Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Things I'll Miss

Even within the first few days, I knew there would be may things I would miss about Ghana, but now with over ten weeks under my belt, I already mourn different aspects of my life here. It is strange how quickly you can be accustomed to things no matter how much they vary from your normal life. The first thing I defiantly do not want to leave behind is the mangos. In town, it was hard to go a day without seeing various stores selling them, be them on people’s heads or by your feet those metal bowls they are hard to escape, not that we'd ever want to. Helping to break up the carbo-centric diet the juicy fruits were a nice respite from rice and TZ.

It’s not only mangos people sell in large bowls on their head if you are looking for jewellery, fabric, meat or ice lollies we all know to raise our chins and search. Of course, the first few times I asked someone for something in this way I felt nervous and like I was annoying them with requesting they lower their goods. But the majority of people are very friendly and sellers are only too happy to… well, sell. This convenience of sitting down and watching your shopping drift on by in the flow of walkers is something someone as lazy as I, will definitely miss.

Another thing that has been amazing when I lack the energy to put an effort into my daily activities is taxis. Being placed in Tamale our two options of transport are taxis or walking. Often you walk to get a taxi from a certain road, just like a bus, saving yourself an unbelievable amount of cedis, but when it’s dark or when you really don’t mind giving the extra money you fork out and get a “drop taxi”- door to door service. Of course, it helped that we were given some good driver’s numbers at the start, but also along the way it is almost surprising how quickly you accumulate more contacts.

Maths. Yes, arguably not the most intriguing part of any trip I grew to love dividing all my costs by five. Why five you ask, well that is the conversion rate of pounds to the local Ghana cedis, and although I managed to live in the allowance for my food and transport requirements when buying gifts it was really nice to feel like I got an amazing deal on gifts. 20p each for bracelets? Heck, they can each have four! Of course, being a visible minority often we were cheated out of money, but these things you have to weigh up for yourself when using your own spending money: How much effort is the haggling worth? Is the £1 to me as bad a loss as their 5 cedis in profit? What am I willing to pay? Only you can know your situation and what the items are worth to you. Best of luck with that judgment, it’s something I have struggled with the whole time.

Talking about being a “siliminga” (white person/non-Ghanaian) I will miss that phrase. From my personal host home I had to walk through two schools and every day without fail I had swarms of children call out to me, greeting me with this title and asking me how I was, wishing me well and smiling. It was heart-warming. And this genuine elation at my presence even extended to the adults, especially in the local villages but even in town. Never once without fail did I not wave to someone who called out to me, or answer a question a pupil had be it my name, how I was or what I was doing in their country. This was very rewarding, although it made me late to work a few times I saw so much joy from children and to me being able to make that sort of difference on such a grand scale and so regularly is something I will miss.

As a white person from England, I have never been a visible minority before. I think this was definitely an important experience to go through. It’s different from visiting somewhere on holiday for a few days where you can navigate around the tourist sites; we live in this country. Not only from my own experience nor my fellow peers but what Ghanaians were willing to say to me I learnt a lot about preconceptions about my country and who I was. Of course, no matter where I go I have white privilege and I would never say my experiences of being charged extra for bananas comes close to the racism other people face.

However, despite previously being aware of microaggressions I had never experienced them, never mind on a daily basis, it was eye opening to see how small but irritating they can be. Whether it be people say I couldn’t open doors, asking me to pay for things or following me around. If there is anything I want to take home from my experience and take action on both the friendly side Ghanaians showed me and this new awareness on microaggressions would be those things. Basically note to self: greet more people, and educate yourself more on how to be a better white ally.

Finally, I’ll miss the project. No matter the day of the week or the pace of the work we were doing, every day we always know we are trying to make a difference and making small steps in achieving that. There is little in life I will find more rewarding than my host uncle saying repeatedly I changed his perception on contraception and that fact women shouldn’t have to get married. Returning to jobs and tasks that are less rewarding will be hard, but it’s still amazing we could make these achievements while we are out here and if nothing else we should use this moment of progress to inspire our action at home.

