Street Children Project Follow- Up to the North 

The Corona Virus pandemic has greatly affected the world and the way things are done. In effect, organizations have adjusted their work plans to incorporate the" new normal". Amidst the pandemic, Civil Society Organizations whose ultimate aim is the welfare of the vulnerable in the society, have to weather the storms and serve their target groups.

Introduction
The Corona Virus pandemic has greatly affected the world and the way things are done. In effect, organizations have adjusted their work plans to incorporate the" new normal". Amidst the pandemic, Civil Society Organizations whose ultimate aim is the welfare of the vulnerable in the society, have to weather the storms and serve their target groups.

In this vein, amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, Street Children Project sent out a three-member team; led by the Director herself, Sr. Olivia Umoh, with Mr. Boampong Ezekiel (Accountant-SCP) and Mr. Emmanuel Ampah (Logistics Manager-SCP) to embark on a follow up visit in Northern Region of Ghana where the organization has over 300 beneficiaries supported to access formal education and skill training. The follow up took place from the 20th to 24th July, 2020. The team was well prepared with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to strictly adhered to COVID 19 prevention protocols.

Out of the over 300 beneficiaries spread around the Northern Region, the team visited just 30 beneficiaries supported to quit the street and re-integrate with their families during the outbreak of Covid-19. The follow up was necessary to sensitize families on the suffering and risks of the children on the street and to discourage families who might want to force their children back on the street or into early marriage. Beneficiaries spread across 6 towns in the 3 Northern region. The beneficiaries visited comprises of 29 girls and 1 boy. Beneficiaries learning dressmaking were 18 girls and 1 boy, while 5 girls were into textiles and weaving; one (1) was learning hairdressing whilst 2 were into hair dressing and makeup, beads making, manicure and pedicure and decorations. Two of the girls visited wish to enroll in formal education when the school re-opens.

During the visit, sewing machines, Uniforms, chairs and other vocational/learning materials were given to the beneficiaries. Six (6) new clients were also enrolled and their training fees fully paid.

The team observed that the COVID 19 prevention protocols were not adhered to in the region and therefore took time to educate beneficiaries, their trainers and other people on the Pandemic and the need to protect themselves. Each beneficiary was given 4 to 5 nose masks and 100 ml bottle of hand sanitizer to protect themselves against the COVID 19 pandemic.

Advocacy
During The follow up, we also attended a stakeholder's dialogue meeting to facilitate the resettlement and reintegration of vulnerable population affected by COVID-19. A meeting which was initiated by Caritas Ghana and funded by Star Ghana. The meeting involved four Metropolitan Municipal District Assembly Directors of the Tamale Metropolis, a number of Civil Society Organizations, Beneficiaries of SCP and African Development Organization Against Migration (AFDOM), and the Media.

Street Children Project in the bid to maximize the use of their resources in their usual way, decided to tie-up a follow up to young girls whom they rescued from the street and supported to return home after the lifting of the lock down imposed by the Government of Ghana to curb the spread of the Corona Virus. Thus, we "killed 2 birds with one stone" as it were.

Impressions
Beneficiaries were gainfully engaged in their training. They were all healthy, happy and active in their apprenticeship. Reports from their Trainers disclosed cooperation, punctuality, respect and determination from beneficiaries. A few clients had challenges with their families for which the team mediated.

Success Stories
Rakia, a past beneficiary supported to learn and to set up her sewing shop after training, in just two years has built up a successful business with over 20 trainees and numerous customers. She runs a busy and well organized sewing outfit. Besides becoming successful, she has also taken the role of a change agent in the community by encouraging young girls from poor families to enroll in her shop with very little fee. She takes responsibility to connect her apprentices from very poor backgrounds to benefit from SCP sponsorship. Eight (8) of her trainees are supported by SCP and she has a list of more vulnerable girls in need of support whom she has recommended to SCP.

We also met two (2) other beneficiaries supported through training have graduated and are in the process of acquiring their own shops to start their dressmaking business.

Challenges
Early/forced marriages continue to be a major obstacle as some beneficiaries continue to suffer intense pressure from their families. Again, some families are quite uncooperative and neglect their responsibilities such as feeding, clothing and providing very basic necessities to aid the beneficiaries in their training. It is disheartening to note that even in the age, families in the Northern Region still view the girl child as a commodity for economic gains for the family. Where the girl insists on her right or choice she is literary forced against her will to marry some old man as a 3rd or 4th wife.

Conclusion
Generally, the follow up was successful, although the team restricted themselves to Tamale, Walewale and its environs because of the COVID-9 pandemic.

Comments from beneficiaries, trainers and families of beneficiaries indicated that they were appreciative of the support from SCP and their donors.