05 April 2014

Guest Blogger: Ole Becker the Wusuta Volunteer

Ole was kind enough to write up a blog post for me on his experience volunteering at Wusuta Royal Academy! Ole was placed there from the German GIZ for an entire year so I felt that he would have much more experience and knowledge to share with us about what it's like to volunteer for Father Isaac in Wusuta Royal Academy. But in actual fact, what Ole wrote up began with the opposite. Even though Ole has an entire year of experience, what he tries to get across in his story is that no foreigner, not even him, will ever be able to accurately and fully share the store of a Ghanaian village, school, or student. Because only a Ghanaian who has grown up in such circumstances truly understands what it is like. I appreciate that Ole recognizes this as many foreign volunteers often feel entitled and knowledgeable due to their experiences. More importantly, Ole tries to break down any stereotypes or preconceived notions that Canadian readers may have about Ghana by offering an account of their daily lives in a relatable way, proving that we are all really the same. He gives real names and real experiences to real students, which often gets lost in the perceptions created by media and charities that try to over generalize the big issues in order to spark extreme reactions. I think Ole proves how its important to keep a realistic and empathetic understanding when it comes to experiencing other cultures.

Ole (left) at his desk in the head office.

I am not able to inform you about schools in Africa. I am not able to write about the schools in Ghana and I'm not even able to tell you the story of Wusuta Royal Academy. But I can tell you some single stories I experienced in the year I lived in Wusuta. Those single stories will give you an idea of the school and the students. But this idea you have will always be unfinished. It will not even be close to reality and my stories will compete with the ideas you may have about Ghana. So keep in mind that neither you nor me really know how things are going.
In my imagination all Canadian Kids have to walk to school using snow shoes. Otherwise they will get stuck in the massive amount of snow that is falling all the year through. They have to be careful, sometimes a bear will follow them, when they walk through the deep pine forests to reach civilization. This is the single story I know about school in Canada, therefore it must be true for all the students.
People know one single story about the whole continent of Africa. The people are suffering from hunger, sickness and disease. But still they are happy.
Let me tell you about some problems some children have. What can be a problem for a young student, attending the Royal Academy? Martin and Abigail from class 3 want to become great soccer players, but the older boys are always playing on the field. That means they have to play on the side. Christian from the 5th grade always wants to make the best jokes and today he is just not able to come up with a good one. His classmate Florence is frustrated because the break was too short to eat all the food her mother gave her for school. Joshua is sad, because he and his friends just lost a game of soccer against some boys out of class 6. Ernestine wants to write a good mark in the upcoming class test, because her mother promised to give her a surprise. Derick has to do his Homework in the afternoon, that means he will not be able to meet his friends and John wasn't able to figure out a way to convince his father to allow him to watch a movie with friends in the evening. Nicholas from the 8th grade really wants to impress Veronica, but she is not caring about him. Patricia is going to the 9th grade and is studying really hard because she will write her final exams soon and she wants her parents to be proud of her. Divine tried to read his new book, but the teacher forbid it during his lesson. Michael has similar problems: Cell phones are not allowed in the classroom, not in Ghana, not in Germany and probably not in Canada. And I know a story about a school principal who is working all day long to provide the students a good learning environment. Education is the key to success this is true all over the world. Of course there are other stories about a lack of learning materials, inefficient education systems, an improvable health system, but they have been told too often, they have become a small placeholder for the whole reality.
- Ole Becker

Ole also notes:
In the presidential Election in 2012 the president received between 50.70% of the votes. The opposition went to Court. After 9 months the court declared the vote valid. No insider deals and complains before and no anger after the decision was announced. Of course: Ghana is a democracy not like the so-called “oldest democracy of the world”, the year 2000 sends its greetings.

27 February 2014

Conscious Condoms for Safer Sex

The condom aisle is a battlefield. Trojan vs Magnum screaming masculine sex. Branding is everything and this kind perpetuates stigmas that make it difficult for women to engage in safe sex. Plus this is done in an unsustainable and unethical way. Meanwhile many people around the world have trouble finding access to condoms.

Don't fret, there is an answer! I came across a page by PolicyMic that brought to my attention there are three condom companies who seek to do something about these issues! (Check this link for more info)

It is a brilliant answer at that! Everything I love about a company.
1. Buy one give one
This is a smart concept that capitalizes off of doing good and giving donations through consumers who would be purchasing particular products anyways. If you need to buy 60 dollar shoes or 1 dollar condoms anyways, why not give one to someone in need while you're at it? The problem with this model, as many have criticized the popular TOMS for, is that giving donations is not sustainable. I mean, if you give a child a pair of shoes then s/he can walk for a couple months. But if you give a parent a job to make shoes then s/he can afford shoes for their child to walk for a lifetime. Cue....
2. Ethical production
The problem with the Buy one give one model is solved by these companies because they actually produce their products in the developing communities, which is important to actually produce economic sustainability within developing communities instead of just giving them donations.
3. Collaboration with other NGOs
These companies also contribute to social sustainability further by collaborating with other NGOs who are already working hard to deal with social issues like healthcare, female empowerment, and safe sex awareness.

Below is an informative video of the company that I liked the most.