The story behind Play and Learn!!
How is all started!!!
The idea of Play and Learn Foundation was identified, conceptualized and developed in August 2013; when it’s current Executive Director, Nana Kwasi Ohene, was pursuing his MBA in Marketing Programme at the University of Ghana Business School. During this time Mr. Ohene coached and organised football league competitions for the residents of the University of Ghana’s International Students Hostel (at the University’s Ajax Park. At training sessions, the children from the surrounding areas, Okpongolo, Shiashie, Bawlashie and Madina, would gather around and watch training drills and games being played in awe and desire to play. Out of the strong desire to learn about the children, an interaction was initiated between Mr. Ohene and the children.
Information was gathered and reflected that these children, who lived in the surrounding areas, were from deprived homes, lacked basic skills in areas such as communication, comprehension and critical analysis. After school, rather than developing themselves through study and play, some of the children had to sell provisions and food on the streets of Okpongolo and in the Madina market to help with income generation in the family but what they had in common was the love and passion to play football.
For these children, coming to Ajax Park (same park where the international students practiced) was always the highlight of their day since they love to play football and playing helps the children leave behind the worries and stress brought on by the difficult lives they live. Out of compassion, Mr. Ohene began to allow the children to train with the Girls’ International Student football team. This simple act of inclusion has brought the children so much joy and happiness.
Since then, we have expanded the activities to include other programs and lessons focused on subjects other than football, such as learning of the English language, reading and comprehension, creative writing, games that strengthen critical thinking and analysis, mathematics and helping to nurture soft skills like teamwork, patience and tolerance for one another, respect for other people’s views, discipline, time consciousness and problem solving mind sets. We have currently added a girl’s empowerment project to get more girls into the program as well as a well structured mentoring program. As time passed it became obvious that more could be done in a more formal, structured and institutionalised manner to help these children. These lessons entail using what they love, which is football, to empower them so they can help develop themselves and their communities out of poverty in whatever small medium.
With the help of Coach Adoney Stephen, who is a known personality amongst the children in the Okpongolo area, and the international and Ghanaian volunteers, the number of children steadily grew from an average of ten to twenty active children per weekly sessions. When school is in session, the children meet after school from Monday to Friday and on Sundays. Each session involves the development of reading, creative writing, and critical analysis skills through organised lessons in a fun environment, football training session and mentoring.
Currently, PAL works with an average of fifty children, with twenty of them being girls. The age groupings comprise those from eight to twelve, thirteen to sixteen and seventeen to twenty. We consistently attract an average of fifteen volunteers each semester, both local and international students from the University of Ghana, who serve in various roles and capacities as and when needed. These volunteers become Ambassadors of the Foundation after their service and continue to help in diverse ways. We currently have thirty three ambassadors in different countries around the globe. The organisation has also launched its girl empowerment program, dubbed “The Yaa Asantewaa Princesses”, aimed at getting more girls into the program and giving them an equitable platform to strive for excellence.
PAL intends to pursue plans to initiate its community centre project (Library, ICT centre, and hall for mentoring and counselling) with an astro-turf facility for play and fun activities. This would require working with local communities, corporate donors, international organisations and individual stakeholders as well. It is our goal to reach as many children as our current resources will allow and continue to grow in order to reach more children in Ghana, West Africa and Africa.
PAL has also developed a mentorship program to get more career professionals involved in mentoring the children in the organisation. Currently, we are in the final process of gathering all information and preparing our first set of mentees in our mentoring program. The mentoring program entails matching each child based on information gathered about his/her goals and aspirations to a mentor in that field with the required experience. The mentor agrees to guide and direct the child through consistent meeting sessions facilitated by PAL for a minimum period of six months.
The Foundation seeks to develop into a well structured institution that uses education and participation in sports to help bring up leaders in the various local communities in Ghana and beyond. This will entail setting up institutions that have education as its core objective thereby making sure that children’s minds are nurtured to become leaders and problem solvers in their communities.
Play and Learn Foundation is relevant as an organization because it seeks to develop a structure which uses study and play to help children in deprived communities acquire leadership and other life skills that will have a positive effect on their lives and aid community development.
With time, the Play and Learn Foundation will expand to other deprived communities not only in Ghana but within the West African Region and Africa as a whole. It is our vision to develop the Foundation into an institution of education that offers after school activities through play, learning and mentoring thereby producing excellent professionals in various professions.
Play and Learn Foundation is an organization based in Ghana that provides help and guidance to underprivileged children who love the game of football. We provide opportunities in education, career counseling and mentorship to enable participants to develop themselves professionally while pursuing their dreams to become national soccer players.
These kids are longing for a chance to realize their dreams of becoming an athlete or a
professional in a certain area hence,Play and Learn Foundation enables them grow to achieve their full potential, giving them a chance to shine. This will be achieved through giving them access to educational assistance and funding, career counseling and guidance and mentorship.