Friday, 26 June 2015

BooksMatter

Since I started putting my all into the Larabanga Life Project, I always said that great things would happen and so many great things have, the support from people all over the world has been really overwhelming. I have very special people to thank, those who have believed in the project and that have helped me to achieve what I set out to achieve. It has now been around 1 year and a half since I first went to Larabanga, non the wiser about how it would shape my life until now and the Larabanga Life Project is going to be a very big part of my future also. I have an amazing development to tell you about...
I'm very excited to announce that after being contacted via this blog by Keith Goddard, we have had fantastic news for Larabanga Primary School. After a couple of months of sending emails back and forth, there are now almost 1,000 books on their way to Ghana, for Ibrahim to collect and transport to Larabanga. Keith runs a non-profit organisation that donates books to schools and libraries in Ghana. They sort through every book they receive before they pack them to make sure they are suitable for the destined school. They are then scanned into a data base, each school has their own data base so that they know exactly which books they have got to use and enjoy- this is through their connection with LibraryThing. Check out BooksMatter's website here: https://www.booksmatter.org/home.html
- There is lots of information about what they do, the book situation in Ghana and their successes so far.
One classroom at Larabanga Primary School
The benefits of these books are going to be priceless. I remember the moment I received the message from Keith via the contact form. I was sat at my dining table here in China, just checking emails and then I saw it. I was absolutely over the moon. It was one of those moments when you think to yourself... "Wow, I really am doing this." When the books arrive at the school, I can't begin to imagine how excited the children will be, I only wish I could be there to see their faces.
Something I also wanted to mention was that, Nathalie has organised a fundraising event on the 1st August to be held in Reading. There will be live music from Elasea, check them out here: http://youtu.be/l2U64nO5zU8
We hope that it is going to be very successful, I will be there with Nathalie and Huw to talk and answer any questions and most importantly to inspire all of our guests to share our dreams for Larabanga.







