Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Project GROW Day!!!!

From the Project GROW Website:

The Fearless Leaders of Project GROW
Vida is on the left - Philomena on the right
Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women (Project GROW) is a community development project which aims to facilitate women's economic empowerment and community capacity building agenda in rural Ghana.   Project GROW began as a result of the research of international graduate student Vida Yakong, who is from the region and was researching the barriers that prevented women in Northern Rural Ghana from accessing rural health clinics. The primary reason identified was poverty.

Initially UBC students and staff became interested in Dr. Yakong's research, followed by members of the community, and now with independent sponsors, who all saw an opportunity to connect this research with global citizenship objectives.  Building on the success of their years with the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus, Project GROW is now a Non-Profit Society. The connections and working relationships with UBC academic programs and student learning opportunities remain as strong as ever.  Project GROW still has close ties with UBCO students as well and is a unique combination of research, international engagement and community involvement, inspired by a student who was driven to make a difference in her country.  It is also a model that we hope can inspire other, similar initiatives.
Josbeth - Project Grow Volunteer and Vida and Philomena's Nephew
The Project GROW motorbike was donated a few years ago

Our GROW Day:
On Saturday we had the incredible opportunity attend the Project GROW celebration in both Logre and Nyobok.   The organization is non-profit, and was founded by our dear friends Vida (an Alumni and Adjunct Professor from UBCO) and Philomena Yakong, The mission of the organization is to empower women to be self-sufficient and improve their livelihoods using the skills and resources which are provided through GROW (for example goats, donkeys, micro-loans, and the teaching of vocational skills).

Logre Goats!!!
This day was special because it was the day in which the women were presented with their goats, mosquito nets, dry soup mix and dried fruit (made in our very own Okanagan valley) and a donkey. This presentation day only happens once a year- we were so thankful we were able to attend and be a part of the celebration. The day started with a small celebration at the Catholic Health Centre in Logre, which has a small group of women living with HIV/AIDS who are members of Project GROW.  Vida shared that each year this small presentation gets larger and there is more community involvement.  She believes next year it will be a full celebration like the one at Nyobok.  The most beautiful piece of this is that the original intent in holding a small celebration here was that these women face incredible stigma and discrimination.  What we see now, is that these women are actually pulling the community together.  What a wonderful example of community development. Our hearts were full and we weren't even to Nyobok yet!

Nyobok Community
When we arrived in Nyobok, it was interesting as the majority of the individuals that attended Project GROW day we had screened at the Okanagan Community Clinic the week prior! It was nice to see these familiar faces and reconnect with them on this special day. Over five hundred women are now registered with Project GROW and on Saturday we were able to present thirty three goats and one
donkey to the women.  Vida shared that the women determine who is next in line for a goat.  Each woman who receives a goat agrees that the first female baby goat will be donated back to Project GROW.  There were another 10 goats being donated back, and a few of these goats had already had babies. One had twins.  The total number of goats being donated back was an additional 13.
When we asked who determines who receives the goats, Vida shared that the women decide and priority is given to those who are most in need, and after this, it is determined by when they registered.  The donkey is shared by several families, again identified by the women,

When we first arrived in Nyobok, we were greeted by the women of the community through
traditional song and dance. We were also greeted by the Chief, who was surprisingly young (only 31 years of age as he inherited the role in his 20s upon his father’s passing). Jeanette had a chance to meet the Chief prior to the celebration and shared with us that he has been extremely supportive of Project GROW right from it's initial steps. This young man, who does not speak English and has no education deeply understands the role of women in community and Vida feels he has been instrumental in the success of the program.  One of his Elders shared some words from the Chief and emphasized the need for education, and the need to support women in education.  Vida has a deep respect for his leadership and we could clearly see why.
Jeanette with the Chief
We were the guests of honor at the celebration and we were very touched by all of the warm welcomes that we received. They ensured to translate the presentation for us so that we felt included, and were very thorough in acknowledging the various roles that individuals held that made the presentation possible.

We were humbled by their gratitude for our work within their clinic and organization, many women bowed before us as they walked by and thanked us for our work. It was nice to witness the sense of community throughout the entire presentation. The children were also involved through the presentation of the livestock. The actual presentation of the goats was very touching as we each had an opportunity to present the women with their goats. Kyla’s friend contacted her wanting to purchase a goat and donate it to a woman in need. Vida once again displayed her tenacity by finding Kyla’s friend a goat last minute. It was touching for Kyla on the day of the presentation to witness and present her friend’s goat, Mona, to a deserving woman.
The Presentation of Mona

There is no doubt in our minds that every dollar that is donated to this amazing project is put to very good use and is changing lives.  WOW!!  What a day!!

We will never forget it, and are very thankful to have taken part in.

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