ECHOES III PROJECT: Empowering Cocoa Households with Opportunities and Education Services.
This project, funded by World Cocoa Foundation, started in September 2012, and was designed to serve 15 small communities in the cocoa growing regions of Ghana. The leading implementing partners were World Education and Winrock International. Light for Children was given overseeing responsibility for five villages in the Atwima Nwabiagya District in the Ashanti Region – Nkorang, Seidi, Kobeng, Hiawu Besease, and Asakraka.
To strengthen community participation in education
To establish community-wide reading and literacy initiatives
To improve reading outcomes for children
Meetings with community members and leaders, to assess barriers to education in the communities, and possible solutions.
Literacy classes for adults and out-of-school teens
NALAP (National Literacy Acceleration Program) training for primary school teachers to improve literacy for young children who are currently in school
Community events (durbars) to highlight specific issues such as child labour
Monthly monitoring of the process by staff of World Education, Light for Children, and Winrock.
In 2012 Light for Children and World Education staff focused on familiarizing the villages with the program, identifying and meeting with teachers, community leaders, and potential learners. The goal was to involve the communities in every step of the process, and to have the community members identify problems and possible solutions regarding education in their communities.
**ECHOES III was originally slated to run for three years, but the funding from the World Cocoa Federation was unfortunately cancelled in September 2013, after only one year.
A training workshop for OST/adult literacy class facilitators and staff of implementing partners was held at Bunso Cocoa College in the Eastern Region from January 6 to 12. Facilitators were trained to use non-formal education techniques, improve classroom participation, and effectively manage classes.
Pre-tests were given to OST (out-of-school teens) and adult learners to establish their literacy levels before classes started. Testing took place in Kobeng, Seidi, Nkorang, and Asakraka. Testing in Hiawu Besease was scheduled for February.
A monitoring visit from the ECHOES team from Accra was led by Adwoa Aidoo. The team visited the Light for Children office and each of the villages over four days. They gave questionnaires to Light for Children staff, interviewed reading coaches in villages, met with key stakeholders, and presented books to the learners. Footballs, football jerseys and badminton kits were also presented to the 5 villages by the ECHOES team.
NALAP (National Literacy Acceleration Program) Step-down training took place in Hiawu Besease, Seidi, Kobeng, and Asakraka from February 23 to 28. This training was to refresh the knowledge of kindergarten to P3 teachers in the schools. Training for Nkorang was scheduled (and carried out) in March.
Winrock sponsored a community durbar in Hiawu Besease, which Light for Children attended.
Partners held a meeting in Winrock offices in Kumasi for the staff of all partner organizations.
Winrock Community Sensitization took place in Nkorang, with the purpose of stressing the effect of child labour in the cocoa growing communities, both in farming and mining. Illegal gold mines operate in the area, and unfortunately teens are enticed away from school for what amounts to non-sustainable, unskilled temporary employment. The durbar was well-attended by chiefs and community members.
A Trainer of Trainers workshop was offered in Koforidua from March 15 to 18 for implementing partners, who in turn would train SMC/PTA’s in their villages. Participants were trained on such topics as administrative procedures, NALAP, planning, monitoring, and reporting.
Nineteen of the twenty facilitators of literacy classes were paid allowances to acknowledge their hard work and to serve as a motivator.
A capacity-building step-down training took place for SMC/PTA members of all five villages. The training took place at the OAU Hotel in Abuakwa from May 6 to 9. It was facilitated by Light for Children staff and Bernice Nyantakyi of Winrock International.
OST classes focused on sporting activities in order to encourage learners to participate in classes. This approach has rekindled interest in the teen literacy classes, especially in Nkorang, Kobeng, and Asakraka. Seidi still struggles to attract learners to the OST classes, though their adult classes are quite well attended.
JUNE - JULY 2013
Classes continued to run in all five villages, and monthly monitoring occurred as usual.
A refresher training course took place for facilitators of Adult and OST literacy classes, at the Bunso Cocoa College from July 2 to 7. Thirty facilitators attended as well as representatives from the partner organizations, including Light for Children. The workshop allowed facilitators to share their experiences and refresh their knowledge of non-formal education techniques. The training course was facilitated by the project staff of World Education.
AUGUST - SEPTEMBER 2013
Final post-tests were given in August to the learners in Adult and OST literacy classes, to assess their progress. Graduation ceremonies for the Adult and OST learners took place in September in Asakraka and Hiawu Besease.
ECHOES III was originally slated to run for three years, but the funding from the World Cocoa Federation was unfortunately cancelled after one year. The future of the literacy classes in the villages is now uncertain.
Power outages in Ghana during the first half of 2013 made it very difficult for classes to run. Evening classes suffered from a lack of lighting, and weekend daytime classes often conflicted with funerals and other social activities.
In all 5 villages combined, the adult literacy classes began with 145 learners, of which 102 completed the year.
The out-of-school teen classes began with 66 learners; 62 completed the year.
26 OST learners have re-enrolled in school.
Adult learners noticed many benefits from their participation in the classes. Most can now read and write somewhat, sign documents, and even read the Bible for the first time in their lives. Traders are better able to conduct their businesses and make change accurately because of improved mathematical skill. Cocoa farmers were able to modernize some of their processes, and some are now nursing their own seedlings instead of buying them.
