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:
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.
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.