Continuing in Western Africa

WE AfriHug continued moving in Western Africa. Not far from Togo, the next destination was Ghana. After traveling through the busy and messy border of Aflao to Accra, the members spent one night there and the next day they traveled with the tro-tro to the rural community of Kpando.

When the volunteers arrived in Kpando, they got directly the community’s feeling of a friendly environment. They have been welcomed by Blake, an American volunteer who works as Project Manager for the local partner in Ghana, the NGO UNiTED Projects. UNiTED is a community resource and empowerment centre with a mission to educate and empower by encouraging collaboration and by providing accessible information to the community of Kpando and the surroundings. After arranging themselves in the room, Blake led the volunteers in the working place of the NGO, a small but very friendly office, where interns, volunteers and members of UNiTED spend their working time. He made a presentation about the NGO and explained its vision and mission.

It was obvious that people around that area know each other having strong bonds and friendships. After a couple of hours, the volunteers have been interacting with the neighbors sharing stories and experiences from Africa. Before the dinner, the volunteers went for a run around Kpando, in order to train for the next sports milestone, the Sahara Marathon. Keeping a healthy mind in a healthy body is the way, so as to achieve all the objectives of WE AfriHug.

The following day, an early meeting with Jessy, Co-founder of UNiTED took place, in order to discuss some details about the upcoming Training Seminar in Kpando Secondary School. Excited to work together with this change-making NGO and hard working people, the volunteers visited together later the school, in order to implement the first day of our 3-day Non-Formal Education Training Seminar with students with the aim to facilitate them developing soft skills needed for the 21st Century.

When they arrived in the school, Justice, a local teacher welcomed us warmly and showed around the school. After this, it was the time to meet the students. 53 students have been anticipating this day for the training wondering what the volunteers would implement. It is always strange in the beginning of every Non-Formal Education Training, when the students have for their first time this experience because they do not know what to expect. No books, no pens, no school equipment at all! Let’s go out to start our activities. The ice broke fast and the students got integrated fast and participated actively in all the activities. Ice-breakers, getting to know each other activity but also the challenging activity “Where is my power?” were in the programme.

During the last activity, the participants are asked to create a “white wall” consisted of papers on the wall, where they have to draw their body’s outline on the paper sheet in the position that they prefer. In order to draw it, other participants should interact and help them do it because the “white wall” starts 10 cm higher than the ground floor. In the beginning and after the explanation, the students were wondering how they could approach it, how they could draw each other without having their feet on the ground. Being creative and problem-solvers, they found their ways to achieve it. Then, each participant had to identify their outline and draw with a small symbol their unique internal power. Afterwards, always placed in a circle, a discussion is following with each of the participants talking about their unique strength and justify why they feel that this is their power. It is challenging to speak in public about yourself but the students created a trustworthy and healthy environment among them, helping each other to express themselves.

During the second day of the training, the students have been challenged with more “difficult” activities, focusing on the development of skills, such as creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and public speaking. The activities “Front page”, “The battle of orange” and “The hidden path” took place triggering the interest and active participation of all the students. During the activity “Front page”, the students are creating the front page of a newspaper trying to convince their classmates about the authenticity of the news. Presentations on critical issues, such as “Drug abuse” have been done during this activity giving them space for discussion and reflection. During the activity “The Battle of Orange”, the participants are divided into two groups which have the same goal: To take the orange! After a 10-minute discussion among the two group members, the battle is occurring through a debate session, where one representative from each group has to argue and convince the other one about taking the orange. Are they going to fight or are they going to reach an agreement?

The third and last day of the training, students have been challenged with the activity “The Electric Fence”. A rope between two trees with approximately 150 cm high represents an electric fence, which should not be touched by the participants. The participants have to pass from one side to the other without jumping but only with the assistance of the others. Before starting the action the participants are given some time, in order to elaborate a strategy on how they will pass to the other side. If someone touches the electric fence, then the whole group has to start again from the beginning. The challenge is accomplished only when all the participants pass from the other side without touching the electric fence. They enjoyed this challenge, despite the fact that in the beginning they did not find a good strategy. After a while and after discussions between them, they made it to the other side after communicating effectively and collaborating to achieve the goal.

Interviews from the participants, Blake and Justice took place explaining from different perspectives their experience with WE AfriHug and the Non-Formal Education approach. The students had the chance also to evaluate the training seminar and also to reflect and express what they liked and what they did not like but also what they promise for the future. “I learned how important is to be united”, “I have identified my power and what I can do”, “I discovered my capabilities” were some of the students’ statements after the end of our training during the third day.

Now the team is getting ready for the next sports milestone combining the Sahara Marathon with the support of the Saharawi refugees. 42 kilometers will be covered in the desert to show the support to the Sahrawi families at the refugee camps of Tindouf. The motto of the 2018 Sahara Marathon edition is: “42 kilometers of our effort, for 42 years of your resistance”.