Sunday, 10 May 2015

Gender equality and empowerment of women (HUGS HUNAN) Union of Ghanaian students

I feel really lucky to have been invited to such an important event. If I hadn't of met Quame, I wouldn't have got the opportuntity, he and his colleagues put in so much work to ensure it ran as smoothly as possible and that everyone had a great time. I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that it what very successful, it was an honour to listen to such excellent people talk about an incredibly relevant topic. After being scammed by the taxi driver on the way, I arrived at the hotel where the event was being held, I was actually one of the first people to arrive, Ghana time in China, I have to say I have missed it so I began to enjoy the wait. I met Quame inside, he was really busy as he was organising everything. When other people started to arrive, I moved to talk to the people behind me, three girls who are studying medicine here in Changsha, two from Zambia and one from Nigeria. We spoke about life in China, our likes and dislikes and then of course, they wondered why I was actually at the seminar, so I told them about my experiences in Ghana how I'd met Quame, what shocked them most was that I like Fufu "You can eat Fufu?!", always seems so shocking. The seminar began at around 11am, started with an opening prayer and then the Ghanaian National Anthem, it took me back to the early mornings at Golden Gate, singing and learning the words at the front of assembly.
The Women's Commissioner of NUGS Hunan, Ms. Omar Nuratu gave a welcoming address, giving us an idea of how she felt towards the topic. She talked about how women impact on every sector of society and that if women are allowed to succeed then nations will prosper. It was a great way to open as it started the thought process. The Spouse of the Ghanaian ambassador to China, Mrs Huseina Demuyakor gave us a speech, she started with a question, a very important one at that. What is empowerment? Or actually, is empowerment just a myth, a concept that just gets thrown around? The general idea the majority of the population have about empowerment is that it is a fuel, a gas that gives us energy to change certain things. A definition that came around in 1999 is that... Empowerment is a range of processes that helps those who have been denied choices, it helps them to aquire the ability to make choices and think for themselves freely. She then went on to discuss The Power Cube, a model produced by J. Gaventa in 2006. The Power Cube is a device used for analysing how strategies for change can in turn change power relations. I would definitely advise that you read more about it if you are interested. Click the link (The Power Cube) above.
Hidden power: This is the power that isn't public but within families and communities, more hidden in smaller villages etc. This kind of power struggle can leave the victim (mainly women- for the purpose of this seminar) with mental damage and even physical, depending on each individual circumstance of course. This kind of power struggle, for me is the most dangerous as it's usually only a small amout of people who are aware of this but even so they aren't aware of the damage that is occuring as it is seen as normal. When talking about smaller, more rural areas, we would guess that if you are educated then you are empowered right? Not necessarily. There are so many areas of someones life that oppression can be present, relationships are perhaps the most common and most severe source of female oppression. Mrs Huseina Demuyakor said "In the name of love, women are raped and psychologically assaulted". Such a strong statement to make, yet it seems to be the norm, everyone knows that this happens within some relationships. What if it were to happen in your relationship or to someone very close to you? The manipulation that occurs often causes the victim to feel like it's fine for it to be happening. Now that is dangerous, just think for a moment about how many women have been raped, murdered, tortured by someone that is supposed to love them. They are made to feel like they deserve it. Let's get something straight, the empowerment of women is as much a benefit to men as it is of women, when men come to realise that women are equal to them, I believe that more relationships will become happier and in turn, more stable.
Mrs Demuyakor then went on to talk about babies. When an ultrasound scan shows the beating heart of a girl, it is seen to be negative in so many ways in so many parts of the world. Currently being here in China, this is something I have been so interested in, I've asked many questions but haven't had anybody be honest with me about the negative impacts that the One Child Policy has had. I see it with my own eyes everyday in my classes, there is an obvious difference in the numbers of girls and boys in my classes. Thankfully China has changed their policy slightly, I really hope that it will continue to be adjusted until girls are valued as much as boys completely. So much so that women are being put through "back street" abortions, often leading to severe gynaecological problems. If a baby girl is "lucky" enough to survive, when she is of age then there will be discussions about who she will be married to, these discussions are often held without the presence of the young girl. Here's a scenario. If the mother of the young girl, felt like she had the power to stand up for her daughter, to tell her husband that she is too young to be married then imagine the impact that decision would have on the rest of her life. Women DO have the power and ability to make their children happy. They are mediators in so many aspects of life, yet they are so poorly equiped compared to men. SO many womens lives are absorbed in the struggle to support the rest of their family emotionally and physically yet they're uneducated. Perhaps the thought of an educated women is too intimidating for some men?

Women A + B
There are two areas in which I think empowerment is most relevant in life. There is the need for personal liberation and with this the need for the individual to decide if education is the key to that liberation. Everyone thinks that education is the key to the empowerment of women but it's definitely not, not everyone feels that a high level of education is for them. Having the freedom to make the choice is an aspect of a womens life that can lead to personal liberation. The other area would then be educaton, having the power to make decisions about your own life and learning to make educated decisions... It sounds incredibly basic to me and to many other people but believe me this is so far from many young girls reality.

Gender equality and sexual health by Dr. Mamoudou Camara (President of Guinea entrepreneurs in China)
Dr Camara began by talking about the need for positivity when talking about sexuality and sexual behaviour. There have been so much negative media surrounding sex, all of the bad things it can do to you. For example, the HIV epedemic, people are afraid to have sex because now all they know is that it could kill you... There are around 40 million people who have AIDS right now and in 2001 there were 14,000 new cases each day, 95% of those were in developing countries and out of 5 million, 800,000 are children. You can't pretend that these facts aren't powerful, as the human race, we can't afford the consequences of selective silence. Ill sexual health can also lead to infertility, unwanted pregnancy (leading to unsafe abortion) or another unpleasant sexually transmitted disease (STD). The word "sex" doesn't just refer to intercourse itself, it refers to our biological characteristics. It is so important to have a healthy sex life, and no I don't mean that you should have sex twice a day...  I mean, it should be healthy in many ways. Physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. Sex is a deeper topic than most people think, who'd have thought it could effect you in so many different ways.

