Volunteering in Accra: Basketball and… Sex-Ed?

I decided to look for a volunteer opportunity for myself and Cale while in Ghana, to keep ourselves busy while Papa Papp works all day.  Alex suggested DUNK (Developing Unity, Nurturing Knowledge), a youth-led community space with a focus on sports and education.  Kids come and play basketball twice a week, then are required to attend study sessions and tutoring twice a week, with Friday as a free-day.  It’s right down the street from his apartment so we decided to check it out.

We arranged to meet Emmanuel, a staff member at DUNK, to talk about how we could help. I was thinking I could do office work or something like that, but as we arrived for our meet and greet, we realized they expected us to start volunteering that day, and the real need was for basketball coaches!

So, as a result of my bright idea to volunteer, I completely roped Cale into coaching a basketball team.  He was pretty much handed a U14 team of boys, and since I don’t play basketball I provided zero assistance.  He handled it well though, and when we got home after that first day he immediately emailed Caldwell to get practice ideas from a real basketball coach:). By the end of our two week stint, he was a pro and was having a lot of fun coaching.

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Cale with his words of wisdom during the tournament

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Cale with his team, the Golden Boys

I decided to do arts and crafts with the kids so ended up making a lot of pop-up cards.  Since we had a couple weeks there we got to know the kids. The great thing about DUNK is that the kids are empowered to make their own decisions about the direction of their teams, as well as get involved in other big-picture organization ideas and decisions.  So for example, after our first week volunteering, DUNK put on a basketball tournament with their sister-programs throughout the city.  The kids organized everything, from coordinating the tents and chair rentals, to refereeing and administering the games.  The kids are great and the organization does a great job at focusing on leadership development.

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Some of the younger kiddos with Pop-Up Cards

Week two: Cale and I arrived in the middle of a meeting between the kids and Emmanuel. This wasn’t unusual and in fact they generally have at least a couple of meetings each day. During this particular meeting they were discussing how they would help one of the girls in DUNK. They talked about bringing her schoolwork, etc. I thought that she got cholera (there’s a big outbreak here presently). Turns out she got pregnant.

Emmanuel was at a loss of what to do since this was the first time it had happened at DUNK.  He was being as communicative as possible with the DUNK community since he pointed out that when this happens in Accra kids are generally cruel and start to bully the pregnant girl.  He wanted to make sure he was creating a supportive community and was fostering that by setting expectations for the kids and talking about their ideas.  Then he looked at me and said “Sarah, what do you recommend?”

Me: “Well what is it like here at schools? Do they teach sex-ed? Do students know basic information about contraception?”

Emmanuel: “No, that’s not discussed in school.”

Now here’s the part where I open my big fat mouth.

“I could teach a lesson on sex-ed if that would help?”

“Yes please, absolutely, let’s do the class at the end of the week.”

So this is the part where the music major who has no business teaching a sex-ed class panics and puts a call out to Facebook for assistance.  Fortunately my Facebook friends are awesome and I was pointed to an online curriculum called FLASH which may potentially be the same curriculum I went through, just edited over the years.  I took ideas from the curriculum (meant to be taught over a period of 6 weeks) and condensed it to one lesson that ended up taking about an hour and a half. Skipping anatomy completely, I focused on Pregnancy, STDs, Abstinence, birth control, and decision-making.

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Let’s discuss STD’s, children.

After the successful class. Cale, Clock (staff rep), Salim (youth VP), Deborah (youth President), and me.

After the successful class. Cale, Salim (youth VP), Clock (staff rep), Deborah (youth President), and me.

The kids did really well; there was the expected amount of giggling but they also asked some great questions and I was able to dispel several rumors (e.g. you can’t get HIV from kissing).  No angry parents stormed in to run me out of town for teaching about birth control. And most importantly I got to check that item off my bucket list ‘Demonstrate condom use on fingers in front of twenty 13 to 18 year olds.’

We leave Ghana in 5 hours and are very sad to go. We had such wonderful experiences here, and I still have a couple more blog posts to write. But I’m excited for our next stop: Italy to see my parents, aunties, and some family friends!

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8 thoughts on “Volunteering in Accra: Basketball and… Sex-Ed?

  1. Sounds like you guys had a great time and made a real impact. Enjoy your time in Italy – we spent a few weeks in the Amalfi, Capri, and Tuscony, so shoot us an email if you need any reccs.

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