Tuesday, 23 September 2014

So long....and thanks for all the kids (and fried cheese)!

A word from Nat, the Summer School Project Team leader.

So this is it. In about 72 hours I will be getting on plane to take me back to where this all started, the UK (Scotland included after the referendum). Hence I just thought I would fill you in, oh avid reader.

I know you have grown to be used to my team's meanderings, descriptions and vivid accounts through the last few weeks. We've had readers from Mexico, Poland, Canada...parts of the world most our team have not even been to, reading up about our efforts to set up a literacy programme for ICS, helped by Create Change and RAINS.

We dealt with power cuts, unhelpful parents, 250 unsharpened pencils, jammed printers the evening before we had to print the exams, torrential rain, lack of timely resources, malaria, thirst, sunstroke and...you know what? I regret none of it. I saw my team progress from a disjointed set of random individuals to a full cohesive unit, people who embraced and shed tears when they realised the project was coming to an end and they would be together no more. We saw the children improve in the brief time we had together. We saw parents understand the meaning of education. We saw staff congratulating us for the good work we had done. We grew as people, each and every single one of us.

Our last picture together. Aw. 

As the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have doubtlessly noticed, our layout has changed in the last few weeks. One might even say improved. 'Why is that?' (I hear you cry). Well, let me tell you the story.

We started as a pilot project. It was not certain anything would come from it, since we were a big team with an ample brief and not much of a clue of how to do it. But we learned. The children gained useful literacy skills they would not have otherwise. My team learned to plan lessons, to get used to being in a classroom full of screaming children, to support children with disabilities, do research, funding proposals, videos...I learned to listen; to use my insomnia to work in the middle of the night until it was daylight and time to get up and continue working; to realise that as much as you can try to be organised, everything can be thrown off kilter and you must 'stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools'. The most important lesson of all? I learned that I cannot do it all myself, that I needed to rely on my team and them on me. To let go, accept that everything won't be perfect, and just do the things that need to be done. We learnt to that be is just as important as to do.

It must have worked, because from beginnings as an uncertain pilot, we have not only been made into a fully fledged project, but have had a new project come out of our activities, focusing on the children of the Yumba school and on how to support it.

So this project's here to stay!!

I am being relieved by two people rather than just one person. Kristina will take care of ABC (ABC stands for 'Aniwula bihi kana' – 'Good evening, come children' - and will be the continuation of our current efforts, focusing on evening classes and sensitising the Tamale population to the need to educate their children). Frankie, on the other hand, will be the Team leader for the new Yumba project, which will try and help the Yumba Special School to support its children via self-sufficiency rather than reliance on donations. They are both wonderful and International Service couldn't have chosen better!

Thus, I am going with a head held high, albeit with a heavy heart. I will miss Ghana and my wonderful volunteers. And I will miss you, our readers, who followed our adventures from afar.
On behalf of the Summer School Project team, I'd like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Now I am off to eat as much of my beloved deep fried cheese as I can possibly cram into my mouth during the next 72 hours. (Ghanaians call it 'wagashi'. I call it 'pieces of fried heaven').

See you on the other side! (and don't forget to check on Kris and Frankie's efforts)

Nat, the (outgoing) Summer School Project ABC Team leader.

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