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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Progress in the Fulani camp
Today saw an encouraging development in our efforts to renew the activities within the Fulani camp! Audrey, Ben and I arrived at the camp at 9:30am today in order to facilitate the planned focus group with the men, only to find the education building filled with…children. After a momentary panicked “Did they misunderstand and think we were starting up meetings again today,” their bright smiles and cheerful “Hello Madam” let us know they were apparently just glad to see us! Then I felt like a jerk. Alai arrived and explained that the men were just down the road and would be here soon. True to his word, within about 10 minutes, all 11 of the attending fellows had arrived and the meeting began.
In true Ghanaian fashion, what was intended to be an hour and a half meeting was finally called to close around noon with the suggestion that we all part for now, think about the information from the day, and schedule another meeting for mid-March to follow up. Although it was certainly more time than I anticipated, I was actually very encouraged by our meeting and the discussions that took place. I was also excited to see that almost half of those who attended were younger fellows in their early-mid twenties, who are typically not interested in these types of community activities Not only did they attend, but they also played an involved role in the discussions. Alhaji Jibril, a well-respected leader within the community, was also in attendance and lent support to our meeting.
The major points we took away from today’s meeting were the reaffirmation of their support in our activities, interest in attending some of our activities, and addressing the challenges associated with helping the school-aged children attend the local public school. We learned that not only do the men support the health and education activities that have been done with the women and children, but that they would also like to be involved. Until this point, they have been fairly adamant about their lack of time for such things. But during the conversation, they posed the thought that they might benefit from some of the health education and financial management skills, and by the end had suggested that if we could take an hour or so one morning a week, they would like to attend.
The majority of the time this morning was spent addressing the challenges they face with their children’s attendance at school. The current situation is that there are about 8-12 children who would like to go to school, but the taxi driver charges 120GH¢ per month to bring them to and from school. Some attendees expressed concern about being able to afford this expense (which is a valid concern) and thus we encouraged them to explore alternate possibilities. Once we established that MoM’s role in the community was not to build them a full-time school nor pay the taxi fees, as some suggested, most seemed open to suggesting options of their own. By the end of the meeting, there seemed to be some progress made and although no commitments have been made yet, it was a good environment to discuss options.
We have been asked to return in mid-March in order to follow up with them, which we will gladly do. After all that we have learned today and the insight from those who attended, I am excited to see what solutions they will find. It will be interesting to attend the women’s group next week to gather their perspectives on the matter and see how they are different or similar.
Following the men’s meeting, Ben enjoyed participating in the kids’ game of Keep-Away, while Audrey and I caught up with Amina to discuss next week’s meeting.