Volunteer Period: January
Project: Street Library Ghana
My experience as a volunteer at VPWA in January
2013 was eye opening and rewarding. I worked on the Street Library Ghana project with another volunteer, Sarah. Our
main role was to get support from businesses for a book drive to raise the
resources needed to establish permanent community based street libraries.
I was surprised at the generosity of the
publishing firms that we contacted. During one month we received over 700 books
including comics, textbooks and storybooks. Much more work is however needed to
get very basic books suitable for teaching children to read.
A highlight of my time in Ghana was the opening
of the first community based library at J’Ann Royal International School.
Joseph, the Principal of the school is clearly dedicated to improving the
education of children in his community and it was amazing to see the varied
program that the school runs on a very limited budget.
Travelling during the weekends was a good
chance to see more of a very diverse country and learn about its history. I
went with some other volunteers to Mole National park, which I found most
interesting for gaining insight into rural life in Ghana, and to the Cape Coast.
As a small, locally run NGO, VPWA has a personal
approach to its volunteers. People were matched to roles that suited their
interests and Hayford and his wife, Portia hosted us for dinner each week. As
Hayford included me in meetings with local organisations, I got a sense of the Ghanaian
These aspects helped make my time in Ghana very
worthwhile. I think that in order to make the most impact to local communities
during your time volunteering, it is useful to keep an open mind about which
projects need the most help from foreign volunteers.
Although I originally planned to do a placement
more related to my current studies (nutrition), I feel that I gained a lot from
working on tasks that are really core to the success of a NGO, such as proposal
writing and sponsorship, while also having opportunities to interact with
locals through the library opening at J’Ann.
I hope that this short volunteer experience
will not be my first and last time in Ghana!
Students at J’Ann Royal International School
Marie Ann (USA Volunteer) and Rachel (NZ Volunteer) meeting
students at J’Ann Royal International School
Joseph (School Principal) and Sarah (Canadian Volunteer)
sorting books for the opening ceremony
Hayford (Street Library
Ghana President) speaking at the opening ceromony
Accra, Ghana – Street Library has launched
Ghana’s first nationwide book drive, an initiative to encourage donation of
books to set up street libraries around the country. Viasat1 TV,
EMS and Ghana Post are supporting Street Library Ghana in
undertaking the nationwide book drive initiative, taking place from January to
June 2013. EMS offers free shipping service of donated books from
any of its offices in the Regional capitals to Street Library Ghana.
The book drive is to encourage
individuals, corporations, religious institutions and any other bodies to
donate children’s books, text books, novels or any other reading materials.
Donations can be made individually or in bulk by a free-of-charge shipment from
any post office addressed to Street Library Ghana, P.O. Box OF
Street Library Ghana hopes to raise a
sufficient book stock to roll out its literacy enhancing programs across more
regions of Ghana, enabling children and youth frequent access to reading
materials. The book drive initiative will bring the street library programs
many steps closer to the team’s ambitious goal of raising 1,000,000 books to
establish 2,000 libraries benefiting more than 100,000 children across the
About Street Library Ghana
The Street Library Ghana is
an initiative by Ghanaian Social Entrepreneur Hayford Siaw with seed funding
from Reach for Change (Sweden-based non-governmental
organization) and telecommunication company Tigo. It aims at addressing Ghana’s
severe literacy problem – with a literacy rate estimated at 67.3%, emanating
from a lack of educational infrastructure and general difficulties in accessing
Currently, the program serves eight
communities in the Akuapim South and GA West Municipality by setting up a
mobile library out of a book-stocked van. Moreover, Street Library
Ghana volunteers provide tutoring, mentoring and encouragement for the
over 1,200 children enrolled on the program.
In a second phase, volunteers –
predominantly local teachers – will install a street library in their
individual community three times per week. Each street library will be equipped
with a local stock of books and a marquee providing shade and rain shelter for
children to gather and read.
