Friday, October 21, 2016

First impressions of Sandema and the LIFE Project


"Arriving at my new home for the next 3 months was daunting, but after meeting my family and settling in with my roomie Sam, we were ready to start our next journey –finding food. Smiley dad Evans walked us along the beautiful road into town. The dust track is lined with trees that provide a cooling shade, and the lake shimmers with a temptation to swim. We were taken to Mr Hippo’s - where “they feed your people”.

The following day, Sandema lifestyle really hit me. The maze of the market is full of noise, colour and energy. A lot of effort goes into the market as it happens every 3 days, yet people are always smiling and jolly.  Although Sandema is a small town I have learnt that people are very dedicated to their businesses – be it making clothes, shoes, food or selling gadgets. Market trips must be short and sweet, as it’s almost impossible to soak up all the beauty without soaking yourself in sweat.

Market day in Sandema
I’ve only been here for 3 weeks, yet dodging motorbikes, goats and people on my bike whilst also trying to wave at all the children shouting “smallie smallie” is something that no longer requires too much attention. Road rules aren’t necessary when everyone has horns! There are a few sights that I still love to see - trucks packed full of people swinging off huge speakers, and buses piled so high with stuff on the roof.

Meeting people in our first week opened up my eyes to the LIFE project in action. While attending a meeting at the Disabled People’s Organisation we had the privilege of listening to some personal stories of how the ICS programme had positively impacted on people’s lives and this was so inspiring to hear. Through meeting Mr Kennedy, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator for Builsa North, we were told about all the challenges posed in this sector due to lack of resources and education. What struck me most is that the laws protecting people with disabilities are not put in to practice, and this creates major problems because people with disabilities aren’t getting the support they need.

Since starting the project, we’ve already succeeded with our first church sensitisation, are planning the next, getting ready for teacher trainings and radio programmes! Although the heat is an obvious struggle, everything about my stay in Sandema has been a wonder and a great experience so far. I look forward to engaging further in the community and learning more about the Ghanaian culture."

Our first church sensitisation in the Restoration Power Chapel


"In a quest to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families; and ensure their inclusion in societies where resources are scarce, the World Health Organization introduced Community Based Rehabilitation in 1978. The initiative by WHO has without doubt paved the way for NGOs to change the lives of people with disabilities all over the world. Previously, the Presbyterian Community Based Rehabilitation addressed people who were only affected with onchocerciasis but now includes all people with disabilities. ICS LIFE project works with PBCR to integrate young people with disabilities into mainstream education and society at large. The Local Integration for Empowerment project started in 2012 and it may be early to see the fruition of the project. However, an interaction with some beneficiaries of the LIFE project and various stakeholders indicate the tremendous strides the LIFE project has made over the course of these few years.

The Special Education Officer for Ghana Education Service in Builsa district, Mr. Afagachie, stressed that the LIFE project is making teachers increasingly aware of the challenges children with disabilities face in schools and how teachers can adopt suitable teachings methods that are disability-friendly. Mr. Ibrahim, the Programme Manager for Radio Builsa, lauded the LIFE team for helping to change people’s perceptions through sensitization, which on the hindsight may not be noticeable but it is really changing lives. At our first meeting with the Disabled People’s Organization (DPO), I was re-energized to work with the LIFE project as positive feedback keeps coming. Among them were the President for the DPO, Mr. Gilbert, who stated categorically that ICS has made him what he is today including the way he communicates. Two members of the DPO also thanked ICS for changing their lives. One of them, promised to dedicate his time to help ICS with the sensitization. The other member has just made a decision to learn a career – seamstress - after having experienced protracted periods of low self-esteem and social exclusion.

Faruk meeting with Mr Ibrahim, Programme Manager for Radio Builsa
Personally, this project has helped transformed my impression about people with disabilities as I used to think that all disabled persons automatically ends up in the street begging. Contrary, if they are given the needed support from the society, the society also stands a great deal of benefiting from their unique potentials. I have now realized that creating self-awareness about rights of people with disabilities and opportunities is an invaluable tool to making a positive change as people are inspired to advocate for the fulfilment of their rights."

By Kitty Clarke and Umar Faruk Seidu

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