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Home » News » Chief Executive of BasicNeeds UK meets self-help groups in Gushegu, Ghana

Chief Executive of BasicNeeds UK meets self-help groups in Gushegu, Ghana

Posted on January 4, 2018 by

Meeting self-help group members in Gushegu, Ghana

During his visit to the BasicNeeds Ghana programme in December 2017, Adrian Sell, Chief Executive of BasicNeeds UK, visited Gushegu and met with members of seven self-helps groups. Adrian shares his experience:

Despite it being a Saturday and not normally a working day in Ghana several staff took time to take me on a visit to the BasicNeeds programme in Gushegu. Gushegu is north from Tamale and about two hours drive in the dry season (which we were in the midst of). The first part of the route is tarmacked but despite being a major route the road quickly turns to dust, albeit a well made up dirt road. Apparently in the rainy season the trip can take up to twice as long due to the impact of the water on the road. As we went further away from Tamale the road got worse and the population more sparse. The land was dry and dusty but home to many Shea Nut trees – new to me but the source of a butter that is set to be a significant export for Ghana. There were the expected collection of chickens, goats, cows and guinea fowl (a local delicacy) as well as wilder animals including Egrets, Kites and an array of other birds.

We arrived in Gushegu, a town that was home to many of the district’s services, including the hospital. We were there to meet up with seven self-help groups who had all converged for a periodic get together. The groups were mostly represented by their Chairs and other officials but the number of people in the hall suggested others had come along as well. Formal introductions were made and representatives of the different groups talked about what they did and how long they had been together. The main Gushegu group was one of the longest-standing BasicNeeds self-help groups in Ghana (and therefore in Africa as well). Their Chair person, Maryama was our host and greeted us warmly when we arrived.

People shared their experiences of mental health disorders, most prevalent was epilepsy but people also spoke of depression and psychosis. Many clearly also had physical disabilities alongside the challenges to their mental health. As it was a gathering of seven groups, people had travelled from up to thirty miles away to be there. Maryama talked of how useful a vehicle would be to help visit people and provide support when it was needed.

The groups had been hugely important for many people in offering support but also connecting people to treatment where it was available. Many people spoke of skills and income they had developed as a result of the groups and many also highlighted  the importance of having access to the right medication – often this being the difference between being disabled and being able to contribute to the community.

One of the members, Mohammed, spoke movingly of having been lifted from depression and becoming able to take part in an apprenticeship programme. He had started training to become a tailor and took great pride in pointing to his ability to make the clothes he was wearing. The confidence this had given him, along with the support of the group and his trainer, had made him able to attend school again and resume his studies.

The group closed with an activity that I think should be compulsory for all groups, namely with a song and dance. I confess I would feel as uncomfortable as most middle-aged white men in such a situation but the uplift and feeling of connection that it engenders is powerful to witness first hand.

We then left the groups, after sharing some parting good wishes, and visited Sana, one of the group leaders. She took us into her house and showed us the rice from which she was going to remove the husks. She paid 80 Cedis (about £13) for the rice and would then sell it on for around 120 Cedis (about £20). Her daughter could help by keeping birds from the rice while it dried in the sun. Removing the husk by hand would be a laborious and slow task but it allowed her to generate some income while also offering her daughter a way of contributing and being involved.

We also visited Maryama’s house where she had huge stocks of soap and skin cream that had been made by group members. This micro enterprise generated some income for the group as well as offering a communal activity. After bidding Maryam farewell we set off for the dusty hot drive back to Tamale.

- Adrian Sell, Chief Executive

Self-help groups equip people with skills, create livelihood opportunities, and enable them to make choices. Most importantly, it aids the recovery process for people with mental health problems and develops their confidence.

Find out more about how BasicNeeds uses self-help groups to promote good mental health.

Here are some stories of groups across BasicNeeds programmes.

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