Street Library Ghana currently has three-year
funding from Reach for Change and Millicom Ghana Ltd(operators
of Tigo). Tigo and Viasat1 also provided the program with Marquee to
support our community roll out. Collaboration with current partners and
additional funding support are to enable Street Library Ghana to
be rolled out across the whole nation.
For more information
about Street Library Ghana,
2012 was an exciting year for VPWA and many people like your good-self made it possible.
To highlight few happening: Hayford was selected Change Leader by Swedish foundation Reach for Change(providing three year funding), Street Library project commenced in seven communities, The VPWA Children Centre was completed and opened with sponsorship for all children secured.
We look forward to another thrilling year of impact on people and communities. We hope to work with more amazing people who continue to leave positive indelible mark on our programs.
We thank you for 2012 and wish you and your family, an amazing 2013.
God bless you,
Director & Founder - Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa
Ghana's best telecommunication company TIGO has made another significant contribution to the work of Street Library, an initiative to bring books closer to Ghanaian children in rural deprived communities. The new support of Tents will help create a colorful and enjoying reading atmosphere in communities under the catchment of the program.
''In most communities, it is very difficult to find a location to run the library away from the scotching sun and with the beautiful durable tents, we will have no problem with rain or sun'' said Hayford Siaw , President of Street Library. He expressed gratitude to Tigo Ghana for their continuous investment in Ghanaian children through organizations like his.
Tigo Ghana's Brands Manager, Madam Linda Narh advised parents to make the education of their children a major priority and take significant interest in the educational needs of them. She further advised the community to take advantage of the street library and encourage their children to participate. The presentation took place in the small village of Ahwerase in the Nsawam Adoagyiri Municipality of Eastern Region-Ghana.
The Executive Director of Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa, Hayford Siaw has made presentation of medical equipments valued at $2000 to the GA West Municipal Hospital in Amasaman. The donation which was made possible with funding from a fundraising organized by two past volunteers in Europe was in response to an appeal made by the hospital to the NGO.
It was with great regret that I learnt of the passing of our beloved friend and colleague in-service Ms Sara Coombes. I will always remember the valuable time Sara spent with our organization in Ghana to help us promote our programs through short video documentaries. On personal level, we felt an instant connection to discuss other issues other than videos. She had managed her own business for seven years and I being the founder of an organization, we always had something in common to talk about in the world of entrepreneurship.
Sara was at a point in her life, all she wanted to do was to give back and it was a privilege to be able to offer such an opportunity for that to be possible in Ghana. Over the three months period, Sara recorded many videos for us including three major ones which propel the organization to a different level. Our women empowerment video was selected finalist by UN Women and MasterCard grant program in Singapore during the period. She also produced a video for us to solicit for funding to purchase a Van for our Street Library program (a mobile library visiting communities to make books available to children in deprived villages). We were able to get funding and purchased this in less than six months after the production of the video.
Over the period, Sara also helped us to promote the construction of our Youth Development Centre. Her video generated interest in the construction process and renewal of support from donor partners. Four months ago, we opened the centre providing shelter, education and secured well being for nine vulnerable and orphan children in Ghana. In your memory, the training room at the centre will be named after you.
Sara, your contribution to humanity is immeasurable and may you have peace in your new resting place. On behalf of me, my family and the entire team of Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa, we wish you a peaceful rest.
Sara, below are tributes from colleague VPWA volunteers from around the world who had the opportunity to meet you while in Ghana.
Founder/Executive Director: Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa
Simona Diaconescu from Romania: We all love you, Sara Coombes! Such a wonderful person will always be missed!
Hannah Elizabeth Williams from United Kingdom: oh such sad, sad news. Loved working with such a special, hard working lady. Who made great videos! Much love for the AMAZING lady Sara x
James Edmonds from United Kingdom: So sad to hear of this. An incredible, fun loving lady with an awesome sense of humour. Super talented and tireless in her work. Honoured to have got to know her. Much love, Sara x
Stephanie Arneson from United States: I'm so shocked to hear this news and so saddened. She was an amazing woman to know. She made such an impact on VPWA and she will be deeply missed!
