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Looking back on International Citizen Service in Ghana - a 0.7% story

This Human Rights Day Rene, Country Director for International Service Ghana, shares his thoughts on the impact the 0.7% aid target has had in Ghana through the ICS programme.

The UK Government is planning to take away the 0.7% of Gross National Income target for spending on overseas development assistance. One could ask the question: what would have been the impact of such a decision on the International Citizens Service (ICS) scheme in northern Ghana?

From 2013 to 2018, alongside with other charities, International Service ran ICS in Ghana, a development programme that brought together young people from the United Kingdom and Ghana to volunteer in some of the poorest communities in the country. ICS was led by VSO and funded by the UK Government with money from the 0.7% pot.

The programme had many impacts during and after its implementation, these impacts can be grouped into three areas: the impact on the volunteers, on the communities and on the local implementation partners.

The youth development aspect for the volunteers themselves, meeting and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, gave volunteers the chance to learn new things, build relationships, get new inspiration, and empowered them.

“ICS placement has given the opportunity to engage in activities that change lives of others including ours” said a volunteer after placement. Mr Peter, Programme Manager with Youth Alive added that “Some volunteers come onto the project at first felling shy and isolating themselves from the rest but after sharing my experiences with them they open up and begin interacting with others. They have gained more confidence in themselves and that is something that has changed their life’s and will continue to serve them well”.

It allowed creation of international networks of future international development staff, volunteers and supporters who can work together with a shared understanding of global development challenges.

The programme helped to achieve the local partners objectives. By reaching more people and communities the volunteers’ placements has contributed to partners’ activities in the Northern Region. These were achieved through community engagement activities, sensitisation programmes, capacity building trainings, etc. The teamwork helped the project partners to reach women’s groups with trainings and topics which they were previously unable to deliver due to lack of resources and staff. A Pagsung staff member said: “ICS volunteers work with Pagsung has helped modernise it and bring new skills to the partner organisation”

A lot of information and knowledge was gained by the communities from participating in sensitisations and training activities sessions held by volunteers in collaboration with partners and community leaders on diverse topics selected from the communities priorities. Topics covered included, sexual health and reproductive right, teenage pregnancy and child marriage, persons with disability rights and public building accessibility, drug, and alcohol abuse etc.

Over time the communities became more and more welcoming towards the volunteers. Girls and parents developed their understandings of human rights and how they can make good choices. Community members took part in livelihood skills training, which partners and communities appreciated the impact and wanted to continue in the future. Some schoolgirls suggested to their community leaders the need to have a library in the community which can help act as a safe place where the youth, especially girls can stay to learn without distractions.

Keeping the 0.7% target would allow Ghanaian Civil Society Organisations, and British organisations, to do more impactful work in other deprived communities in northern Ghana and many other developing countries.

Dah Sie Rene

Country Director, International Service Ghana

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