Written by Charlie Wood

Friday, 30 June 2017

Tamale Survival Guide

The hustle & bustle of Tamale market
Team WOSAG have crossed the halfway point and we are currently working hard in our seventh week of Ghanaian and charity-based fun. We have our large community sensitisation coming up and will be working with women's charity Days for Girls tomorrow, learning about and packaging reusable pads which will be sold to women in the markets.
Having been here nearly two months, it is inevitable that we would pick up a few hints and tips along the way. We thought about all the things we have learnt and which of them we wish we knew at the beginning of our journey. Here are eight lessons we have learnt in order to survive life in Tamale.
Doing things the Right way
It is a common belief in Ghana that the right hand is the 'clean' hand and the left is 'dirty.' In the politest way possible, this is because Ghanaians all use their left hand when they go to the toilet... So, get used to passing things with your right hand as quickly as possible. No one wants to end up getting shouted at in Dagbani or think they are being asked to turn their torch on and shine a light into the eyes of a poor Ghanaian who just want his money placed in his right hand. 

Props expertly handed out from the right hand
It's real. 2 of our team have had it. All the UK team leaders except 2 have had it. Bring deet with you if you are out after dark and always sleep under that mosquito net.
You get taxis everywhere. It's wild. Line taxis follow a certain route like a bus, and will be between 1-2 cedis. Drop taxis will take you to a direct location but you should agree a price before you get in, as to avoid paying too much.

 Taxis not only take you places, 
they make excellent photoshoot backdrops

The Bolga Road
Locate this bad boy as soon as you get here. All the best stuff is along the Bolga Road, including the VRA swimming pool, Don's pub, Wooden, Oasis and the smoothie cafe (cheapest smoothies in Tamale.) Catch a taxi from outside Club Enesta rather than the taxi rank and haggle the price before you get in! Which leads us to...
Money on my Mind
Straight up, if you live in Tamale you will spend your month’s allowance within the first two weeks. Aside from water, lunch and data, Tamale is filled with so many wild things to buy and exciting activities that you won't be able to say no (and you won't want to.) Make sure you haggle for your fruit, souvenirs, taxis and everything that isn't a set price in the supermarkets or restaurants.

Every. Where. You. Go. This will be whispered or shouted or said at a regular volume to you everywhere you go. It translates to 'white person or foreigner,' (which is exactly what we are so fair play to them).

Just a bunch of silimengas hanging out
and looking inconspicuous

If you think we mean the commonly used time-keeping method 'Greenwich Mean Time,' you would be mistaken. Ghana Man Time is the name for the unbelievably chilled attitude that the entire Ghanaian population have to all things time-related and punctuality in general. While us Brits are sticklers for being in the exact right place at the exact right time, Ghana is just too hot to be worried about that and because everyone knows that time is a flexible concept, no one minds!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Hi everyone, this is cohort six - welcome to our first blog!
Before I go any further I think I should introduce the new awesome team, who are all volunteers on the WOSAG project here in Tamale.

Our team consists of 8 volunteers, five UK volunteers (UKV’s) and 3 in-country volunteers (ICV’s). The UKV’s are: Olivia (25) who lives in London, Laura (24) who is from Newcastle upon Tyne, Katie (23) who is from Hertfordshire, Chelsie (18) who is from Eastbourne and Charlie (18) from Nottingham. The ICV’s are: Huzeifa (23) from Daboya, Suale (23) from Tamale and Yussif (22) from Yendi.

We also have two team leaders, Roz (from Ireland) and Ella (from the upper west region of Ghana).

The team from left to right – Ella, Chelsie, Olivia, Huseifa, Laura, Suale, Katie, Yussif, Charlie, Roz
Now that you know our names, ages and where we are from we think we should give you a bit more info by telling you our likes and dislikes - so here goes…
Ella likes food and dislikes lazy people.

The team from left to right – Ella, Chelsie, Olivia, Huseifa, Laura, Suale, Katie, Yussif, Charlie, Roz
Roz likes socialising and food (especially crisps). She dislikes early mornings - although she says she is becoming well acquainted with them being out here!

Katie likes meeting new people, yoga and smoothies. She dislikes rude people and anteaters.

Laura likes music, jammie dodgers and helping others.  She dislikes rude/lazy people and discrimination/inequality in the world.

Charlie likes orange juice and odd socks and dislikes pineapple on pizza.

Chelsie loves skating and dislikes banku (a soup like dish with some goey dough ball thing, it’s a traditional Ghanaian meal).

Olivia likes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and dislikes nuts (a good call I’d say considering she’s allergic!)

Suale likes joking, reading and playing music. He dislikes wrestling.

And finally we have Yussif. He likes chatting with friends, watching movies and research. He dislikes discrimination.

So yeah, that’s us – WOSAG’s sixth cohort. As the weeks go on you will hopefully find out a bit more information about us all  Before we go we just want to give you a brief overview of the work we have done so far.

