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Balila, a 12 year old girl living in northern Ghana, was born with a disability that affects her growth and her ability to walk. When she was younger, she often missed going to primary school to avoid being mocked by the other children. All of that changed when Balila joined her school’s gender club, where she felt included and was encouraged to speak and take part in activities, building her confidence. Now that Balila has made it to high school, she’s encouraging other girls to take part. VSO volunteer Damien Gregory helped create the club, aimed at tackling the social issues affecting girls' education.
Around 600,000 people in Cameroon are living with HIV and AIDS, with women being particularly vulnerable. High mother to baby transmission rates mean that thousands of children in Cameroon are also living with the disease, although almost half of these children fail to turn up for treatment. VSO volunteer Paediatrician Tamara Bugembe is helping nurses improve care for mothers, children and babies in Bamenda Regional Hospital, northwest Cameroon, and increase awareness in the local area.
Nurbanu was married for 18 years before her husband threw acid in her face, burning her skin and blinding her. She is one of thousands of women and girls in Bangladesh who have been victim to acid attacks. VSO volunteer Michael McManus worked with human rights NGO, Agrogoti Sanstha, to develop long-term support plans for acid victims and implement measured systems to reduce and prevent acid violence across Bangladesh.
Life is hard for cocoa farmers in Ghana. They grow their own food but paying for farm equipment, medicine, clothes, schools fees and transport drains any profit. In eastern Ghana, VSO volunteers are supporting local farming groups and delivery of the Cocoa Life programme, a partnership between Mondelēz International, NGOs and local institutions. The programme aims to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of more than 200,000 cocoa farmers and about one million people in cocoa farming communities.
Tanzania is reviewing its constitution throughout 2013, giving people across the country the opportunity to input into the rewriting of the core governing principles of the nation. VSO volunteer Louise Jenkins is working through UN Women with leading Tanzanian feminist Mary Rusimbi to ensure women from all socio-economic backgrounds have the chance to be heard by decision-makers at the highest level.
Juliana is a female farmer and entrepreneur in eastern Ghana. She’s been able to dramatically increase her sales and productivity thanks to the Cocoa Life programme. Cocoa Life is a unique partnership between Mondelēz International, NGOs and local institutions that aims to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of more than 200,000 cocoa farmers and about one million people in cocoa farming communities.
VSO has supported the development of the mental health sector over the last 15 years, helping to create more clinics and rehabilitation centres as well as establishing training programmes to raise standards of mental healthcare. An estimated 2.5 million Sri Lankans have been reached by the efforts of VSO volunteers during this time. Chandani’s experience illustrates how VSO’s intervention has helped transform one woman’s potentially bleak future into a much brighter one.
28 year-old Betty Nyaga was abducted during the civil conflict that ravaged northern Uganda for over 20 years. Taken by rebels at the age of 15, she remained in captivity for six years, and became a mother to two children. VSO volunteers are working through the local government in northern Uganda to rebuild the lives of young people like Betty, and hundreds of other war-affected youth by nurturing self-sufficiency through enterprise and local governance.
Sixty-seven year old special educational needs (SEN) teacher Meg Mansfield is currently volunteering with VSO on the Thai-Myanmar border. Here, children with disabilities are extremely vulnerable: they can’t access education and live isolated lives with little social contact. Through Meg's work at The Star Flower Centre, she is building brighter futures for the Thai-Myanmar border’s forgotten children.