow me to see first-hand how the implementation of development policy works, and it’s done just that, plus so much more. I think for a lot of volunteers, community visits have been the highlight, but personally I have been most excited to be working in an office for an NGO in a developing country. The office-based nature of ICS isn’t something that is heavily advertised, which I think is a disservice to the programme. Projects like RAINS are predominantly office work, and this has been perfect for me so far.

Since the first week, our team has been determined to make sure that we produce a Sexual Health Manual during our time here. It’s a project that was begun by the last cohort of volunteers, so I can’t emphasize enough that the workload is a continuous process that is shaped by each cohort. And it has certainly been a process; I’ve learnt that nothing ever happens in Ghana on time- but that’s a huge part of Ghana's charm. Producing the first draft of the manual was followed by consultations with a local sexual health NGO called NORSAAC, and the wider staffs at RAINS. I can’t express how quickly time flies here; it’s hard to believe that from writing most of the manual in the first week, only now are we close to being finished as we begin week 8! The processes of networking and consulting have given me an insight into what a career in the charity-sector might look like. The RAINS staff has also allowed me to sit in on board meetings, to show me how it’s done properly! Having a central role in the office has made me feel capable, and like I might actually be worth hiring someday, which has been a really important aspect of personal development for me.

Women's Community Club in Zokuga
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite
Working for RAINS has also encouraged me to learn a new skill: photography! I had no experience with photography before coming to Ghana, but came out here equipped with a new camera ready to capture the action. Our team has been really eager to help establish ICS RAINS with a good social media presence, so I’ve had lots of opportunities to snap away! Before starting the placement, I was so excited to speak to the women in the communities, and I was hoping to take some portraits alongside the testimonies of inspirational women. My office counterpart, Abdulai, has been the biggest support by way of aiding our communication, so thank you Abdulai! For me, it’s opportunities like these, where I can act as a medium between these amazing women and the rest of the world, that make the office work come alive.

Case Study of Madame Rafia
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite

I don’t feel as though I can write a blog without mentioning women. I can truthfully say I haven’t met a woman yet who doesn’t inspire me in some way. My host home parent is a single woman who works, keeps an impeccable household, and raises 5 children who are honestly a credit to humanity, and she never complains or accepts my offers to help. She’s quite literally Superwoman personified. My host home counterpart, Rahima, is the most loving, caring, fiery, hilarious person I have ever met. When I’ve been ill she’s cared for me through the night, when I’ve been down she’s made me dance before bed, and when I’ve needed a helping hand she has been a guide and patient teacher. The women in the communities are welcoming, and greet you like an old friend. They have redefined my standards of kindness and hospitality, and have inspired me to return home with an open heart. 

My Host-Home Counterpart, Rahima, in Tongo Hills
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite
Even passing women by on the street it’s hard to ignore the strength of women in Ghana. Quite literally, they bustle through the markets carrying huge loads on their heads, and they look fabulous whilst doing it. Just the other day on my walk to work, there was a woman on the roadside draped head-to-toe in the most magnificent, canary yellow outfit, on her hands and knees fixing her motorbike, and I thought to myself “yes girl”! So, thank you to all the women I have met so far in Ghana. I know that when I go home in three weeks, I will be a stronger woman for the lessons you have taught me.  
Dancing in Zokuga
Photo Credit: Freeman Dzidotor

By Harriet Braithwaite

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Lasting Positive Change Lies in Passion and Service: Part II

True wealth, they say is truly found in service. And as a volunteer on the ICS project, I have noticed that the staffs at the International Service, here in Tamale are truly wealthy. This is because of their countless services rendered out to volunteers like me with great passion. I found out very quickly that, from the country director's office to the team leaders on each project, all the International Service staff are truly serving to the last letter of their contract. I have visited other organizations, but the type of service rendered by the staffs of International Service is incomparable. From the beginning of my assessment till now, I have learnt three important lessons from this great organization. And they are; always working with passion, having a heart of service, and creating a lasting positive change.

My ICS RAINS Teammates
Photo Credit: 

Creating a lasting positive change is the slogan of International Service and in our various projects we are working towards this slogan. A “lasting positive change” means working towards sustainable solutions in the various communities we work with. For example, at ICS RAINS we focus on the training of our peer educators who work in the communities and also educating them on how to hold community sensitization in their various communities.  Being part of the ICS project as a volunteer, means I am also contributing to the sustainability of the development of my home country, which is a special and powerful feeling.

"Challenge Yourself to Change Your World"
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite
I feel it's a nice a feeling to acknowledge the incredible work done by people who serve us unconditionally, at least it gives them the urge to serve us better. I want to use this medium to tell the international service staffs here in Tamale and beyond how grateful I am, for giving me such a great opportunity to work on the ICS project. Working with diverse culture broadens your mind to various opportunities around you. Wake up every day and ask yourself this simple question. What can I do differently to make a lasting positive change? The answer is, with passion and genuine service; you can also make a lasting positive change in your own way.

Working on the Safe Choices project at RAINS is a unique feeling I experience each day.  Going to the office to work with a team full of intelligence, great skills and positive energy towards the work makes the work easier and less tedious. But the most powerful feeling I have in my host home, is with my sister, yes a sister from another mother, my counterpart, my roommate, Chloe Ross-Brown A.K.A Yaa Chloe. A lady full of great personality, and a personality that wields a good heart. Chloe has a heart that accepts and learns the Ghanaian culture with enthusiasm. Let us make it a point to always work with passion, having a heart of service to create a lasting positive change. 
Chloe and I at a Ghanaian Wedding
Photo Credit: Jessica Ginnelly

By Abigail Darko