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Friday, May 29, 2015

                                         



       NOT A GOODBYE, ITS SEE YOU LATER!
“NEVER say goodbye because, goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting”-J.M. Barrie. (From the movie Peter pan)

Life is the priciest part of every human. Without life all the dreams, ideas and visions cannot be implemented. Life creates so many opportunities for us but we often hang on the closed ones that we neglect the opened ones. Just like life, International Service creates opportunities for people around the world to help others in need, and one of its projects is the LIFE (Local Integration For Empowerment) project in Sandema. The LIFE project, works in partnership with a local organisation known as CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation), an organisation that integrates persons with disabilities (PWDs) into mainstream society. To make great impact on the society we, members of the Life team (cohort 12) worked on five activities which included the Girls’ club, inclusive ICT, action research, sensitisation and inclusive sports.                                                                                                                                                                                             
 Firstly, getting into Sandema land was a bag full of mixed feelings coupled with the heat from the sun and frequent lights out popularly known in Ghana as “Dumsor”. With all the challenges we faced, we were still able to make our portion of LIFE project a reality. Our list of achievements began with the Girls’ club which was so fun to facilitate. We made a list of focuses the girls wanted to discuss and each week, we did an active research on the topics, presented it to the rest of the team before giving the information to the girls. Bear in mind that all our sessions were verified by professionals, who sometimes made it to the sessions to clarify questions asked by the girls where volunteers were not qualified to answer. Though it is a girls club the male volunteers were never left out as they helped in preparing the female volunteers for the sessions by either asking questions the girls might ask about the topics or contributing. It is not surprising that some of the male volunteers have gone to some of sessions we have had with the girls. We concluded our last session with the girls by having a fun day which male volunteers attended as well. The nature of the road to the girls made us feel as if we were riding in and out of a valley but sitting in the classroom with the girls made all the aches in our bodies disappear.
                                                     Female volunteers at wiaga Girls' club fun day.
                                                     
The next achievement for the team was the inclusive ICT sessions which began so well with a large number of 40 students on the first session which included persons with disabilities. The sessions were always carried out in the resource centre of Sandema which is a small place to have a lot of students in; however the volunteers were so happy to have had such a large number on the first day. Thinking about how well the children learnt and practised what the volunteers thought gave the team so much joy. To show how much we appreciated the sessions with the children, certificates were awarded to every child at the centre and a joyous celebration of a volunteer’s birthday was done by the children.  One might have given up teaching these children at such a small place because the heat didn’t make it as easy as it should have been, but having such amazing persons in the team who knew how important it was for the children to learn was worth every sweat drop.
                                          Certificates handed out at the last day of inclusive ICT.

With the action research we analysed questionnaires administered by the previous cohort which were based on teachers . We decided to administer the questionnaires to parents as well to make it comprehensive. It was basically a survey on inclusive education. The questionnaires were to generate information on the opinions and possibility of inclusive education. We wanted to understand peoples’ view on disabilities and why some children did not attend school. The questions were distributed to various individuals some to our host homes, some at the sensitisations we had and others we met parents with disabled children who met at CBR office on the 9th of every month. The questions were in English but translation to Buli was done by some volunteers of the team to people who did not understand English.

To help integrate persons with disabilities in various activities of the society and stop the stigmatisations we had sensitisations in a community, school and a parent teacher association. Our first sensitisation was the community one which started late but ended in great success. There were 241 people at the sensitisation.  To get everyone to understand our presentation, we separated the children from the adults. Both groups enjoyed the presentations and so did the volunteers. Translations were done from English to Buli by volunteers. At the school sensitisation, the older students were also separated from the younger students to let them all understand what was said. Just like the other two sensitisations the PTA was also a success. The best part of the sensitisations was the fact that the DPOs (Disabled Peoples Organisation) told their stories which inspired a lot of people at the sensitisations. It was really an achievement working with them.
                                  some memebers of the Disabled Peoples Organisation at their office.

Our final achievement for the activities was the inclusive sports. This was to train physical education teachers who found it difficult to include children with disability in their sports since they were never trained on that aspect. We wanted sports to be inclusive for every child.We met with special education officer from the Ghana education service who told us about what we could do and the ways to achieve our aim.Questionaires were handed before and after the workshop to compare the teachers' views on children with disabilities.We had the special education officer,his assistant a national service personel,the sports condinator for Ghana Education Service and International Service in-country project manager present for the workshop.13 physical education teachers were present and a great training conducted by volunteers took place. A workshop which lasted for 8 hours was organised and a successful training was conducted. The difficulty involved in planning and organising such a workshop was really worth it. This was for the benefit of the children.
                          A training of physical education teachers at inclusive sports workshop.

Of course the other wonderful achievement included the inspirational blogs written by the team members and educational group reflections carried out by the team. All these excellent achievements would not have been possible without the ever hard working Carlyn who was always keeping us on our toes when we were bored, the adventurous and movie director Jack, the all-knowing Virgo, Morrison the reverend minister, David the landlord of Sandema because he knows everyone, the ever humorous Fatima ,Misha the impeccable oxford dictionary in person ,Sophia the theatrical mistress, Farrell the William Shakespeare of the 21st century, Muniru the hard guy, Rita the social scholar and the passionate Josh.
 It’s so nice to have a strong team led by hard working leaders. It will be an exaggeration to say we are perfect as individuals but it definitely will be an offence not to mention how extraordinary this team is.

Now it is almost the end of our placement and though the excitement of seeing our families once again rises, there is a thought at the back of our minds that brings tears to our eyes. Missing our new friends! We may not see each other after we leave but that doesn’t mean we never met. Even if it was for a short time we worked, laughed, cared and had good times together. We will remember each other as the days go by and smile because we are friends and so for now let’s not say “goodbye” but let’s say “see you later friend, till we meet again.”


    

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