Learning to live
Ghanaian University students, Alice Agyiri and Esther Chinebuah, have helped poverty stricken children and families in the Pampaso region of Ghana through a positive scheme they call YES – the Youth Empowerment Service.
Recognising an issue
Traveling through the area whilst completing their Bronze Award, Alice, 22, and Esther, 23, witnessed first-hand the reality of this impoverished region. For many children in Pampaso, an area just 100 miles North West of the Ghanaian capital Accra, basic amenities such as food, shelter and clean water were in desperately short supply. Many children suffered the extreme African cold by night and damaging exposure to the scorching sun by day. With no tradition of school attendance, many drifted into petty theft and sometimes more serious crimes.
Alice and Esther resolved to take action. Focusing on the 5-15 year old population, they set out to fight poverty, tackle hunger, encourage school attendance and bring a greater sense of hope to the children and families of the area.
Creating a campaign
Their innovative approach had three clear stages. The Take Action! campaign encouraged individuals and groups to donate clothing and food for the Pampaso community. Local markets and churches provided important centres of activity and, in consultation with the area chief, the fundamental needs of the people began to be met. The second stage, Go Learn!, supported the Government’s ‘school feeding programme’ that provides a vital, nutritious meal every day that a child attends school. Alice and Esther worked hard to encourage the take up of school places, and the free meals, among the local families. The final phase, Go Green!, focused on a tree planting programme to help to prevent the damaging, environmental drying of the area.
As a result, some 60 children have enrolled in local schools and been provided with uniforms, other clothing and a daily meal. More widely, the project has changed the attitude of the community about their role in eradicating poverty and the importance of getting their children to school.
The future for Pampaso now looks much brighter but success has not come without its challenges. Securing initial funds to buy uniforms and clothes for the children was a major challenge that Alice and Esther overcame thanks to the support of well-wishers and the area Chief. The exercise of persuading parents, many of whom had no experience of education, that a free school place for their child was of value, was a challenge that was taken on and overcome.
Alice and Esther, who are now awaiting their Gold Awards, aim to continue with the project. They have in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to gauge progress and aid future planning. Through this, they can keep track of how many children are enrolled in school and how many of the children have access to basic needs.
“Clothing a child in a deprived community is sustainable and can be replicated in any deprived community which is facing severe poverty”, state Alice and Esther. “Young people are encouraged to be part of the solution to our societal problems through innovative social initiatives. The people in these deprived communities do not need much to survive but they need the little we can give to live on.”