Austin Ho from Canada: I am incredibly shocked and saddened to be reading this right now. I had the pleasure of working and travelling with her in Ghana last summer and she was an absolutely amazing person with a great personality. Could always put a smile on someone's face. RIP Sara
Hellin Brink from Sweden: I am so saddened to hear this. Sara you were so lovely and full of life and adventure. You will be missed. RIP x
Taylor Read from United States: Being across the world it was so great to have Sara take me in and to have her as my "mum" while I was away. She was such a sweet and incredible woman with the best personality. I'll always miss you and your gin packets
V- Lin Lee from Singapore: Sara was having such a wonderful time of her life and I feel so sad for this sudden lost. Will miss her beautiful soul and genuine big smile. May we all find comfort in the good memories that we have of her.
Freya Donaldson from United Kingdom: I’m so sorry to hear this!! As you can tell from these messages, the amount of ppl Sara had a positive impact on in three months was huge let alone her life!!! I hope she has gone to an amazing place! She is an amazing woman xxxxx
Laura Cl from Belgium We are very upset hearing this news. I respected Sara for her adventurous and shiny personality; she could always make me smile. We will miss you a lot.
Tom Gill from United States: Unbelievable - Sara was a special lady. I feel lucky to have known her. RIP Tonic.
Laurita G Agudelo from Spain: It's a really surprising sad new. She was a truly amazing person, giving all from herself to help the others. RIP
Aaron Eubank from United States: Such a strong and inspiring woman. She will be (and clearly is being) missed greatly!
Chen Weiwen from Singapore: Am very sad to lose a great friend and roommate. Hope we can be inspired to live our lives the way Sara did: full of zest, love and laughter. Leave a legacy, as she has.
Ramona Kundt from Romania: I am extremely sad and at a loss of words. I feel so fortunate to have known Sara, she touched upon the lives of everyone she met. May her soul rest in peace.
Pearlyn Lee from Singapore: She lived is much loved and left a legacy in her own right, sara a beautiful angel on earth and in heaven. Always remember our "late" nights chatting over gin sachets and pineapple cakes, sara parading her tailored Ghanaian dresses, super sense of humour, unfailing enthusiasm for her work, the work she has done for the less fortunate.
Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa's children's centre is one step closer to opening its doors having just welcomed Hannah Andoh as the Madame.
The Children's Centre, based in Darmang, will soon welcome 10 disadvantaged children aged between four and 14 to live and learn, with the aim of eventually housing up to 24 children from the area.
They have been carefully selected to give them a chance of stability and access to good health and education.
Madame Hannah will have a huge task on her hands; as well as looking after the children, she is also responsible for cooking and cleaning for the volunteers who live there.
As a previous employee of the Salvation International School and at Konongo Praaso-Kumasi as a cook, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience for the position.
She is very excited to welcome the children into her new home when they arrive in a few weeks. At the moment she is busying herself by looking after the volunteers that live at the centre and making sure the compound is spotless.
“I feel good and very comfortable here,” she said.
“I want to pray to God to give me patience to teach and train the children.
“I also have to encourage myself and be bold and strong.”
Hannah is well-qualified to deal with the challenges of raising children, having brought up four children of her own.
“I love children and I just want to help them.”
VPWA Executive Director Hayford Siaw said Hannah stood out as an employee because she was everything he was looking for to take on such a large task.
''Hannah seems enthusiastic and passionate about children's rights which is central to the objective of VPWA in setting up the centre,” Hayford said.
“As a mother herself, she came out as a very strong candidate with requisite experience in bringing up children over an extended period of time.''
