Monday, 13 March 2017

My big fat Ghanaian wedding!

Sunday 26th February was a day I will never forget! However, before I talk about it, I must tell you about the run up to the magical day.

It all started on Saturday 25th, when I awoke to an incredibly loud scream at approximately 4:00 am. Traditionally in an Islamic wedding in northern Ghana, extended family members will create loud noises; which includes playing the drums, in celebrations of the unity.

Following on from this, the bride’s family home was buzzing with excitement, as everyone was rushing to get ready in time for her first appearance.

In the meantime, my counterpart and I were helping each other put on our beautifully hand- made African outfits and styling our hair the traditional Ghanaian way.

Eventually, we left our rooms to join the party where we were greeted by a group of drummers who forced us to dance! It was amazing!

Not long after, we rushed over to where the bride had been staying and greeted her whilst she waited for her lele to dry. This is a design painted on her hands up to her arms and from her ankles up her legs. I brought her some gifts to congratulate her, in the form of make-up and costume jewellery. Then we left the building to wait outside, so that she could get dressed and to also mingle with the guests.
Rachelle and the Bride.

Nevertheless, she then appeared and all the guests, mainly female, swarmed around her taking pictures. She then walked out of her neighbour’s complex and into the streets heading towards her home. It was great!

Everyone gathered and sang, took pictures along with the drummers playing away. As the procession continued towards her home she was full of joy and waving to all her guests. Upon arrival to her former home, she greets her parents and the guests there before heading back to change her outfit. This continued for approximately 3 times.

During the changes of outfits, all the guests were mingling, eating and dancing. At certain parts of the ceremony, the bride will stay in a room and that is where guests greeted her and presented her with gifts, often money.

At the end of the day, the bride returned to her neighbour’s house where she will repeat the ceremony for the next day. The only difference is that she will then go to the mosque with her husband at the end of the day, and the Imam will speak to her and her husband about what is expected of them from marriage. After this, she will then go with her husband to their home.
The Bride dressed up the next day.

Altogether, even though weddings in northern Ghana differ greatly to U.K traditions, the day was fabulous! It was full of excitement, noise, music, food and laughter!
By Rachelle Palmer.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Living on a prayer!

Yes, it’s true: we’re halfway there! It’s been a crazy 6 weeks and as we look back on it we cannot believe how much time has flown. It’s getting hotter by the day and power cuts are becoming more frequent (difficult when we’re in the office with no Wi-Fi) but we’re soldiering on! We are missing home terribly but are so excited to see what the next few weeks have planned for us – especially with all the visits to various NGOs and organisations we have planned.

Guided learning is a crucial part to our ICS journey, and it certainly should not be dismissed because with a dash of creativity and a pinch of intuition there are a whole bunch of fantastic places you can visit. We have already been to SOS Children’s Village where we learnt about how they take in children who are orphaned or abandoned and how they care for them within their own little community. We also visited BasicNeeds Ghana – a mental health advocacy organisation aiming to improve the livelihoods of those suffering from mental illness/epilepsy and to tackle the stigma attached to it. From these visits, we have learnt so much - not only about Ghana and the organisations but about ourselves and how we can strive to make our world a better place.

The team meeting with BasicNeeds before they gave us a presentation on the work they do across Ghana

Last Friday we had our mid-term event, where all the teams here in Tamale met up with teams Tolon and Savelugu in a lovely community centre in Kumbungu. We played various ice-breakers (how else to energise before the day) that proved quite difficult with 50 odd people! We all had the opportunity to catch up on how our projects are going with some very interactive activities; it helped us all see the positive impact we’ve had so far and the not so great things that could do with some improvement. Luckily for team ABC there were more positives than negatives!

With some old school tunes being sung around the office, we’ve been able to keep the morale up as we try to fill up our calendar as much as possible and keep up all our hard work.

The team ready to start the community sensitisation in Dungu
On Thursday, we had our first community sensitisation in Dungu which was a great success. The community was very receptive and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful speech given by Jack and translated by Yussif, in which they discussed the importance of educating women and the positive impacts it can have on the community. And you can’t go wrong when you end it on such a powerful note as “when you educate a woman; you educate a nation”.

Jack and Yussif giving their speech to the community members of Dungu

However, I have to say the best part was dancing to the Azonto (an absolute must to learn when in Ghana) next to a huge sound system with dozens of children from the community. I think I speak for the whole team when I say we definitely got shown up by a quite a few 6-10 year olds. Nevertheless, we had fun and hopefully made an impact in the process.

The children of Dungu being very active and enthusiastic whilst dancing to the loud music playing from the speakers!

Now to look forward to what the next month and a bit has planned for us, hoping it doesn’t go as fast as the last 6/7 weeks have!