In Nkorang, three of the girls became pregnant. Through the efforts of the headmaster, community, and Light for Children staff, all three are continuing their schooling.
There is no gold mining activity near Seidi, so most of the teens were already enrolled in school. In this community the OST classes were used to give extra help to struggling students.
Most of the communities have been very supportive of the project, providing monitoring and classrooms. Some have even attempted to keep the program going after the funding was cut.
Light for Children was very disappointed that the funding was cut for this worthwhile project. We have attempted to continue our support to the five villages as much as possible. Rebecca Kuntz has collected books to create school libraries in two of the villages. Light for Children also arranged vaccination programs for the villages, and facilitated eye screening and free cataract surgeries for people in the five villages provided by Unite for Sight.
Volunteers remain at the center of most of Light for Children’s activities. Most of our international volunteers come to us through our partner organizations, which include Voluntaressor (Sweden), Save a Heart (Denmark) and Hong Kong University. We also hosted volunteers from Israel, the US, and Canada during 2013.
In 2013, volunteers participated in the following placements and projects:
Orphanage work (Mampong Babies’ Home, Missions of Charity)
Preventive Sexual Abuse Workshops
Community sanitation and construction of toilet facilities
Teaching in schools in Kumasi and Nsuta
Long-term volunteer Rebecca Kuntz has been fund-raising for the Education Center in Atonsu, Kumasi, as well as overseeing its construction. The Education Center, consisting of a library and computer lab, will run pilot projects over the summer of 2014, and will be completely open in September 2014. Rebecca also has taken on administrative work, updating the web site and Facebook pages, and corresponding with prospective volunteers.
Long-term volunteer Lisa Parsons has updated volunteer orientation materials, acted as a guide for volunteers, and helped with correspondence and other office work. She has also developed a literacy and creative writing program to be used in conjunction with the Education Center.
Volunteers are also encouraged to explore the land and culture of Ghana when they are not working, and are given guidance by Light for Children staff.
PREVENTIVE CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE WORKSHOPS
In January 2010, Light for Children launched Preventive Child Sexual Abuse workshops in the basic and junior high schools. These workshops, conducted by trained staff and volunteers, educate children about the different types of sexual assault, how to prevent them, and what to do if they are sexually assaulted. This program has the support of both the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Education Service. Light for Children staff also provide follow-up services for children who call to report incidents of abuse, connecting the victims with DOVVSU and other support systems.
In March and April, 2013, four volunteers, Klara Adrian (Sweden) Trine Skov (Denmark), Emmanuel Kwarteng (Ghana) and Lisa Parsons (Canada) ran the program in Kumasi schools.
In June and July, a group of 11 students from Hong Kong University’s Social Sciences department volunteered with Light for Children. This group conducted Preventive Child Sexual Abuse workshops in Kumasi-area schools.
In November and December, volunteers Linnea Rydberg, Fanny Lindström, and Jessica Hallerth of Sweden, and Yael Yeshurun of Israel, conducted the school workshops in and around Kumasi.
All together, the Preventive Child Sexual Abuse workshops reached almost 5000 students this year, which is the largest delivery ever achieved with this program. Looking ahead, Light for Children has re-designed the workshop program so it can be conducted by only two volunteers when necessary (up to now it has required four facilitators). This change will allow us to run the program more frequently, and reach a larger number of children. There is also a plan to use Ghanaian university student volunteers to run the workshops in Sunyani, starting in February 2014.
HIV CHILDREN CARE AND SUPPORT
Light for Children originally began as a means to support HIV positive children in the Kumasi area by providing sponsors to help pay for medication, nutrition, and education for affected children. Light for Children currently sponsors 43 such children and their caregivers.
In 2010 Light for Children stopped receiving funding from Ghana AIDS Commission and other major donors, because of the declining rates of infection in Ghana. We are still sponsoring children through volunteer donations and private sponsors, but have not been able to add new children to the program since 2010.
In 2012 we acquired two new Swedish sponsors, Susanne Sandquist and Una Mether. Susanne is supporting 4 children, and Una is supporting one girl in Nsuta. We now have a total of 11 sponsors.
One of our sponsored children completed polytechnic last year, and was thus one of the first children in this program to finish tertiary education and “graduate” from our sponsorship program. We faced some difficulties in transitioning the family to doing without our financial help.
Unfortunately, one sponsored child, a five year old boy, died unexpectedly of complications of HIV in 2013.
BUILDING OF COMMUNITY TOILET FACILITIES
Over the summer holidays, BTP, a group of students from Hong Kong University, constructed a toilet facility for the community of Amankwade, near Lake Bosumtwi. The facility includes toilets and a place for hand washing, and is greatly appreciated by the community.
This group first built a sanitary facility through Light for Children in the summer of 2012, and will be back to build more facilities in 2014.
Each year Light for Children runs a summer school program during vacation time, staffed by volunteers from abroad. Students, including those who do not regularly attend school, get the chance to work on core subjects and electives such as art and sports, free of charge.
Formerly, school vacation time started in June, but now students vacate from school in late July until September. For this reason, it is difficult to get volunteers to teach the summer school classes because many of them are students themselves and cannot easily come at that time. In 2013 summer school did not take place because of a lack of volunteers.
In the future, we hope to offset this problem by advertising early for volunteers and adding other incentives.
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