Friday, February 19, 2016

A Boys club for Sandema – Mohammed Andani 

On the ground research for the Boys Club

As fresh volunteers of ICS and a new LIFE team, we cannot boast of being the reason behind all the successful projects that have already been run in the community by our predecessors, we can only thank them for their hard work and appreciate the pace they have set for us. 
We felt so empty, yet with so much energy and enthusiasm to start work at placement. Individually, we planned in our minds about continuing the work of the past cohort to make it more successful and complete. But during our orientation, just before placement, our able team leaders told us that, we are going into the community to complete the work of our immediate past cohort and add up programs, which will be completely new, and from scratch.

Having been briefed and prompted about this, team mates now opened their minds, brainstormed and started throwing out amazing ideas, which was completely new and was presumed to be of great impact and benefit to the community of target. Most of these ideas were accepted unanimously, but some had to be dropped later because we realized that starting a whole new program needed a lot of research, field work and analysis. Our three months stay here therefore wouldn’t be enough to successfully execute all these. We then prioritized the ideas and picked out the ones that best suit the time allocated to us. With the few more ideas added up to what needed to be done with regards to the continuation of the programs of the past cohort, we where being allocated to two or more sub-projects within the team based on our interest and specialty. 

One of the very fresh and newly born programs of the LIFE team, which was perceived to be amazing and will contribute greatly to the attainment of our goal was the formation of the boys/ youth club in Sandema. Initially we viewed this to be a great idea because it looked so simple to plan, form and execute since there was an existing Girls Club in the community which had almost similar goals as the boys club. 

But we later realized that, it was not as simple as it sounded and looked on paper, it needed more than we could ever have imagined, it needed more research, more data, more analysis and more hard work for it to even start and after it begins, the work involved in planning sessions and executing them afterwards was huge, not forgetting the ability to make sure that the club stays sustainable after our cohort leaves Sandema and maybe after ICS is no more.

But no matter how difficult a task the formation of a boys club for the youth of Sandema is, we are International Service Volunteers and a proud LIFE team precisely. We are not afraid of taking up challenges and making a difference. 

We therefore took up the challenge of forming the boys club; firstly, we were grouped based on our interests and specialty. And the boys club had four fearless, energetic and enthusiastic volunteers to deal with. This team which consisted of Andani, Oana, Baba and Ravi was specifically responsible for doing everything in their power to make sure that before we left the boarders of Sandema in March, a boys club will be existing or a pace will be set for other cohorts to come and complete. 

The first thing we did as a team was to meet and plan excessively with regards to what needs to be done first, how we are going to do it, when we are going to begin, how we are going to encourage the youth to take part and how we are going to find out if the community welcomes the idea and what exactly they think about the idea.

After several meetings of planning, we came up with the mission and vision of the boys club, stating what we really want to achieve from its formation and how it will contribute to achieving our aim, which is to raise awareness about disability among the youth and bring equality between abled and disabled persons in the community.

Our definition and perception of a boys club was targeted to be a youth group, that will bring young boys in the community together, regardless of their level of education, social status, ability or disability to basically share ideas, learn new things that will benefit them and which will be a contributory factor to making them socially fit enough to achieve their personal goals and contributing greatly to community development.

The boys club should give young people the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge, empowering them to take an active part in the club and in their communities. Involvement, recognition and intergenerational exchange was thought of being key in providing a framework for our members in the boys club.

The boys/ youth club should provide a non-formal learning environment, strengthening the capacity of young people to face the challenges of tomorrow. The club should attract, train and retain quality adult volunteers to deliver sessions for the boys club in order to build their self-confidence and their leadership skills making it easy for the club to be sustained after ICS volunteers are no more available to handle them.

The boys club should reflect the societies in which it exists and actively work to welcome all individuals without distinction. This diversity should not only be reflected in the membership, but also the methods and programs used within the club. This means that, the club will not be achieving its goal or mission without the involvement and full participation of the disabled in the society, and the boys club will completely be a failure if we are not able to consider and include this disabled youth in organizing our project or programs. This means that project that are to be carried out by members of the boys club should be suitable enough to include all disabled members in the club.

Every member of the boys club should be involved in community service and share their experiences to inspire others. Through activities and projects, members should be able to contribute to their communities and become leaders of positive change. 
After defining as a group what boys /youth club was all about, and what we intended to achieve as stated above, the real work was about to kick off. Our first point of call was raising awareness, researching and gathering of data to know what the community and the youth really think about the idea. 

In doing this, we needed to identify and visit schools, where we knew was the best place to find boys to talk to and to inform about the formation of the club. Before we did this, we sat together and created a questionnaire containing twenty-two (22) questions meant for boys and youth between the ages of 15 to 20 years in schools and in the community to answer. We targeted the community because we wanted to include everybody regardless of their educational backgrounds as mentioned above. 

After a random selection of junior high schools around the community, we prepared questionnaires, and handed to boys in these schools and in the community as well to fill out and return. We gave out 140 questionnaires and got 69 back. This was encouraging because we received almost 50% back. We prepared another questionnaire for parents in the community to hear what they had to say about this as well.

We also visited the leader of the DPO (Disabled Persons Organization) to hear what he had to say about the idea. We asked to know how they could be of help so that the participation of the disabled boys in the community will be massive.
 In the end we had almost all the data we needed, we documented this and hoped to reach the conclusion that will signify that the boys club is welcome in the community and is ready to kick-start.  

Before we leave Sandema, we plan to put the boys club on its feet and facilitate two or more sessions with them, discussing topics like; sexual health, role models, talent development and other important topics suggested by the boys themselves. 

We hope that, even if we don’t see the boys club start, the information and data we gathered and all the tedious ground work we did will be enough for the next cohort to develop and put the club on its feet for the achievement of the ultimate goal of the LIFE team and ICS as a whole.

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