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Monday, 20 February 2017

A HEAVY DUSTING


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

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