MY PROJECT L.E.A.D EXPERIENCE JASMIN NANA YAA ASSANOH

Where can I even start about my experience with YPN?

At first I was very nervous about going back to Ghana, because the last time I went to Ghana was 16 years ago. However, being with YPN was a great all round experience. I got to see two worlds and it really opened my eyes to see another side of Ghana and Africa that you don’t see through the  media.

Day one: Kumasi 

Kumasi was the first stop for us. I don’t even know where to begin to speak about the work we did with the children and the relationships built with them. I must say the road trip from Accra to Kumasi was LONG! However, it was all worth it. In Kumasi we partnered up with a organisation called The Street Children’s Project.
These kids were soooooo intelligent. I must admit, I was under the impression that it would be hard to communicate with them, however it was the complete opposite. In Kumasi, the kids were given the role of a researcher, to go out into the streets in small groups and interview the public about the importance of education and what changes they would Propose to the president. The feedback from the public wasn’t surprising if you know about the Ghanaian welfare state and education. The kids then used that information to form a political debate and elected a ‘President’ represent their group.

Day 2: Accra

Accra was completely different. The kids were collected from the second biggest slum community in Accra – Chorkor. Here, we taught the children about the importance of the environment you live in. For this, we went into a close by area with bin bags and gloves to clean the area up as much as we can. Afterwards, we went back to the iSpace centre (technological hub in Accra) to teach the children about recycling. Similar to Kumasi we used the issue that the particular community was facing to create a political debate, elected a President to represent their groups that they were split into.
Both in Kumasi and Accra the elected President at the end of the debate, received 100 cedis which they have to invest in their community and have an influence as leaders. The whole concept of teaching children and young people about political and social issues is needed – both in Africa and here in the U.K. There are many people that do not know much about elections or even which political party is in government at the moment amongst other things.  These things are  so important to know as politics affects everyones day to day living.
Something that I must say though is that if you’re rich in Ghana you’re definitely rich but if you’re poor you are POOOOOR. What do I mean by that? Well, you actually see the difference and I think that is something that makes me really upset looking at these children that I worked with and to see that some of them are trying to pursue a future for themselves but it’s challenge because they don’t have enough money to pay for a term at school.
But let me write a bit more about the program itself. I love the fact that YPN is more than just a social enterprise . My experience with YPN taught me about the following:

1. Myself:

I had a lot of time to reflect on myself and clear my mind and refocus. There is also just something about being Ghana, being away from family, friends. It has a great influence on you and you can just think and focus.

2. Entrepreneurship:

Despite the fact that this social enterprise has been running for two years it has networked a lot and built a lot of relationships – some of which I was able to leverage off of, such as local radio stations and the Ghanaian Youth Parliament.

3. Ghanaian culture & Tourism

Though I am Ghanaian and I thought I knew much about our culture, seeing how well mannered the children and people around are was just amazing.
We also got to explore Ghana. After the program finished we went to the beach but even whilst we were doing the project, due to the travelling we got to see different sides of the country.

4. You don’t have to be rich to have a voice or to bring change:

What do I mean by that? YPN gave the children and young people the opportunity to voice their opinions on matters they would have never been able to speak about. YPN and the children made me understand that to bring change, you don’t have to be a millionaire but the little actions you take can make an impact. It has to start somewhere

5. Chase your dream and do something what makes you happy:

To be honest this I don’t even know how to explain this but the kids and the program sparked something in me that I can’t explain.
I could go on and on about this wonderful experience but I can’t wait to go again next year and see how much these kids have done and have grown. Now being back in the U.K., I appreciate life much more and makes me zealous to do the things I want.

MY PROJECT L.E.A.D EXPERIENCE – CELINE AKOSUA HENRY

I’ll begin from Monday when  the team went into Accra together. We went into town to have a look around. Upon leaving home around 11am, we arrived back home at 1am. One thing you’re guaranteed in Ghana is uncertainty of the road traffics and car breakdowns. However, we were not in fear nor panic, mainly because we had a wonderful day exploring Accra, seeing the East Legon area and the around the mall. This was the beginning of our bonding as a team.