Rights
We all have rights, each one of us. Although in some places around the world these rights are compromised or not observed at all. There are national and international laws surrounding human rights but also within a relationship, when talking about sex within a relationship, it's important to remember that everyone involved has a right and a choice. They also have the right to sexual healthcare. This is a tough topic because it's known that in some developing countries, access to this kind of healthcare is minimal and also seen as "taboo". If a women is known to have sought any then it is likely that she will not be able to get married or even be divorced.

Female Genital Mutilation
If a girl has not gone through the horrific process of FGM then she is seen as unclean and therefore will be unwanted by a future husband. This is why so many young girls are forced to have it done to them, because in developing countries, parents cannot afford to keep their children after a certain age so girls need to be married. To know more about FGM, click on the subtitle.

Talking about the lack of sex education in developing countries is serious. The effects of the silence can be seen all over, when I was teaching at a Senior High School in Ghana, I was teaching a geography lesson and we got onto demographics and then of course, contraception arose, they did not have a clue what it was. No clue. And then the next week, guess what the news was. One of the girls in my class was pregnant, she was so smart, such a waste of an intelligent girl, all because she didn't know anything about sexual health.

Women and Leadership
You can be a leader in different aspects of your life, professional, social and within the family. Leadership is when you can demonstrate the skills needed to direct, guide and influence the behaviour of others in order to work in a team. Malawi and Liberia currently have female leaders which is a great step, they have recognised that women too, do have invaluable leadership skills. It's important to stay humble when you are in a position of leadership, not to get ahead of yourself and take too much pride. You need to relate, mentor and encourage your "team" and of course, if we are generalising, these qualities are typical of women right? Women mostly have the ability to go deeper to find the reasoning behind something and not to be so sceptical or scripted. A good quote that I picked up from the seminar was "Women are like tea bags, you don't know how strong they are until you put them in hot water". An interesting take on the topic... I guess I would say, the longer women are in "hot water" the stronger they get, but of course, this could also apply to men aswell. I think the point that is being portrayed here is that, the longer women are oppressed, the stronger they will be.

Gender fairness in education
There are 41 million girls who have not been educated at Primary level and 2/3 illiterate people are women, thats 10 million more illiterate women than men. Girls are marginalised for no reason at all within education, most of the time its subconsiously because of how societal norms have influenced us. The fact that males are educated more than girls is kind of crazy when taking other facts into consideration, 70% of failures and school dropouts are boys and 4/5 crimes committed are by males. Looks like investing in the education of males isn't actually that worthwhile.

To sum up the seminar, I would have to say that it was like 3 worlds collided. I never imagined that I would get the opportunity to attend a seminar, on a topic that is really important to me, held by people from my favourite nation whilst in China. China is the land of opportunities... I want to mention "metaphorical miles", it was amazing to see so many women from different places that clearly have all come so far, not only within themselves but literally, coming from the African continent all the way to China to persue their dreams. Let's take the world girls!

Monday, 16 February 2015

We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.

