Heroes of the week – Sonja, Toula, Mike, Jon… and you?

Thank you, Sonja, Toula, Mike and Jon!

 

This week we’d love to draw everyone’s attention to Sonja, Toula, Mike amd Jon – the four runners who took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday. Not only did they all run 13 miles for AfriKids, they collectively raised over £1,800! Thank you all!

 

You?

 

Want to be a future ‘Hero of the Week’? Why not join thousands of other participants in the fantastic Santa Run in London’s Victoria Park! In 2013 this event was hugely popular, and five AfriKids staff members donned their Santa suits and ran 10km for AfriKids!

 

This year’s event….

 

Date: 7th December 2014
Location: Victoria Park, London
Registration fee: £22 (includes free Santa suit!)
Fundraising target: £200

 
There are limited places available on a first come first served basis, so please sign up using the secure link below to avoid disappointment!

 

SIGN UP HERE

 

 

Working motherhood in Ghana and the UK

Sally Vivyan, new mum and AfriKids’ Director of Programme Funding, reflects on the different circumstances of mothers in AfriKids’ work

 

 

Having recently embarked on the emotional rollercoaster of new working-motherhood I find myself confronting a barrage of developed world dilemmas. Now my working hours have reduced, am I still leaning in enough to build a successful career? On the other hand does the fact I didn’t make time to learn clever cake icing skills for daughter’s first birthday mean I’m not ‘earth mother’ enough and am too distracted by work?

 

The confusion is endless, so as ever I have sought solace and perspective in the wonder that is the world of AfriKids Ghana. Before I had my own child I found the commitment of new mums among the AfriKids Ghana team amazing and now I have my own I’m even more in awe of them. From Emmanuella who made breastfeeding whilst distributing microfinance loans the most natural look in the world, to Linda Marfoh (pictured with me above) who commutes 800km from Accra to Bolgatanga to keep her commitment to both family and work, they are truly amazing.

 

But what stopped me in my tracks more than any of this was a conversation with David Pwalua, AfriKids Ghana Director of Programmes, this summer about the project AfriKids Ghana is about to pilot with the International Labour Organisation. This project is exploring ways of making maternity leave, or at least a break from manual labour possible for the vast majority of women in Ghana’s Upper East Region, who work outside of formal employment.

 

So many women simply cannot stop farming or trading in the market when they have a baby; if they do they lose their income that month, their harvest next season and the carefully cultivated pool of customers they rely on. Having recently faced the emotional and physical challenges of caring for a child in their first few weeks of life whilst taking care of your own recovery, I cannot imagine the stress and difficulty of having to worry about work at the same time.

 

Success for this deeply needed project will depend both on the careful investment of funds in women who need to focus solely on the welfare of their little ones for a time  and on deployment of the solidarity and support that holds communities together to ensure their businesses or crops do not fail in their absence.

 

I will be watching this project with interest and look forward to sharing more details on this exciting initiative soon. In the meantime I think I’ll spend my working hours ‘leaning in’ towards doing what we can at AfriKids to support these fabulous mothers and the local team who have committed their working lives to them.

 

Read more about how AfriKids works with women’s empowerment through microfinance

GUEST POST – The Money Stone

Paula Ely is the producer of The Money Stone, a forthcoming documentary film that looks at child mining in Ghana. The  film features AfriKids’ fieldworker, James Bingo, and Maxwell, a beneficiary of our Talensi Nabdam Area Programme, and is a fantastic illustration of the work AfriKids is doing in the Upper East Region’s mining areas. As her team are looking to secure funding for the final stage of production, Paula writes about how the film came about and gives an overview of how AfriKids feature.

The Money Stone is an upcoming documentary film that tells the dramatic story of two teenage boys who leave school to stake their futures in the dangerous gold mining pits of Ghana.  Director Stuart Harmon and I began producing the film after learning about the impossible choice impoverished families must often make between the mines and school.  Over the course of filming, we witnessed the dire conditions in which the children work at the unregulated mining sites throughout the country.

 

The film is now in post-production, and we have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the final funds needed to bring it to completion.  We want everyone who cares about Ghana’s children to pitch in what they can to help!

 

In the south, Justice has quit school to tempt his fate in the gold pits, hoping to find prosperity and provide for his destitute father.  In the north, Maxwell has been compelled to work to help support his family by joining his father in the dangerous local gold mines.  Maxwell wants to return to school, but his long work hours and distance from the classroom make it impossible for him to attend regularly.  Local NGO AfriKids assigned James Bingo to Maxwell’s case.  A former child miner, James decided to devote his life to helping other children after barely surviving a terrifying mine cave-in. In Maxwell’s case, his family’s need seems to be in direct conflict with his dream of completing his education, and James finds Maxwell’s case to be one of his most challenging.

 

The decisions that these families have to make are incredibly difficult – how can one afford to give up their children’s income when they can’t make ends meet?  Often, the parents have not had much education themselves, so it can be hard to convince them of the value of schooling.

