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Plymouth Ghana exchange link project

4/1/2010

COMMUNITY and youth workers from Plymouth have returned from an exchange visit to Ghana full of ideas and inspiration.

Twelve people took part in the first leg of the Community Xchange project to share their knowledge and experience with workers in Bolgatanga in Ghana.

 

After three weeks away the Plymouth workers are now looking forward to hosting their Ghanaian counterparts in the city in April.

Salam Arabi-Katbi, a youth worker with Plymouth City Council, said: "It was one of the best things I've done in my life. Seeing the same things done in a very different way was amazing."

Salam spent time at a school as part of her work shadowing in Ghana, and on her first morning she said she found the experience upsetting because of the poverty endured by the children. But by the end of the day she had changed her mind.

"Actually they are a lot happier than a lot of our kids," Salam said. "We all lack something but we all manage to compensate by having something else.

"They have love and care from each other and from their families."

Salam said her host family were extremely welcoming, looked after her when she was ill and made her feel at home.

Maria Puga, who works as a community drama practitioner in Plymouth, was also impressed by the easy interdependence and community cohesion of the Ghanaians.

She said: "It was a great experience. The social relationship they have out there is all about giving.

"It's OK to be late for work because you had to take a relative to hospital, everyone relies on everyone else.

"That's what I took away from there - to be more open and look after my friends."

Maria was one of four of the Plymouth exchange team who went on local radio in Bolgatanga as a panel discussing cultural issues.

She said her pronouncements on gender equality had the mother in her host family in stitches at the thought of a man staying home to look after the kids.

Agnes Cioffi, a development worker for the Plymouth Federation of Tenants' and Residents' Associations, was also impressed with the strong sense of community in Ghana - unhindered by red tape such as health and safety and risk assessments.

Agnes took a book of images of Plymouth made by residents of Flora Court in Stonehouse, which she presented to children at a project she was working with in Bolgatanga.

She said: "I presented it to the organisation and also some of the young people who were there at the time.

"It was like nothing they had seen before, and I went through the pictures and the stories behind them for them.

"Now Conrad, my counterpart there, is really excited about coming to Plymouth."

Fifteen Ghanaian youth professionals are due to arrive in Plymouth for a three weeks stay in April.

They will be accompanied by the honourable Yakubu Alhassan, the Bolgatanga municipal coordinating director, and will be officially welcomed to the city by the Lord Mayor on Monday, April 12 at the Council House.

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