A Ghanaian Social Entrepreneur, Hayford Siaw has been selected along Felix Uzor and Sharron Nestor as Playmakers for 2012. The selection by Playing for Change, a non-profit organization founded by Kinnevik-Sweden, supports social entrepreneurs who improve the lives of children and youth. Kinnevik believe that the best way to create a social change is to give the right tools to people who are passionate about their task and who has the entrepreneurial driving force to make a change.
The chosen entrepreneurs call Playmakers; get financial support but also advice and mentoring from a network of employees within the Kinnevik Group of companies. The goal is to help the entrepreneurs build sustainable operations that will have a great social impact. In Ghana, the Kinnevik Group includes, television station Viasat 1, telecom company Tigo, financial institutions Bayport Financial Services and Consumer Finance Company (CFC).
This Friday, out of 900 ideas, they had come down to only four, who got to pitch their ideas live in front of a jury consisting of Obefemi Banibge (CEO and acting GM, Tigo), Charlotte Gustavsson (CEO Viasat1 Ghana), Justice Boahen (CEO, CFC), Kofi Adu-Mensah (Bayport Ghana), Letitia Adu-Ampoma (Integrity manager, Tigo) and Johanna Hallin (Director Strategic Planning, Playing for Change)
Hayford’s idea is Street Library – a solution to bringing mobile libraries to rural communities, promoting literacy and educational curiosity to disadvantaged children. Felix and Sharron’s innovative idea is Sports for Life – a program for promoting water safety and preventing drowning, the number one cause of death among children in Ghana.
According to Hayford Siaw, the street library is a social purpose initiative that aims to foster sustainable social transformation and participation through education. ‘’Literacy is a key component of strategies to support long-term economic and social value creation. As a result, the Street Library aims to be ‘the means’, and not ‘the end’. Particular emphasis will therefore be given to creating a setting that should enable targeted groups (especially children and youth) to acquire skills and interest for the long-term development of their literacy level.’’ He added.
Knowledge of malaria transmission low, prevention and
treatment options limited.
25th January 2012, Accra, Ghana– Volunteer
Partnerships for West Africa has released the results from its most recent case
study, Knowledge, Treatment and
Prevention of Malaria in Rural Ghana: A Case Study of Darmang.
study was conducted from May to July 2011 in the village of Darmang Anhuntem,
located in the Akuapim South Municipality of the Eastern Region of Ghana. The
objective of the study was “to assess the effectiveness of anti-vector
interventions taken by the National
Malaria Control Program (NMCP), as well as availability of treatment and means
of protection in rural communities.” A series of qualitative interviews with local people
in Darmang revealed limited knowledge about malaria transmission and symptoms,
lack of affordable protection options, and financially and geographically
inaccessible treatment for the disease within the community.
about malaria transmission are still widely prevalent in Darmang. According to the report while “[m]ost of the respondents (92%) knew that malaria is
caused by mosquitoes…. more than half (52%) of the respondents gave additional
sources for the disease which included working close to a heat source like fire
or in the sun, eating too much oil or starch, contaminated houseflies on food,
cold temperatures or airborne particles.” When asked about malaria symptoms,
“More than half felt that malaria and fever is the same thing,” including one
of three local chemists whom was interviewed.
When asked about first
response to a suspected malaria infection “more than two thirds of the
respondents reported not seeking hospital care for treatment of malaria due to
lack of financial means and geographical access.” An overwhelming 73% of
respondents said they would self-medicate with traditional herbs or
over-the-counter drugs . Meanwhile, only 17% of respondents would go to a
However, “Despite the
low numbers seeking first response treatment at a hospital, when asked the
majority of the respondents (64%) believed that being diagnosed and receiving
care at a hospital is the best way to treat malaria. Reasons for not seeking
such care were in all cases financial reasons; the main obstacle being a lack
of financial means to pay for, diagnose and receive treatment by a doctor at
the hospital, as well as buying the prescription medications.”
Even the 17% of
respondents who had national health insurance (NHS) said that they sometimes
opted out of going to the hospital due to inconvenient location and the cost of
transportation to the healthcare facility. They instead opted for easily
accessed herbs and drugs at a local drugstore.
