A professional soccer player from Saskatoon, Sask. is helping kids in Ghana learn the importance of playing around.
Canadian bronze medalist in women's soccer, Kaylyn Kyle, is in the west African country with Olympic figure skater Joannie Rochette, Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau and the organization Right to Play.
The organization's play-based programs teach children life skills through sports and playful learning activities. Local teachers are trained on how to integrate these aspects into their curriculum, which has improved participation and interaction of all students, including girls.
"It's boys and girls working together and supporting one another and pushing each other to be a better person, to not be scared of the world and to want to be successful," said Kyle, on CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.
After taking a trip to Africa with Right to Play in 2011, Kyle said when she was asked to go to Ghana with the Government of Canada, she didn't hesitate.
"It was a no-brainer for me. And it's just been incredible here," she said.
According to the Canadian government, 80 per cent of farmers in Ghana live under the poverty line and women and girls face significant social and economic barriers.
The federal government has announced $145 million in funding to help modernize Ghana's agriculture and fund training and loans for entrepreneurs running small businesses. They've also helped the country improve health services and education.
During the four-day trip, Kyle said they went to a community where women are running the farme, sharing strategies and providing for their families. The women showed the visitors how they hand make shea butter, which is later sold.
It's one example of the ways the area is becoming increasingly self-sufficient through sustainable pursuits.
Right to Play, and programs like it, have also led to more kids finishing out the school year rather than quitting to help on the farm during harvest.
Kyle said she met many young people who have aspirations to be doctors, teachers and athletes with support from both their parents. This is something she said wasn't a common practise previously.
Kyle said the trip has reminded her how much people in North America tend to take what they have for granted.
"Here it's all about family, it's all about friends, it's all about loving what you have," she said. "So for me, I get so much joy coming on these trips and seeing these kids."
"It really makes you appreciate the small things in life that, being in North America, we forget so easily."