At Play & Learn, we believe in well-rounded after-school and weekend programming that ensures our participants are developing various skillsets, as well as having fun. The four pillars of PAL programming are: Academic Support, Athletic Training, Mentorship, and Community Outreach. We believe that these complementary programmatic areas allow youth to develop both the hard and soft skills needed to become leaders in their local and global communities.
Children work with international tutors 2 days per week for 1.5 to 2 hours per session. The small group size (no more than 4 children per tutor) ensures that tutors cater to individual ability levels and that each child is able to receive one-on-one attention. Tutors are encouraged to use innovative and fun teaching resources and techniques, in order to keep students engaged and curious. Tutoring sessions focus on English language development (specifically reading and comprehension), development of creative and critical thought (using creative writing, poetry, and debates), as well as general homework help (maths, sciences, etc.).
In Ghana, as in many other parts of the globe, football serves as a medium to overcome any number of social, cultural, and class barriers. As such, football is at the heart of Play & Learn. Many of our youth are extremely talented footballers and PAL coaches work tirelessly to ensure they are challenged in their athletic abilities. However, football also presents an excellent opportunity to work with children on developing a number of important life skills, such as teamwork, time management, discipline, respect, communication, and leadership. Coaches work equally as hard to ensure these skills are being transferred to our players in all sports training sessions. PAL participants train twice per week, with an additional training session on Sunday when in preparation for a match.
PAL's Nkonsonkonson Mentor Programme works in two stages. First, a group of interested adolescents work with international volunteers for one semester (4 months). During this time, mentees are encouraged and supported to: analyze the impact of the PAL program on their lives; improve their comfortability with public speaking; recognize their strengths and weaknesses; identify short-, medium- and long-term goals; and identify specific areas of interest (whether that be an academic field, trade, art space, etc.). At the end of the semester, mentors create a profile for each child and PAL subsequently identifies a local professional mentor to take on the second stage of the Nkonsonkonson Mentor Program. In this second stage, mentees are paired (for a minimum of 6 months) with an individual who has the knowledge and experience to support and guide them towards achieving their goals in their identified area of interest.
PAL works with and supports other local organizations on a variety of community outreach activities. To date, these have included a community walk to encourage local community service ('Walk for Love' event) and meal distribution to homeless individuals in some of the most underserved areas of Accra ('Street Love' project). Participating in community service work allows PAL youth to practice respect and tolerance for all people, as well as develop an understanding of the importance of contributing to your local community.
The Play & Learn Foundation has big plans for the future and there's no signs of slowing down!
Another major initiative for Play & Learn is the construction of a Community Center with football facilities. The community center would serve as a more permanent and well-resourced home for PAL programming. Included in the community center will be a library, an IT room, and a large multi-purpose classroom space. The community center will also have football facilities, specifically an artificial turf pitch with lighting and storage space for equipment.
Expanding to Other Communities
In the short- and medium-term, PAL will be expanding its programming to other underserved communities in Ghana. We are currently partnering with the Volta Revival Foundation and the Maranatha Beach Camp School to work with children in the Ada Foah community of the Volta region. In the long-term, PAL will develop partnerships and programmes across Ghana, and throughout the West African region and Africa, as a whole.
PAL also plans to diversify our programming for current participants. One way in which we will do this is by offering day-programming on Saturdays, based off of our Mobile Library. We have recognized that our kids need a safe, fun, and educational space to spend their free time on the weekends. Currently, children are spending time at game centres or wandering their unsafe neighbourhoods. This programme will offer youth a fun, friendly, and supervised environment in which to be social, read a book, or work on arts and crafts.
Learning on the Go
Another programme that will serve to diversify our current line up is our highly anticipated Learning on the Go programme. Learning on the Go will serve to engage PAL youth beyond the football field and classroom and introduce them to historic and cultural experiences they would not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in. Even in the Greater Accra Region alone, there are a plethora of historic sites and cultural attractions which would serve to broaden our students' knowledge and understanding of their own history and culture.
In order to ensure the sustainability of this programme, PAL is working towards the purchase of a large van to facilitate transportation and minimize recurring costs. This van will also serve as an income generating tool, as it will be available for rental to other groups and organizations when not being used for PAL programming.
PAL is developing a camp that will run during the summer of 2018. Ensuring that some degree of programming continues into the summer months will prevent backsliding of the progress our PAL youth have made throughout the school year. Furthermore, not only will this provide organized and safe fun for many of PAL's current participants, but it will also serve to engage more children from nearby communities.
Though we hope to provide scholarships for PAL participants to attend this camp, there will also be another stream of this programming, targeted to higher-income households and children attending international schools, that will be used as another income generating activity.
Project Bus for our "Learning on the Go" project
The purchase of a 14-seater Toyota Hiace bus will allow PAL to engage students beyond the football field and classroom. A bus would permit students to gain access to a variety of experiences and opportunities previously out of reach – cultural and historical sites, professional learning centres, events, and many more.
Mobile Library Project
PAL will use the mobile library to further instil a desire for lifelong learning and a promotion of literacy and reading with participating children, as well as the wider community. This service would provide affordable and convenient access to learning resources.
The Play & Learn Foundation works to empower Ghanaian youth through a combination of academics, athletics, mentorship, and community contribution to develop the skills needed to become leaders in their local and global communities.