Like Candy from a Stranger

Most of us have seen the public service commercials about it and have learned about it from our parents and at school. DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS. And especially when we are young, we are told not to go with strangers and never take candy or other presents from them. They just want to lure poor, unsuspecting children away for often horrible reasons. We don’t worry about those scenarios much when we grow older. It would be a rare occurrence for someone to try such a trick on an older child and certainly not an adult. However, here in Ghana I have often recalled those lessons from childhood.

The scene is like this: I am walking down a street or waiting on the side of the road for a tro-tro to come along. A man—sometimes young, other times old—slows down in his car and tries to get my attention. He then tries to say a few lines he thinks will make me think he is trustworthy. An example would be a middle-aged man driving up to me and saying he is a minister and wants to give me a ride to the junction since it looks as though there are not any tro-tros coming my way at this time. Instead of candy, also, sometimes I get promises that they are going to go eat and I should join them. I used to talk to the men to get them to understand I do not want to go with them, but now I have taken to ignoring them and walking faster or turning away. It may seem rude, but I know that 97% of them have nothing positive in mind.

My commitment to this stance led to a comical event last Friday. I was walking towards the roundabout to catch a tro-tro to the Accra Mall and I was walking fast, as I am even more bothered by the men on the road when I am in dressier clothes, when it happened. As I was walking I heard a male voice say ‘Hello, young lady.’ I quickened my steps. But then I heard the voice say, ‘Hello, Delia.’ I immediately recognized the way the voice said my name. It was George. I stopped, turned around, and as soon as our eyes met we started laughing and hugging. George knew exactly what kind of guy I thought he was and we both thought it was very amusing to meet on the road like this. I guess I have to watch out for the 3% good ones sometimes too.

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Island Adventures

This past Saturday I threw aside stress and dusty Accra air and planted my feet in the warm sand and beautiful scenery of Ada, Ghana with Fred. The area is comprised of several different islands, that house many different resorts and a large casino. It was a wonderfully relaxing day filled with good food, lots of rest, dancing, and music.

Patriotic trees
Old school boat ride
At least the boat had lifejackets
So many lovely palm trees

Showing off serious hula hoop skills

Being ‘Madame Younge’

It would be an understatement to say that I love my work. And I especially love Thursdays when I get to teach another session at my pilot school in Adenta. I have 37 students, which is a combination of Class 5 and Class 6. This puts the students’ ages between 10 and 12, which was my target age group for the program. There is a rather equal number between boys and girls as well, which helps the dynamic of the classroom. One of my secret pleasures about teaching is that when I walk in all the students rise from their seats and tell me good afternoon. They will not sit down until I tell them to. But most important to my secret pleasure is that they call me ‘Madam Younge.’

It has been great getting to know my students so far. I have only been there for two sessions, but both went very well. The students told some of their other teachers that they are learning a lot and that they wished that I came there every day. That really meant a lot to me to hear. Moreover, in many of their journal entries, students are writing that they find the sessions very interesting and are engaging in very thoughtful questions about the subject matter. The journals were probably one of the best ideas that I borrowed for the program. They have been where I could truly engage in a private conversation through words on a paper with each individual student. I carefully respond to each of the 37 journals so that each student knows that I put time into it and they will continue to take their own thoughtful time writing. The entries range from light questions such as how one can eventually go to America to heavier topics about a parent beating the individual frequently or other secrets they felt were safe in their journal. Giving children a place in which they can begin to develop their voice and letting them know that someone cares about what they have to say truly goes a long way in creating a positive environment for a classroom and program.

Having reconstructed the program to be more knowledge and skills based, it has been easier to have a base from which to monitor the pilot program. There are many things I have yet to teach myself though, such as how to quantify data from surveys so that they are not just numbers, but also reflect patterns and sets. It has truly been a learning experience for me, and I am slowly earning the full use of that title of ‘Madam Younge.’

Here are the objectives of the sessions, as well as the overall goal of the program for a better idea of what I am discussing through my sessions. So far we have covered the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and how rights come with responsibilities. They have taken an entry survey. Students have completed two worksheets, one on healthy habits and the other on the difference between regular work and forced labor/exploitation. They have also received a handout on 8 steps to decision-making and learned how to apply it to different scenarios.

GOAL: Students should have a healthy understanding of their rights, beliefs, and how those influence their lives and how they interact with others in their communities and the world around them.

 Objective 1: Students should understand and be knowledgeable about children’s rights and children’s responsibilities

  • Session 1, Session 2, and Session 3

Objective 2: Students should learn ways in which to find personal peace

  • Session 4 and Session 5

Objective 3: Students should develop understanding for others in relation to their own value system

  • Session 6 and Session 7

Objective 4: Students should identify healthy versus unhealthy relationships and build towards healthier ones

  • Session 8 and Session 9

Objective 5: Students should learn about how their country and communities work in relation to their lives

  • Session 10, Session 11, and Session 12

Objective 6: Students should learn to develop their voice and vision

  • Session 13 and Session 14