Who doesn't want to be happy? Every single person on this planet shares one aim in life. Of course it's the most important aim too as everything we do in our lives is done with the hope that it will make us happy. Some people (I wish it was more) are just happy. They are happy with how their life is... And how do you think this proportion of people live, the people I am talking about haven't got anything material wise. They hold on to what is truly important, meaning family, friends, laughing and loving the people around you.
Before I went back to Ghana in November, I went back to my Sixth Form College (KGV) and spoke to some of the students about Larabanga. Two of the students I had the pleasure of talking to were Jemi Moore and Chloe Fisk and since then they have both completed a 24 hour sponsored silence for Larabanga Life Project. I was over the moon when I found out as it really shows that the stories I am able to tell really are enabling me and others to make a difference to beautiful lives. This is what Jemi has wrote, telling you why she decided to help out.
“I decided to do a sponsored 24 hour silence to not just raise money for those who are suffering in Larabanga but to also raise awareness about the conditions which they are living in. Kelsey opened my eyes to what was happening in Larabanga and it made me want help and get involved as much as I could, that is why me and a friend did a sponsored silence. Once I read Kelsey’s Blog and discovered that 38p could buy a child a basic pair of shoes I was amazed at how much a little donation could help, because giving a child in such conditions a pair of shoes can work miracles, as it can help prevent them from stepping on sharp objects and injuring themselves as well as prevent them from getting infections.
I feel as though the sponsored silence went well but I feel as though I could do better. I aim to do more fundraising in the near future for Kelsey and her project (Larabanga Life Project) to help people realise that giving even just as little as 38p can help a child in so many ways, which we take for granted every day.”
Other fundraising recently... Nathalie held a quiz night and raised a fantastic £261. She is heading back to Larabanga at Easter time to take donations and see how the building is getting along. Of course also to see how much the children have progressed too.
I received a message from Larabanga recently too "Everyone in Larabanga is saying thank you for bringing the first medical supplies, they are proud of you, thank you Kelsey". I feel accomplished when I hear things like this as me teaching them how to use the medical supplies has meant that they can continue to keep cuts clean and treat themselves in the appropriate way. Of course now too, the children are going to the toilet in a clean environment and are able to wash their hands, keeping bacteria at bay! Small things like this are essential for a child to be healthy and all children have the right to be healthy.
"I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains." - For me this is huge, it's so easy to concentrate on all of the negative aspects of life and even easier to forget about how amazing life really can be if you let it be. There are so many obstacles in life, we all know that but it's how you overcome them that matters because at the end of the day, being angry at the world is not going to change the way it is, you are the only one that can make your life worth it. By making your life worth it, make someone elses life better and make them smile, even if its only for a second. If you find something that motivates and inspires you, that is what you have to hold on to all of the time and then you will succeed.







Saturday, 17 January 2015

Reflection

 Baba, there must be something about that name, I always fall for them.. I had never met this little boy before, when I was painting with the children he wandered in to see what all the commotion was about but didn't say a word for a good few hours then he would start following me and before I knew it I was tripping over him. A beautiful, curious soul.


Williatu provided me with some of the most precious moments of my trip. She smiled and hugged me when we passed each other during the day and used her enthusiasm to help me teach tired 4-10 year olds. I can't thank her enough for the lessons she has taught me, I pray that she continues to grow into the strong, independant woman that I can already see blossoming. She taught me that it's ok to be afraid, she was so nervous as she tried to read for me the first time. She is 14 and struggles completely reading basic words. I found it difficult giving her my 100% attention because of how many children there are who all needed help and it didn't help her confidence when another child would come over intrigued about what we were doing. Nothing is private at all. It just isn't, in England, we are all used to the fact that if you need extra help at school you get it straight away. Throughout her school life which I doubt started at the correct time, she has blended into the background like every other child, learning difficulties are not acknowledged in Ghana. They probably aren't acknowledged in many developing countries but they really need to be. Williatu could be the one human being with the ability to create a life saving medicine... You may think it sounds far fetched but why the hell not, it's true. Just because of where she has been born, she hasn't had the sufficient start in life and as sad as it may seem, she unfortunately has to live in Ghana and she has to go through their education system. I remember one time, it sticks in my head. We were reading together and we were concentrating on the word "was", she was so determined to master it. And she did. It took about half an hour of repeating the word and sounding it out phonetically... Thank you to Donna Ball for giving me some tips on teaching phonetics, it really helped this young girl. I can't get it out of my head, how happy she was to be able to read the word, I could see in her eyes how proud she was of herself and I was incredibly proud of her. I have been inspired more by young people like Williatu more than grown adults my own age. The drive and enthusiasm is a sign that you should never give up, regardless of whatever situation you find yourself in.


