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Friday, November 11, 2016

My Life Before and After ICS

My name is Bismark Akanbang Ateyeega from Sandema Balansa. When I was a child I lived with my grandparents in Suwarinsa. For me being with my grandparents was the best moments of my life because my grandmother would always say I should try to be good, kind, respectful and honest to people in order to have value in society. She nurtured me to be very hardworking and taught me many other good things in life as I lived with them. I adored her for she had a kind heart to all people and she prepared me very well to relate well with different people. It took a girl I met, Belinda, to convince me to start going to school because for thirteen years of my life I hadn’t had any formal education. From then I commenced school in one of the orphanage schools, Horizon Children Centre, in 2003. I was definitely much older than my school mates and that made me face lots of teasing and mockery. But that didn’t stop me because I knew education was of importance to the very survival of one’s life. 

Bismark outside the PCBR offices
ICS stands for education and the LIFE Project has educated the people of Sandema about disabilities. It has taught them how they can support people with disabilities (PWDs) through education and employment, as well as enable PWDs to access healthcare and their rights to equal opportunities more generally. For me signing on to the ICS programme, I wanted to lead a positive change for my society and help raise awareness about disability in Sandema. I am passionate about this project because growing up as a kid, I have noticed how some family members had prevented their children with disabilities to come out and play with their friends. They virtually locked their children at home and denied them the freedom to be independent for the reason that it is a shame to have a child with disability or a common belief that they are products of curses. Knowing this, I wanted to use this opportunity to tell the people of Sandema and the whole world that they should support our brothers and sisters who have some form of disability to have education or some vocational skills which would make them employable. This would help children with disabilities to live independent lives and help them integrate well in society.

I have learned a lot from the LIFE Project in Sandema. One important skill I have learned is how to work in a multicultural team. This requires a lot of patience and an understanding of other team members’ strengths and weaknesses. There are a lot of challenges. For example, the UK volunteers don’t always understand the social norms so the in-country volunteers have to explain why certain things happen. When we went to the mosque to hold a sensitisation after Friday prayers, the UK volunteers were surprised to see people leaving before the sensitisation could take place. The in-country volunteers had to explain that this is normal and we should only expect a small audience after Friday prayers – this isn’t necessarily a problem as the elders of the community will stay to hear what visitors have to say. What has really surprised me about working with people from the UK is how they prepare far in advance for events. In Ghana, things are often organised at the last minute. This has been a positive thing for the team as we are very productive and everyone works together to make sure we have a plan in place. Our team leaders are very inspiring and energetic which helps the team to stay motivated. We also get a lot of encouragement from the community. After I went on the radio, my friends and family told me how I’m doing good work and they are proud of me.

Bismark and the rest of the LIFE Team at their sensitisation at the Sandema Central Mosque

I hope that in the future, I will continue to help the Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) in Sandema. Even if I leave Sandema, I would still like to support people with disabilities in some way. I hope that soon people with disabilities across the Builsa land will be respected and have equal opportunities. In particular, I hope the situation of children with disabilities will improve. I would like to see disabled children outside playing with their friends instead of them being hidden away by their parents. In this year’s general election, the government has made provision to support people with disabilities to vote whereas in the last election, people with disabilities faced a lot of problems in exercising their democratic rights. This shows that change is possible – even in a short period of time. 

By Bismark Akanbang Ateyeega

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