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I got empowered. Then I just didn't stop

For Paul Asiawon, 24, ICS taught him to see disability in a different way. After spending his International Service ICS placement supporting other people with disabilities to fully engage with the community, he’s cleaned up misconceptions about disabilities – through his own soap making social enterprise.

Paul is helping his community's high rates of youth unemployment - through soap making
© Shutterstock
Paul is helping his community's high rates of youth unemployment - through soap making
Volunteer Paul Asiawon tackled youth unemployment in the disabled community by setting up soap making workshops
Volunteer Paul Asiawon tackled youth unemployment in the disabled community by setting up soap making workshops

I didn’t know how to put my ideas into action

“Before ICS, I’d had a lot of ideas on how to contribute to the development of my community, but I didn’t know how to voice them or how to put them into action,” said Paul.

As a young person with a disability, Paul wanted to do something for his Action at Home that would help make life easier for people like him.

He ran two awareness raising events, where the community were brought together to learn more about the rights of people with disabilities and about teenage pregnancy in the local area.

“They were very successful and I hope inspired others in my community. I was really pleased when two local leaders approached me afterwards to tell me that I had done a good job.

“Every activity makes me more confident. I felt accomplished. It empowered me. And that’s why I haven’t stopped.”

Ending the vicious cycle of unemployment

And after finishing ICS, Paul didn’t stop thinking about the needs of his community.

“I realised how high the unemployment rates were for the youth and disabled people in the local area. Whilst there is training available for the elders, there is nothing for the youth or people with disabilities.”

His desire to create change led him to apply for a grant, which offers funding to all in-country alumni who want to organise active citizenship activities in their home countries.

“I wanted the youth and disabled people to gain quality skills that could put an end to the vicious cycle of unemployment.”

Over the course of his three day workshop, 25 participants learnt how to make three different kinds of soap from scratch.

Many participants, like Mary Afoblikame, left thinking about diverse ways to use their new skills: “I can use this knowledge to help others in the community learn how to make soap," she said. "I also hope we can sell the soap and use the money to buy materials to continue making it.”

I see the bigger picture now

You could volunteer on a disability project like Paul or volunteer Richard Gyampi
© ICS / International Service / Andrew Aitchison
You could volunteer on a disability project like Paul or volunteer Richard Gyampi

As a result of ICS, Paul’s taken on the role of secretary at his local Disabled People’s Organisation as well as now applying to study development at university. He now sees the bigger picture.

“I’m always thinking of the next ideas, always looking for new routes to take or projects to start.

“Young people are very important when it comes to addressing unemployment in Ghana. By involving young people in training like this, we give them a chance to develop further and not fall victim to Ghana’s youth unemployment problem.”

This article originally appeared on the International Service blog.

The grant Paul applied for to fund his soap making workshop possible is available to all in-country ICS alumni. Find out more about how to apply here.

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