Claudia White

Monday, 20 February 2017


After a few weeks of hard work and frustration at not yet having the opportunity to conduct any of the activities we’d been planning, Team ABC have finally been able to establish a community presence; through introductions to communities and visits to high schools. That said, we haven’t quite reached the point of being able to make any recognisable impact. Unfortunately, we’ve received some disappointing news mid-week and as a result won’t be able to continue to visit the girls’ clubs that Create Change had already established links with. As a result, we’ve spent the past few days planning alternative activities and outreach – we’re very excited about having free rein to establish new links; expanding the impact of Create Change, International Service and ICS as a whole.

On Monday we joined up with the volunteers working at RAINS and WOSAG, our two fellow local ICS partners, to plan an awareness raising meeting in the centre of town surrounding the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). The event was largely a success, our total audience across one and a half hours was large and many of the passing locals stopped to ask about FGM in Ghana and West Africa as a whole. A significant proportion of those reached consented to pose for photos which we subsequently used to spread awareness over social media, demonstrating local support for the movement against FGM.
Team ABC, WOSAG and RAINS on the FGM Zero Tolerance Day!

We’ve had varied experiences in our host homes in many different ways; there tends to be at least a few children in the house (though there are none in mine) and often they are well disciplined to do their (and our) chores. Punishments are not unknown and this can put volunteers in a difficult position – this is acceptable in Ghana and shouldn’t be interfered with but it can be difficult to ignore. There are, apparently, many different ways of doing menial tasks and it’s a great source of entertainment to watch the ‘siliminga’ attempt to wash clothes.
Gemma hand washing her clothes on a Saturday morning.
Squeezing out the water from the clothes

Salma, our only female in-country volunteer (ICV), finds living in her host home very similar to living at her own home, certainly in terms of the food and way of life. Many of the UK volunteers struggle with washing clothes in particular and often find the ICVs extremely pro-active (or perhaps that says more about us!). We’ve had in-depth discussions about teeth-brushing (before or after breakfast?) and showering habits; I’m lucky enough to have a working shower-head – when we go swimming most of the UKVs are shocked to use a running shower.

Speaking of swimming: though Tamale is a bustling and expansive city, the main streets can be very homogenous (think endless fried yam, plantain and fish stalls) and though there are things to do, it can be very difficult to find out exactly where and when. The two swimming pools we’ve found each have bars and food sources very close-by, have entry fees (usually 10 cedis for ‘VRA clubhouse’ and 20 cedis for ‘The Don’s Pub’) and can be located on Google maps. A few of us attempted to go to the gym at Tamale Stadium on Sunday, only to find it closed; it seems they open from 6-9 in the morning and 4.30-7 in the afternoon, but is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The only way to find this out is to call!

Most of the volunteers use taxis to get pretty much everywhere. Though I’ve started using one to get to work and back (to avoid having to carry work-things around), the scenery and interactions with the locals makes it well worth walking at the weekends. Upon arrival that always means being soaked with sweat and having a dry mouth, but the reward of water and an orange is adequate compensation (narrowly). It’s currently Harmattan, which means dust – tending to saturate trousers and any skin on show. A heavy dusting is frequently mistaken for a healthy tan.

By Jack Tinn

Monday, 13 February 2017


Last week was pretty exciting when the team prepared for their long week’s community entry with Create Change interns.  David, Jack and Yussif went out to buy bags of water which is interesting having some of the drinking water packaged in plastics in Ghana. This was for us not to get dehydrated during our journey to the communities! Ooops!

The team was divided in two. Half of the team visited Ticheli, where they will be working with the Community Girls Club to meet the girls and find out their experience so far with the previous cohorts and Create Change Interns. So the journey began as we all got jumpy about how long the journey to Ticheli community will be as we were told by “word of mouth” that it was going to take a while before we arrive in the community which turned out to be a little true……

Upon arrival, children in the community really kept to themselves compared to children in the Tamale City because there were no shouts around like ”SILIMINGA’S” which mostly got all the Ghanaians teams laughing. We guess it was because the team were new to them compared to the interns. We later met with few members of the community especially most the women because the men of the community were out on a workshop. Unfortunately, the Chief of Ticheli community was dead so we met with the Queen also known as Magajia and some other elders of the community to tell them about how we are going to support Create Change to support the girls in the community by having educative sessions with them. The Queen and the elders supported our purpose and prayed for us afterwards since they are religious people.
Ticheli Team with the Queen mother(Third from the left) and other members of the community.
Afterwards we went to the school with the interns to witness their session with the girls club and it was really productive with the children reminding themselves about what they were taught the previous week. Even though most students were not in the right uniforms for school and others came bare footed due to lack of finance but they were keen to study and that was great!
Salma in a session with the girls in Ticheli.