The UKV’s landed in Ghana on Wednesday 5th April so we have been here for almost three weeks now. We had three days of in-country training where we met our team leaders and our in-country counterparts. We then started work at our project office on Monday 9th April. So far we have read the debrief and handover notes provided by cohort 5, written our project plan for this cohort and conducted research into the topics we will be dealing with as WOSAG volunteers (domestic violence, contraception, menstruation, consent, sexual transmitted infections and sexual reproductive health rights). We’ve also researched upcoming International Days recognised by the United Nations and we have met the two communities which we will be working with, Banvim and Kanvili.

Meeting the women of Banvim community!

Keep checking back for our next blog. Thank you for reading and I hope you find our work interesting.
Meeting the women of Banvim community

Written by Laura.

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Volunteer's Guide to International Development

Our first guided learning was based on Islamic marriage and traditional marriages in Ghana. We spoke to an Imam and he educated us on Islamic marriages. Afterwards, each volunteer then spoke about what they perceived to be a traditional marriage. We discovered that unlike the ICVs, UKVs don't pay for bride price when they are getting married. It was really fun and every volunteer spoke about how they want their marriage to be in future. Some wanted to get married and then give birth to children while others said they don't see the need to marry; some had single parent's so they wouldn't like to marry but they would still like to have children. It was interesting to have both UKVs and ICVs speaking about their culture and different family structures.

Our second guided learning was on the topic of the Sustainable Development Goals. Three of the volunteers led a really interesting session on the SDGs and we learned a lot about why they were created and what they aim to do. At WOSAG we're particularly interested in Goal 5 - Gender Equality! We also had the chance to visit an orphanage in Tamale called the Nyohini Children's Home. We went along with footballs, puzzle books, candys, and colored pencils for the children .We played football, games and danced with them for almost three hours! The children didn't even want us to leave and the staff really appreciated our visit. It was so much fun being with the children and making them happy. When we got back to the office we had a discussion about the whether it is better to volunteer your time or to give money to help a cause and we decided both are good but it depends on the situation and the resources and skills you have.

The SDG posters we made

Our third guided learning was a visit to the District Court in Tamale to learn more about the justice system in Ghana. On our visit, we had the chance to witness many cases such as one on domestic violence and one on defamation of character. Afterwards, we got to meet the head Judge and ask questions such as how they deal with each case and decide the punishments that are assigned to each case.

Our forth guided learning was a visit to the Shea butter factory in Tamale- PAGSUNG Shea Butter Factory- which is located in Sagnarigu where we had the chance to go through all the procedures involved in making Shea butter. The factory is entirely run by women and all the proceeds from selling the produce will empower women and improve their livelihood. Volunteers bought some of the Shea butter:some for hair, body and for lips. We really enjoyed visiting the factory!

The women mixing the shea butter by hand

Salah's sandal broke as were walking towards the factory so Auggy had to back her til we came across a shoe maker !

The sandal came apart!

Hot road = burning feet, so Salah was backed by Auggy
What a spectacle!

Onwards through Sagnarigu to the factory!

Our fifth guided learning was on Globalisation where we had a discussion on everyday items such as the phones we use, the clothes we wear, the tea we drink and the pens we use to write. We researched the products to identify all the people and places involved in the process of making these items before we buy them. From this activity we learned that globalisation is a big part of our everyday lives and we saw the inequalities that exist in the production and selling of our everyday products. Afterwards we split into two teams and had a debate on the pros and cons of globalisation - the Pro-Globalisation team won!

Our sixth and final guided learning was a visit to the Central Mosque of Tamale. We were led by a Gazale - an Islamic scholar in Tamale. Mariam invited him to our office to have a small question and answer session about the Islamic religion and afterwards he led us to the Northern Regional Chief Imam. We went to him and to the mosque because the group wanted to know more about Islamic religion and the do's and don'ts of Islam. We asked questions of the Imam and then went into the Central Mosque of Tamale and had a quick look around- the call to Zuhr prayers had already started! We really appreciated meeting the Imam and learned some interesting things about the Muslim religion.   

Guided learnings have been a great tool in educating the team about Ghanaian culture and involving the team in the community. They also helped us to learn more about the wider world and International Development. We consolidated our understanding of the SDGs, and crucially, became closer as a group.

Guided learnings have inspired respect, understanding, curiosity and an interest in Sustainability and International Development and how we can, individually, and as a group, make our own changes.

Written by Salah and Mariam

Here Salah (top) and Mariam (right) are working hard at the office ;)