We woke up at 4am on Tuesday morning to make our journey to Kumasi. You could imagine how tired we were on our arrival to Kumasi which was a 5/6 hour journey. By time of arrival, 12pm, I was so low on energy and enthusiasm that I was so fearful I wouldn’t be able to have a normal functioning day. One minute I was excited by the fact that we were finally about to meet the kids. I began thinking of how best to introduce myself to them – it suddenly dawned on me that I was part of something extraordinary.

Kumasi was amazing. We worked with the Street Children Project. We went around and did community surveys on the topics Economy, Education and Agriculture – three main important topics in Ghanaian politics. Doing that activity, it was as though the kids had forgotten any form of poverty and had become really important community personnel’s. Their confidence was amazing to see as they asked members of the public about certain policy interventions. We got to experience the Ashanti culture of communicative flamboyancy at the bus station of which I saw the type of environment these kids belonged to. It made me have more respect for them. By the time we had arrived back to Accra all of us had the weird feeling of being hungry and tired all at the same time. We had the best Fried rice and chicken ever!!!

Working in Accra was also amazing. Accra was definitely the day that brought us all together as team. We were all wide awake and energised by the children too who seemed interested in all the tasks we did. During the day we went to a very dirty area where we cleaned and collected rubbish from the streets. The kids we worked with were students from Accra’s second poorest slum area, a place called Chorkor. Therefore,  seeing them collect rubbish without complaining and with pride was such a humbling experience. Another remarkable thing of the day was those who volunteered to be leaders of their groups (we called them presidents) were all females. It made me think that gender inequality in politics perhaps wasn’t as a problem in Ghana as it is in the West. It gave me hope for those females.

 

Three key things I learnt on Project L.E.A.D:

  1. I have no excuse

Being from inner-city London at times I fear that the feeling of complacency could creep in especially after completing University. However, in both Accra and Kumasi I realised that I had no excuse whatsoever to stop myself from dreaming and working diligently towards these dreams and goals.

 

2. You either work hard or don’t work at all.

In Ghana we saw so many hawkers and also realised that the normal waking up time over there ranges from 5am to 7am. By that time, you are awake and the heat makes you aware that you have no reason to be in bed. I was so astonished by the street hawkers who sold their ice creams, water and other goods on the roads. Often seeing them run after cars and trucks to take their money or sell was another astonishing thing. It was very different from the laid back approach we have in the U.K. This made me think if someone can stand in the sun selling their products then I could definitely sit in a library and read books to crack my brain. That is the depth of the impact Ghana had on me. It challenged me mentally.

 

3.  In the midst of chaos if you know your purpose you will go far.

Whilst Ghana is a deeply religious nation I was surprised to realise how often the kids referred to God quite often, along with the many churches we saw at almost every corner we curbed at. This made me realise that whilst This was particularly seen with Accra’s young pioneer, Benjamin Dadzie. Whilst everyone laughed at his short height and funny character he said proudly “I am the smallest boy here, but I have the biggest future.” Here I learnt that the kids had disallowed their current situations to be their defining motto’s in life. That for me was remarkable.

 

I didn’t have many apprehensions before arriving in Ghana but I did when arriving and realising how reckless the driving over there was. I mean people changed lanes like they were drinking water. Their life was at stake. Thankfully we had a wonderful driver, who drove us into town daily which was amazing. The funniest thing I can recollect was the assumption we had on both places we went to. We were told that the young people in Kumasi were well-versed in English whilst those in Accra would require translators. You can imagine our confused faces when we had to attempt to speak Twi with those in Kumasi and be replied back in English when we spoke in the vernacular with the kids in Accra. There we learnt to never assume from information. This meant that in both Kumasi and Accra we had the chance to learn.

 

Overall, when I think of my time the song Pain Killer by Sarkodie & Runtown comes to mind. Whilst I haven’t digested the lyrics of the words create a sense of nostalgia and vibe. Its beat and tempo reminds me of all the faces of the kids that were smiling during an activity. The loud crescendo that gave me goosebumps after the children shouted “I WILL CHANGE THE WORLD!” which shook the room.