The next step in equipping our centre has been held up for various reasons, including illness of our Star Action helpers in Asiakwa. We have also been trying to gain external funding for the computer equipment, without success yet. Please hold this whole project in your thoughts. Thanks to a generous gift from a UK supporter, we are hoping the internal electrical wiring will be completed soon and the generator up and running.
It was such a wonderful surprise to see the progress with our Community Centre building. I had not expected it would all look so good. It had been five years since my previous visit, when we had been shown an overgrown piece of land outside the little town of Asiakwa which the local Chief was willing to give us for the building of a Community Training Centre for young people in the area. The original plan had been to provide training for teenagers in various different skills, but it had become apparent that the great need was for training in computer and IT and so this is now the focus of the project.
During our visit we had a meeting with the Star Action project team and were very inspired with their dedication and commitment. So much work had been done voluntarily by this group. The building is beautifully designed and soundly constructed, and I was really thrilled to see it looking so much more complete than I had expected. Also exciting was the way in which the grounds around the building have been so carefully tended and are now growing crops. (When we had seen it originally the whole area was completely overgrown. This had been cleared and looks very loved and in good order.) It is currently overseen and looked after by a lovely caretaker family who live in one small area of the building. This means it is kept secure while we await the funding for the next stage which is the equipping with everything needed for it to be an IT Training Centre.
During our visit the water supply was connected and we will go ahead with the electricity connection as soon as we have the sponsorship for the computer and IT equipment. This is the next step in our project. We are approaching various companies who we hope will donate for this very worthwhile community project.
The Ghana Government Education Dept. are encouraging us to proceed because there has been much disruption in the area due to the re-discovery of gold in the streams and valleys in and around Asiakwa. They are keen to stabilise the youth population by training many in careers that will sustain incomes in the long term. They see ICT as being one of these careers that will be in increasing demand in existing institutions which will expand in rapidly developing Ghana.
Asiakwa, Eastern Ghana
In October, Jenny and Stuart visited Ghana and spent time in the beautiful, but very poor, village of Asiakwa, in the Eastern Province. This has been identified by our Star Action agents in West Africa, Fred and Hamida Bote-Kwame, as an area much in need of support. It is also ideal, as we have reliable English speaking friends living there who are ‘on the spot’ to monitor the ongoing progress of projects. One of our Star Action principles is that we maintain ‘hands-on monitoring’ of every project by an honest, hardworking and reliable native born agent. (Many large NGOs—Charities— have not done this, so the large amounts of money donated sometimes get diverted and not used as and where intended. We saw this happening at first hand in Sri Lanka when we were there in the first months and years after the tsunami.)
As reported in our last Newsletter (May 2008) Star Action has been donated land for a community project at Asiakwa. So Jenny and Stuart’s first visit was to the ‘Cabinet of Chiefs’ where we were graciously received. The Paramount Chief of Asiakwa welcomed the proposal for Star Action support and confirmed the gift (actually like a lease, as all land is ‘owned’ by the Chief for the village) of a large piece of common land. Next we went to view the land, then attended a meeting with our local group of Star Action supporters. They have formed a committee and the chair of this, Mr. Alexco, will be our ‘hands on’ local agent.
About the Project … by Fred and Hamida
Asiakwa Appeal web page on www.virginmoneygiving.com
Asiakwa is a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana. It is situated on a mountain slope. The vegetation is very rich, and many foodstuffs grow in Asiakwa. The town is rich in beauty of nature, such as the beautiful hillside covered in lush green vegetation, and the stream that runs at the foot of the hill.
Asiakwa is a serene town and the energy is peaceful. However, Asiakwa is very much poor in the material sense. Many inhabitants live in mud houses with leaking roofs. Most houses have no pipe-borne water supply, relying on water from the stream (where they often wash themselves and also do their laundry). Local children attend school up to the compulsory lower secondary school level (age 14 years). Beyond that, most parents cannot afford to continue educating their children. Consequently, teenagers join parents in farming, some ‘roam about’ looking for manual labour, some go on to apprenticeship in trades such as dress-making/tailoring, catering, hairdressing, tie & dye (dyeing of local cloths), to name a few. Needless to say, teenage pregnancy is rife, and the attendant issues of sexually transmitted diseases and concern about HIV/AIDS.
For those who have trained in some trade, on completion of their training they go away to the big cities in search of a job, as the parents cannot afford to equip them to practice their trade. Similarly, for those who are lucky to be highly educated (e.g. through scholarships), there is a ‘brain drain’ to the big cities. Thus, the community is gradually being depleted of skilled workers. Signs of material poverty abound. In short, the town is slowly dying. These are our observations of Asiakwa. Some Of The Children From Asiakwa Village Who WIll Benefit From Our Project As They Grow Up
During our two week stay in the town, we had the opportunity of interaction and discussion with teenage children (14 years +) and with their parents. We discussed how best outside help can be utilised to alleviate the poverty in the community. Several options were considered, including scholarship for some young people to university level, sponsoring more young people in apprenticeship, to name a few. However, the issue of ‘brain drain’ from the community made these options unattractive to them.