Washington — Peace Corps volunteer Janette Ambauen is confronting the stigma of children living with disabilities in and around her Ghanaian community.
Ambauen, from Seattle in Washington state, is working through the Special Needs Awareness Project (SNAP) to increase awareness of special needs and to educate all community members about how to support children who have special needs.
"I live in an isolated rural community where most people live below the poverty line," said Ambauen, age 59, according to a November 26 Peace Corps news release. "I started to work with the special needs community and have been struck by how vulnerable this group is. SNAP aims to benefit these children and their families through raising awareness, as well as providing health care, education and consistent support. We hold monthly meetings to address and discuss such issues."
Participants travel from locations across the district to attend SNAP meetings. "Some meetings have been attended by more than 80 community members. Many walk long distances transporting their children with wheelchairs, carts and piggyback rides," said Ambauen, who has been living and working in Ghana since July 2011.
Each monthly meeting costs nearly $100 U.S. to conduct. Funds raised by Ambauen and the community will go toward food, transportation, venue rental and translation services necessary to conduct the meetings. A portion of the funds for the project will be raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which solicits donations to help support Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide.
"Through the meetings, we hope to reduce stigma and increase access to basic human rights," said Ambauen.
In order to receive funding through the Partnership Program, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline what will make the project a success. This helps ensure community ownership and a greater chance of long-term sustainability.
PEACE CORPS IN GHANA FIRST
Ghana was the first country in the world to receive Peace Corps volunteers. More than 4,275 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Ghana since the program was established in 1961, and 149 volunteers now serve in the country.
Volunteers work in the areas of education, environment, agriculture and health. They are trained and work in these languages: Buli, Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Fanté, Ga, Ghanaian Sign Language, Gonja, Guruni, Hausa, Kasem, Kusaal, Likipakpaalu, Likpakpaln, Mampruli, Nzema, Sisaali, Taleni, Twi and Waale.
To learn more about the Peace Corps and its projects, see the Peace Corps website.