Serving 3,000 youth across 19 villages in rural Ghana and Togo
Location and Target Population
NED Africa is in the process of establishing a youth center at our organizational base in the Hohoe District, serving 3,000 youth (children and adolescents under the age of 18) across the 19 villages in our target area in the border region of Ghana and Togo.
The youth center will offer a wide range of educational, social, cultural, and health services and activities designed to support the well-being and healthy development of rural youth. With a focus on education, mentorship, and nutrition, the youth center is based on our belief that feeding the bodies and minds of young people in rural areas is a means of building sustainable livelihoods for their futures.
With our youth center, we hope to help youth excel in their studies, discover talents and modes of expression, learn valuable knowledge and skills, improve health and nutrition. It is our hope that together they will provide youth with a wealth of self-reliance, leading to personal and professional success, contributions to their communities, society at large, and the fulfillment of their greatest potential.
The youth center will contain a state-of-the-art library and computer lab, as well as work, artistic, and social spaces. It will also have outdoor spaces dedicated to intramural sports, playgrounds, gardening, greenhouses, and a teaching farm adjacent to the center.
Programs, Services and Activities
- Computer literacy
- On-site and online courses
- Training/apprenticeship in sustainable agriculture
- Adolescent health education
- Health and safety of women and girls
- Arts and crafts
- Literature, poetry, and cultural studies
- Social events
- Other practical training and support
Soup Kitchen: Nourishing Bodies for Healthy Brains
The youth center will host a soup kitchen, providing one square meal everyday to youth, women, people with disabilities, and the elderly. This continues the program NED Africa has maintained for the past four years, which draws people from several villages in the Hohoe District, at times serving more than 1,000 meals per day. As part of its soup kitchen, NED Africa has also provided nutritious treats to commemorate the last day of school for the last four years for the 500-600 school children from the Hohoe District villages.
Since its inception, the soup kitchen has targeted youth, who are undernourished and malnourished, typically eating only one meal per day in the evening with their families. They are left to fend for themselves during the day, and often go to school hungry. There, they stay hungry as the school does not provide them with a meal.
Under- and malnourishment among youth have detrimental and potentially long-term effects on mental and physical health. They can lead to mental retardation, as their brains’ ability to process thought is slowed and cognitive abilities—and thus, their capacity to learn—are diminished. Chronic hunger among children can also lead to the impairment of their sense of sight, taste, and hearing.
As part of its soup kitchen, NED Africa has also provided nutritious meals and treats to commemorate the last day of school for the last six years for 500-600 school children from Hohoe District villages on the Ghana/Togo border.
Books for Students: Ensuring Equal Access to Basic Education
The center will maintain an education fund to cover school-related expenses, including annual fees, uniforms, and required workbooks for all school-age youth from the 19 villages in Ghana and Togo that the youth center serves. The education fund aims to ensure that all children and adolescents in the region have equal access to basic education, regardless of income.
For the past four years, NED Africa has provided free workbooks to the 600 primary, secondary and high school students from the Hohoe District villages. This program has ensured that lack of funds to cover the costs of the workbooks—$25 per student annually—does not prevent young people from these villages from attending school.
These school expenses create barriers to education for youth in these communities. Most families are subsistence farmers and cash poor, often making less than $100 annually. For many, the cost of the workbooks, when compounded by the cost of the fees and uniforms, becomes a prohibitive expense and their children stay home from school. Here, the workbooks are the cornerstone to classroom instruction and any student arriving to school without their workbooks is sent home.
With our education fund, NED Africa is able to purchase the workbooks in bulk, paying a fraction of the cost. In doing so, we lift the financial burden off students’ families and remove barriers to education, ensuring all young people have the opportunity to learn.
Developing 21st Century Minds: Computer Literacy and Online Education
With our state-of-the-art library and computer lab, we will develop a comprehensive computer literacy and online education program. Students will develop basic and advanced computer skills, internet competency, and have access to a wide array of free online courses, certifications, and degrees.
Through these online resources, they can further develop their capacities in an array of fields such as business management, English, foreign languages, math, software engineering, entrepreneurship, tourism and hospitality, sales, finance, marketing, skilled trades, project management, accounting, humanities, and science among others.
Teaching Farm: Improving Food Security Through Sustainable Agricultural Training
The farm serves as a site to train youth and adults for various opportunities in the agricultural sector, utilizing sustainable methods.
On our teaching farm, we will offer classes and workshops in effective farming techniques that promote healthy soils and higher yielding crops. Such techniques we teach include: land preparation, soil types, propagation, seeds—including proper seed selection—nurseries, irrigation, weed control, manure and fertilizer, care for young saplings, and harvesting. We also offer training in agribusiness so that farmers and apprentices can turn their harvests into income-generating opportunities.
Health/Safety for Women & Girls
A prevalence of gender-based violence—forms of physical and sexual violence that target women and girls—characterizes the border region of Ghana and Togo. The unique vulnerabilities faced by women and girls warrant special attention and action. Thus, NED Africa will offer programming dedicated to the protection of human rights, health and safety of rural women and girls. We will target the 5,100 women and girls living in the 19 villages that will be included in the youth center.
In this region, women and girls are coerced into sex and raped every day. Girls as young as 12-years-old are frequently forced into marriage by families eager to obtain a bride dowry. Such violations of their human rights are enabled by the chronic hunger and poverty that they and their families face.
Once girls reach the age of menstruation, they face unique needs, including costly pads, that make them vulnerable to sexual violence. In many rural villages, there are no toilets and people must use the bush, impacting hygiene and cleanliness. The cash poor, subsistence farmer families in this region are food insecure and often cannot even afford soap let alone menstruation products for their teenage daughters.
While their male counterparts are more likely to turn to theft to cope, the girls, desperate for a meal or pads they cannot afford on their own, are lured into romantic and sexual relationships with older men. These men feed them or give them money in exchange for sex, sometimes leading to rape.
As a result of these types of encounters, as well as forced marriage and lack of sex education, rates of teen pregnancy are high, with girls as young as 12-years-old becoming pregnant and 18-year-olds with four children.
The high incidence of rape is attributed in part to the lack police presence. There are no police stations in any of the 19 villages, making it difficult and expensive to file a police report and press charges. In cases where the victim needs a lawyer, she has no way to pay.
A series of interrelated programs at NED Africa targeting 5,100 women and girls across the Ghana/Togo border region will emphasize food security, free hygiene products and legal support. Such programs will provide:
- One free square meal every day
- Free, regular access to menstruation products and sanitary napkins
- Adolescent health education, including female health and hygiene, protection from sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, sexual violence
- Support for teen mothers, including free counseling, education, training, and supplies
- A legal fund, providing free legal counsel to victims of violence
- Free, safe transportation to police station to report crimes of violence
- Free temporary housing if they are neglected or in danger
- Temporary guardianship through college, offering legal protection for girls from forced marriages
By offering these programs, NED Africa aims to protect women and girls from and reduce the incidence of:
- Rape, sexual assault, and other forms of physical and sexual violence
- Coercion into sex trade
- Sexually-transmitted diseases
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Unwanted marriage
- Human and sex trafficking