I always seemed to be meeting new babies every day I was in Larabanga, of course these are beautiful memories but I can't help thinking about the quality of life they are going to grow up to have. Joy doesn't come from material things I know that, but to an extent we need money to get along in life. It's sad but it's true, it makes my stomach turn to think that getting an education and being who you want to be relies on money. Just look at these faces... They are 4 out of millions of children that are being born into poverty, they don't have a choice in the matter do they? Nobody asks to be born. Hold on to the saying "Everything happens for a reason" but there is only so long you can. What is the just reason behind suffering? Why wasn't I born into poverty? Why weren't you? Thank your lucky stars that you have everything you need and more. By the time these babies reach their 1st birthday, its already a milestone for them, the infant mortality rate is through the roof in Northern Ghana. I have friends and family who have children of their own and when people ask me if I will have children, the faces of these babies pop into my head. Why bring more children into this world when there are so many that need saving? I have so much respect for people who have adopted children from struggling nations. People mock the likes of Madonna but surely the life she is giving her children is better than what they would have otherwise. We live in a world where we don't know when the next disaster is going to come, but it always does come. Why not make differences to peoples lives and make them smile, even if it's only for a second. 



Zainab, I love this picture. Simple things excite me, like the dress Zainab is wearing in this picture was actually my younger sister Caris'. It's crazy that something my sister has worn in the summers over here in England is now being worn by little Zainab in Northern Ghana. It's so lovely. Sometimes I sit back and think to myself about how lucky I am to have shared such special memories with these beautiful children. Each time I saw them they always had the biggest smiles on their faces, Zainab always laughing alongside her friends. She has just a great aura about her, when in her company she always cheered me up if I wasn't feeling well. If I was too hot she would run over, pick something up and start to fan me to cool me down as well as hysterically laughing at me because I was always bright red aahhaa.











Musphira, possibly the most photogenic child on the planet. Every photo I have got of her is beautiful, her smile is so bright. This photo is one of my favourites.. Here she is modelling some of the clothes that were donated for them & she is rocking the Hello Kitty hat, I am so glad I got to take over some hats because I always worried about the heat. It was crazy hot for me and sometimes I could barely do anything in it so I thought that surely it isn't good for them to have their heads exposed to the sun all the time so here is the solution.
Mother, an incredibly intelligent young lady. I didn't recognise her from my last trip so I was curious to find out why she had become a part of the project. Her dad was killed by a buffalo only 3 weeks before I got there, but look at the smile on her face. He was hunting to feed his family, so what happens now? With nobody to provide food for her and her family? There is no support system in place in Ghana, at all. I couldn't believe how happy she was, all I had given her was a second hand dress and some supplies to help her with school and she was over the moon. Every day she came to my classes and as each class passed she left me thinking. Her answers to questions stunted me. Even the questions she would ask me, she also helped me a lot with the younger ones with the language barrier. Girl power!!

Look at this face... Ayisha was trying to get my camera but ended up taking a sad selfie instead. If you can't fall in love with this face then I don't know if you ever will. She has come so far in the small time she has been on this earth. When I first met her she was so weak and never said a word, she had malaria but since then she has become stronger and stronger. I couldn't be happier for her, her voice just sounds like happiness. Like a little doll but at the same time she rolls around in sand and scuffs her knees day in day out, best of both worlds...

This is me looking very tired during my first day back in Larabanga, after travelling for over 3 days. Rest wasn't an option when I got there, I had to say hello to all of the precious faces I had missed over the 7 months between my trips and what a welcome it was. The first face I saw was Sakaah, an absolutely charming young boy, I was collecting my bags and he was came out of nowhere behind me. I think I scared him as I just grabbed him and was screaming. Probably down his ear... aahhah my bad...