Each summer, SKIP UCL sends around a dozen volunteers to Nkoranza in rural Ghana, where they spend one month teaching, playing and learning in a community for the mentally and physically handicapped.
PCC houses around 100 children and adults living with a wide spectrum of disabilities. The community was founded over 20 years ago by Dutch doctor Ineke Bosman, who understood the dire need for better facilities for the often orphaned, abused and neglected disabled population in Ghana. More information about the inspirational work they do can be found at Operation Hand in Hand .
Upon arrival at Hand in Hand, SKIP UCL volunteers receive personalised daily schedules consisting of different activities aimed at making a positive impact within the community. These include one-on-one play therapy sessions, helping in the summer school, running activities for the autistic children and assisting in the sheltered workshop. The one-on-one sessions in particular provide a novel opportunity for many of the children and adults to receive personal, specialised attention that at times can be lacking in such a large community. Overall the volunteers aim to provide new, educational and fun experiences for the children and adults at Hand in Hand.
As well as directly aiding in the children’s development, our volunteers give lectures to the caregivers on health and disability awareness topics. Previous lectures have focussed on subjects such as general hygiene, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, communication, first aid and tuberculosis. In 2013, our educational programme expanded to the community, and since then SKIP UCL volunteers have lectured in schools and churches in the local areas in general health and disability awareness topics.
Our other recent interventions include installing soap dispensers near the communal and kitchen sinks in Hand in Hand, as well as buying books to set up a caregiver reference library to enable them to learn about health and disability all year round. We have funded the construction of a semi-independent house in order for the community to be expanded, as well as allowing some of the older residents their own space and independence.
In the summer of 2010, committee members from SKIP UCL completed a research trip to Ghana to begin the process of linking with a new partner organisation. The committee members met several organisations in order to identify where we believed we could bring the most positive contribution. After several rounds of discussion and evaluation, SKIP UCL became partners with the Ghanaian charity, Hand in Hand.
Hand in Hand is a non-governmental organisation established in 1992 just outside of Nkoranza in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana. The orphanage was created in response to the lack of state provision for disabled children, to help provide a safe and loving environment to nurture children who have had such a difficult start to life. Since 1992, the community has grown to care for over 100 people and is committed to helping as many children as possible.
After the research trip in 2010 we sent our first full volunteer group in the summer of 2011, and the feedback from both our volunteers and the community manager, Dr Albert van Galen, was overwhelmingly positive. The children really benefited from the new experiences and interactions offered by our volunteers, and the carers showed a real thirst and appreciation for knowledge during the health promotion lectures we presented. During the trip we collected a lot of feedback that we then used in our research and development sessions in order to formulate an even better project for the following summer. Since then, we have sent three groups of volunteers to Hand in Hand in 2012, 2013 and 2014, returning with even more positive feedback and a strong sense of progression in terms of SKIP UCL’s contribution to the Hand in Hand community.
Due to our strong and flourishing relationship with the Hand in Hand community, we definitely see ourselves continuing to work with this partner organisation for the foreseeable future.
We also hope to expand our community education project into more locations in Nkoranza and the wider area, reaching more members of the wider community with information about mental and physical disabilities, a topic that is often shrouded in superstition and prejudice in traditional Ghanaian culture. By dispelling some of the myths surrounding disability and empowering the local community with better knowledge about some common conditions such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy, we hope to further increase the cooperation and integration between Hand in Hand and the surrounding locals.
We also have plans to fund another semi-independent house, as well as a physiotherapy room and equipment to give Hand in Hand the resources to deliver much-needed physiotherapy to its residents.
One of our most consistent methods of fundraising is our monthly bake sale at UCL. It has become an increasingly popular and delicious fundraising event that we hope will continue to grow for years to come.
We also host a couple of big social events per
year. Over the past few years, we have hosted three band nights, the latter two at Elixir Bar in Camden. All three were fantastic nights which helped us raise money for our interventions in Ghana.
Each year the volunteers also individually fundraise through activities such as bag packing, social networking pages and more. These funds in
particular are then used to support a project the volunteers choose after evaluating what they feel are the most important and realistic needs within their means to provide for the community.
“Volunteering in Ghana with SKIP last summer was, in all seriousness, the best time of my life so far.”
“Not only did I learn so much on project, I came away feeling like I really made a difference.”
“Through working with SKIP I’ve gained so much not only from being on the trip, but through all the planning, preparation and evaluation that goes on behind the scenes back in the UK. What is unique about SKIP is that it is so heavily student run, giving us unparalleled freedom and responsibility when developing and executing our projects. Being a secretary, team leader and project coordinator with SKIP has been challenging at times but ultimately the most rewarding experience of my student life thus far; the leadership, cooperation, communication, evaluation and development skills it has helped me acquire I’m sure will be essential (and are already proving to be) in my future medical career and generally in life!”
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