 

We believe that it is through the personal stories of people grappling with such choices that people can understand what it’s like to face these struggles every day.  The Money Stone tells the compelling story of three individuals working to realize their dreams under very difficult circumstances. Our Kickstarter campaign ends on October 18, less than two weeks from now, and we really need everyone’s help to reach our goal. For more information please visit www.moneystonefilm.com

 

For more information on AfriKids’ work with child miners, click here

 

How we’re measuring attitudinal change

A few weeks ago we posted a blog about the innovative approach we are taking to measure poverty in multiple ways. Here AfriKids UK Director of Programmes, Felix Wood, writes about other ways that AfriKids goes about getting in depth understanding of the issues affecting vulnerable children in the Upper East, and how we leverage expertise from other sectors to help us do this.

 

 

One of the things that AfriKids has always excelled at is working with individuals and communities to change behaviour that impacts negatively on children and vulnerable people. The stand-out work on this is with the spirit child phenomenon in Sirigu, where traditional beliefs about disability and childbirth can lead to children being harmed. We have been so successful in our spirit child work because of the approach we take to bringing about complex social and attitudinal change – we know that success is changing hearts and minds as well as changing behaviour. As with so much development work, this is the work that is most likely to bring about lasting change in people’s lives, and is often a prerequisite for success in bringing about positive life changes for groups that are excluded due to certain beliefs or practices.

 

In terms of monitoring progress and being able to clearly illustrate progress, the problem is that because a lot of the change happens inside people’s heads it can be difficult to show that things are improving. Attitudes and beliefs are not exactly the easiest things to quantify. For example, with our spirit child phenomenon work in Sirigu, until the moment where we held the community festival announcing the rejection of infanticide the team were making progress over an eight year period, but we were unable to easily show that in a way that was objectively verifiable. For those focussed on monitoring and evaluation and statistics (and I have been told on many occasions that I fall into this category by people’s glazed eyes), just being told something is happening isn’t enough, we want some way of showing it and proving it.

 

With the new phase of the Kassena Nankana Area Programmefunded by the Big Lottery Fund – we’re taking an approach that measures people’s Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices with regard to disability over time that we refer to as KAP surveys. This is something we’ve been doing for the past few years but that we’re really looking to step up. We’re extremely fortunate to be able to work with Dr Aaron Denham – lecturer in anthropology at Macquarie University in New South Wales – to be able to develop the survey. Working with those in academia and outside the NGO / charity sector is a great way for us qualify what we’re doing objectively and ensuring we’re rigorous and scientific in our approach. It also gives us the opportunity to test ourselves against best practice in the sector and beyond.

 

The approach we’re taking is to have a survey that is simple to deliver so we can get data from a wide range of people. To get data that we can use constructively we don’t want to use interviews that give us long narrative answers, so we’re going to give a series of statements which people can either say they agree with or disagree with on a scale– and measure how that changes over time. This will sit alongside an approach that is much more free flowing and interview-based to get much richer – but much more difficult to present in numerical or graph format – information.

 

The trick with this sort of thing is to ask questions in a way that doesn’t ‘push’ the person to answer in a certain way, or make them think that one answer is better than another (which can skew answers completely, especially if they think continued assistance relies on them saying what we want to hear). The design of the survey is a very delicate task.

 

Evidence is currently (and rightly) very big on the agenda of the development sector as a whole and so AfriKids continuing to show that we take it seriously will, we hope, continue to put us at the forefront of development practice. More importantly, we hope that our reputation for really understanding the issues which we grapple with in our efforts to help children realise their rights continues to be borne out by reality, and that the lives of thousands of children every year are improved as a result.

 

Construction begins for AfriKids’ next social enterprise!

 

As an international award-winning charity that’s improved the lives of over 780,000 people in the last decade, AfriKids has celebrated many milestones and achievements over the years. But laying the first bricks of the ICAP Training Centre in Ghana this month probably makes our top 10.

 

The ICAP Training Centre will be a multi-functional facility which sits at the heart of AfriKids’ latest social enterprise: AfriKids Blue Sky Travel Ltd. (BST)

 

A responsible travel company (the first of its kind in Ghana’s Upper East Region), BST will offer a range of rich and unique cultural experiences, from day trips to bespoke packages, all of international standard while planned and delivered in close partnership with the local community. BST will bring new skills and employment opportunities to a region with a limited and saturated formal jobs market, and make beautiful northern Ghana accessible to new markets, benefitting local businesses and encouraging further investment in the socio-economic development of this isolated and poor region.

 

As with all of AfriKids’ social enterprises, 100% of BST profits will be donated to AfriKids Ghana’s exceptional child rights and community development work, helping to make AfriKids Ghana self-sustaining and AfriKids UK redundant.

 

Blue Sky Travel will mark AfriKids out as a new kind of NGO, one that genuinely aims to become indigenously run and sustained, eliminating dependency on western aid and putting itself at the centre of its local economy’s development.

The ICAP Centre, set in 23 acres of untouched savannah – will be a thriving hub of activity. Home to Blue Sky Travel Ltd., with training, conference and events facilities, a bar and catering, all set against the stunning backdrop of the UNESCO nominated sacred Tongo Hills.

 

With over five years of research and planning invested in BST, and over ten years’ experience of trip hosting in Ghana, AfriKids is ready to be the leading provider of hospitality and tourism services in northern Ghana. Laying the first bricks of the ICAP Centre was the first step to making this dream a reality, and another leap forwards in AfriKids Ghana’s journey towards sustainability.

 

The BST website will be launched soon! Always feel free to drop us a line at info@afrikids.org or on +44 (0)207 269 0740