The awareness and
existence of malaria protection options in Darmang is also very limited. Most
respondents initially cited bush clearing, cleaning, and taking preventative
drugs as primary methods in effectively preventing malaria. Using an Insecticide Treated mosquito
Net (ITN) was secondary. While
the “majority of the respondents (68%) owned at least one net…. [only] 22 % of
the respondents who owned a net cited that every member in their
family slept under one” due to financial circumstances and lack of ITN
availability. Although, the respondents recognize and utilize ITNs as an effective
malaria protection measure, only half of the respondents had ever heard of but
never seen Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS). Anti-vector strategies to control malaria are
not readily available to them.
“[T]here is a
considerable lack of knowledge regarding malaria,” the report concludes.
Misconceptions about malaria transmission greatly impede anti-vector strategies
and prevention of malaria in a community.
The study highlights
that mosquitoes adapt and change their behavior “according to geographic
location, dry or wet season and human behavior e.g. sleeping outside or use of
insecticides,” and therefore, the government should fund further research on
alternative anti-vector control measures for reducing malaria.
“However as long as
this free health care remains inaccessible to the majority of the citizens of
Ghana, especially to the poorest who need it the most, it is inherently
meaningless. Lacking the ability to pay annual premiums, poor people in Ghana
are indirectly being excluded from the public health care…” Most importantly, the report highlights the
plight of Ghana’s poor citizens and calls upon government to make malaria
elimination a national priority through universal healthcare. It proposes “dedicated
political support and financial reconsiderations” as key to eliminating
malaria. The Darmang community and its limited knowledge and options in coping
with the threat of malaria, speaks for a greater whole of rural Ghana.
In Ghana, one out of
every ten children will die before reaching the age of five and malaria is still
the number one cause of these deaths.
for the Editor:
Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA) is an indigenous African volunteer driven
development NGO, engaged in applying the services of global volunteers. These
volunteers make a local impact in West African communities with the aim of
helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals-MDGs. For more
information go to: http://www.vpwa.org
Supporters & Volunteers,
We thank you sincerely for sacrificing your resources to support the cause of VPWA in 2011. You made the contribution of VPWA at the grassroots possible and we are grateful. Our team went great length to achieve great milestone for the organization.
Contributing their skills to design and supervise the construction of a clinic in Amanase? Contributing their skills to design and supervise the construction of the VPWA Youth and Children Centre in Damang? Morphological data recording at Green Ghana executed successfully to warrant invitation to present paper at the Oxford University? Using sustainable construction materials to build a Moringa seed bank? Fund raising towards construction of the VPWA centre? Developing a Video pitch to warrant been invited as finalist by UN Women and MasterCard in Singapore? Taking ownership by past volunteers to return and lead the execution of specific projects? Researching on First Language Literacy, Domestic Violence and Women Shelter, Malaria in Ghana? Training of teachers in Classroom management? Winning several grants in diverse thematic areas of Human Rights, Children, Governance, and Education? Deworming almost 4000 children within two weeks? Piloting the Street Library Project? Working with special need kids? Organizing conference and sponsored by UN Habitat? Workshop on ICT? Leading the role out of VPWA Micro leasing and Micro insurance program? Renewing health insurance for over 120 people (the cripple, blind, aged and children)? Donating blood to save life in a hospital? Donating a fridge to preserve vaccination supplies in a clinic? Sponsoring children to have an access to education? Winning United Nations Volunteers Award for 2011?
These are among the many and other diverse contributions of VPWA Volunteers in 2011. Watch video highlights here http://youtu.be/2lRTvb3-5GE
We sincerely thank you all self-motivating individuals for supporting us with your funds and skills, contributing to the progress of the organization and the communities we serve.
To those that could not join us in Ghana or support our cause, hopefully you will be able to do this in 2012.
We wish you a Prosperous New Year!