The next day came with everyone prepared for three community entries in Dungu,Wayamba and Damankuyili. These communities seem really rural compared to other communities in Tamale with mud houses everywhere. One exciting thing about these mud houses is that when it’s hot outside then it's cold inside but if it’s cold outside then the mud house is hot inside!  Most of these communities had more men than women. We witnessed one of the communities giving a young lady out in marriage because of the fear that the lady might get pregnant with different boys in the village which can bring shame to the family. We also observed the inauguration of a new chief in another community which was nice. When meeting the chiefs and the elders, we had to remove our shoes and sandals since it was their tradition to enter the room barefoot. The chiefs of these communities gave us loads of colanuts which showed that we are ready to work with them.
Team ABC with the chief of Dungu Community.
The team with the Chief and some Elders in Wayamba Community.
The Yapala team also had a great day meeting the PTA chairman with two elders in the community and afterwards they joined in the community girls’ club session for some amazing introduction to the girls!
Yapala Team with Girls from the community girls' club.

Also, Salma and Jack went to Kalpohine Senior High School for a teaching session on Career Planning which turned out to be fun with all the girls engaging themselves in all the activities.  These girls had a lot to say about what they wanted to do when they grow up at an early stage and they said a lot about their courses offered in their school too.
Students of Kalpohine Senior High in a Career planning session.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ready, Set, Go!

Things have begun to heat up in the ABC office this week. With risk assessments written and approved, budgets planned and a lovely new calendar of our events up on the wall, we're all set to get to work. As the days are getting hotter, we've been working harder to organise ourselves, our community visits, girls clubs across Tamale and intern training days so that we can really make the most of our time here and make as an effective an impact as possible.

We kicked the week off with an exploration of our team mate, Rachelle's, culture. It made us very aware of just how often we drink in the UK! Not to mention the true extraordinary concept of the London underground which the UKV's had never thought much of until witnessing the ICV's disbelief. David and Gemma also presented the concept of Peace and Conflict to the group for their guided learning session through videos, discussions, a really cute peace poster for the wall and a cross-the-water team adventure! Well, not so much water as concrete in the yard outside. Either way, we had fun and really understood the metaphor for conflict resolution.

Rachelle telling us more about her UK and Jamaican culture.

Cross-the-water team adventure during peace and conflict guided learning session.

Suddenly, mid-week, the team had a brilliant light bulb moment involving some Jackson 5 inspiration to create a Create Change jingle and pro-mo video. We had a lovely time filming each other around the office, describing the work we’re doing here and who Create Change are, experimenting with cheesy music video tactics, BBC documentary methods, montage mash ups and more! Coming soon to our You Tube channel near you.

 When Friday came around, a few of us represented the team at Ridge FM radio station with Latif and Hassan, the previous cohort’s team leader and Volunteer, to secure a slot for our radio sensitisations. However, after speaking to the guys there, we found out we’ve not just given one a week but two 1.5 hour sessions a week! Of course, we were very grateful and have excitedly gotten to planning our slot themes right away. So far, our ideas include: sexual education; parental involvement in girl-child education; self-empowerment and the financial benefits of further education.

Confirming our radio slot at Ridge radio station.

However, for the first time since our arrival, it’s been brought to the team’s attention that we must start to think of how we can effectively pass-on to the next cohort so we have an effective means of hand over to hand when the time comes. Our initial feelings of our three months working here being practically a long-term deal are quickly becoming feelings of: “there’s no time at all!” as we begin to approach our fourth week already. 

So much experience has happened already that, although we’re sad at the distant thought of leaving, we can’t wait to see what the next two months will bring.

Bring in on Tamale, we’re ready to get involved!

Gemma Jones!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Discovering more about Create Change

Upon arrival into the office on Friday 13th, Create Change cohort 6 were greeted by the administration team, who welcomed us into a room to discuss the purpose of our presence.

During this encounter, we met beneficiaries of the programme and learned about the impact Create Change has on disadvantaged girls, their families, communities and Ghana as a whole. We learned that as part of the charity’s progress, they assist with the payment of tuition fees, as well as providing school utensils. Furthermore, Create Change provide a counselling service for its beneficiaries, as many of the challenges that the girls encounter, are closely linked with Ghanaian and religious conservative culture, which holds the monopoly concerning societal functions.

In addition, we met local girls who are currently interning with the charity, in order to continue the ongoing hard work conducted by the dedicated staff.

As a whole, this introductory meeting was very beneficial for us, as we were able to gain insight about the charity, from people who have been working in and around create change for a significant amount of time.

Following on from the previous cohorts in visiting the office, we were able to look through previous reports. As of November, 80% of those surveyed in Ticheli felt the sensitisations were important for the community. These had focussed on the negative impacts of teenage pregnancy; the importance of parental involvement and extended education. The parents felt even helping younger siblings.

