This was an intensive but extremely rewarding meeting! Following the meeting with the elders at the beginning of the week when we sought permission to set up the play scheme in the village, we asked for a minimum of 24 volunteers to make the scheme working. When we arrived we were greeted by over 30 women and the community hall quickly became quickly packed with excited young and very old women keen to hear more about us.
The objectives were clear. We were trying to get the women to see the importance of education, play and volunteering and to disperse any local taboos they were accustomed around volunteering their time. They are expected to teach their children through play for 1 hour per week and volunteer for their community for a period of two years for free. It was important to establish how many women attended the first community meeting and whether they heard about us from others in the community. This was an important indicator to assess whether they were forced to attend the scheme.
The women were divided into groups and asked to participate in discussions. With the help of Alhassan’s translations, I was able to ask simple but effective questions of these women. What surprised me was how difficult they found to understand why playing games with children was beneficial to children’s growth and development and all in the community.
The discussion was lively and each woman was keen to be heard. David, the manager skillfully geared unravelled the key concepts at the heart of Lively Minds and introduced them to women volunteers.
As an international volunteer and a woman, I felt I had an important role to play for Lively Minds in educating these women on the importance of play and education in their community especially for young girls and women, who seemed to be at a clear disadvantage.
One answer, in particular, stuck with me because of the way one lady responded. “The programme must be good because you come from Europe to be here with us” she said. I explained that we were here together because we collectively believed in the wellbeing and development of children, through education and play. They understood me and I felt satisifed to play such an important and positive role.
We left on an upbeat note; with hope that these women will return truly believing in the roles they could play as Lively Minds volunteers in their communities.