It often takes more than 30 minutes to walk to school in Ticheli and Gbalahi; whilst bicycles are very expensive, especially with repairs. There is a persistent need for extra help at school; more trained teachers; and finance for fees, in addition to learning materials, uniform and food. Obstacles are chores (highlighting the need for parental support and male participation) and poor health (need for personal hygiene and training of doctors).
A March survey of 60 members of CC girls’ clubs in senior high schools found that 45% don’t include Maths, Science or English as their strongest subjects; whilst 70% struggle with Maths specifically. They consider learning materials the most important factor for improving academic outcomes.

The team ready to Create Change!

Hello from Cohort 6!

 Welcome to Create Change Cohort six. I’d like to introduce to you: Rachelle, our religious studies post graduate from Greater London; Yussif, agricultural enthusiast from right here in Tamale, Ghana; Salma, our talented singer and Tamale resident from Ada in Accra. We also have Jack, our economics graduate from the cold depths of Sunderland, North England; David, Manchester United lover and Accra city boy; Gemma, women’s right enthusiast from the sunshine coast of Eastbourne, South England; and Claudia, our IT genius and team pick-me-up from Essex, East England.
Holding us all together are the team leaders, Anita who aims to further her volunteering action by setting up her own organisation one day; and Leanne who brings the laughter and energy to every session with the help of some S Club 7.

Together we began our life changing ICS journey to develop ourselves as human beings and make a positive impact in the world. Alongside the talented ladies dedicated to the Create Change office, we aim encourage and support the girls of Tamale to stay in education, stress the importance and impact of doing so and have fun in the process!

Learning about new cultures

 The International Citizenship Service (ICS) is a great place to get to know more about different cultures. On this journey, I met many lovely people from different cultures and countries. I have always found it exciting to meet people from different cultural background and am always curious to learn more about what people do in different parts of the world.

 On our first meeting as a team, we asked each other about each of our cultural backgrounds and it was fun and interesting to learn more about the UK culture. Many of the team love English TV shows and Music. It was awesome being able to share these same interests and we all got along very well. Meeting my team also introduced me to new opportunities because there were many ideas out there I didn’t know existed, so knowing one another’s culture helped me to understand more. It also exposed me to new ideas because the more you know more, the more it increases your knowledge on a variety of topics.

More importantly, knowing more about my team’s cultural background helped to better my understanding of life itself. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why certain people behave in a certain way. However, instead of judging people that you perceive as being different, you benefit much more by taking the time to open up with them to see what they are all about and why they behave that way. Another benefit of understanding another’s culture is that it encourages you to get out there and take chances you hadn’t thought of before. What are you waiting for? Prepare yourself to learn more about different cultures.
I hope to continue meeting people from different cultural backgrounds to broaden my perspective on the world.

Language barriers

When working cross-culturally, there is often a language barrier. A language barrier is a big challenge between the Ghanaian and UK volunteers. At Create Change ABC we often work very hard to reduce the language barrier between the two. In Ghana, a few people speak English but a growing majority are starting to learn because English is a globally used language.
The language barrier brought some difficulties of communication between many of the Uk volunteers and local people in Tamale, for example the food sellers and taxis drivers. There was also difficulty in asking for and being given directions but we had plenty of help from the Ghanaian volunteers from Tamale who could speak Dagbani.

Overcoming language barrier could be made easier with education and the UK volunteers are very eager to learn. Perhaps giving them a few weeks to learn the local language of Dagbani would make communication easier.

Greetings and breaking the ice

Before we communicate, we must greet!
 In Ghana, greetings are one of the most cherished and prioritised practices, especially in the Northern region. It is seen as a way of being polite when starting a friendly conversation with a stranger.                                          

During our ICO (In-country Orientation), each team was asked to learn the basics of the local dialect, Dagbani. It was pretty fun and exciting for our team. Everyone really did great and they really liked the greetings especially. David and Gemma definitely made sure to put their Dagbani greetings into practice; each time David woke up in the morning, he would say “Aniwula” even though he should have said “Dasiba”. Still, he is making a massive improvement.
 Whereas Gemma, who keeps getting her greetings right, is being laughed at each time she says it (Don’t worry, they laugh mostly because, they are surprised and impressed by a siliminga (white person) speaking Dagbani).


 In addition, our team has the best icebreakers and Energizers ever, not to brag. Rachelle and Gemma brought this really fun game in which everyone is given a piece of paper to put on their forehead with a name or word written on it, of which they have no idea. Then each person is supposed to guess what’s on his/her paper by asking questions. Answers are only given as yes or no. It is quite an amazing game because some of us had no idea of what was on our paper even after seeing it!

 We also have a few more icebreakers/energizers which will definitely sweep you off of your feet- they could make you forget all about your problems and be happy for Eternity!