Sunday, April 27, 2014

Zaare to new Team Bolga

Ya Bulika! This is the first post from the sixth ICS Ghana cohort working on the INCOME project for TradeAID Integrated in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region.  Firstly, a short summary of the introduction into our lives in Ghana. After arriving in Accra and staying a night in a guest house that treated us to the dulcet tones of Celine Dion over breakfast, we headed to Tamale, Ghana’s third largest city and the centre of most of Ghana’s Third Sector activity. After five days orientation in Tamale headed by our brilliant Team Leaders, teams Bolga and Sandema bid farewell to the Tamale teams and slid sweatily into our minibus for the three hour journey to the Upper East. There we were introduced to our new home for the next three months, and after an unexpected mature assignment of bedrooms we went out to sample the culinary offerings of Bolga. Following some hearty Ghanaian portions, Team Bolga rolled home and collapsed into our respective beds ready for a weekend of getting to know our new surroundings.  But wait, I hear you cry- who exactly are the mysterious Team Bolga? 

Well allow us to introduce... each other:

New Team Bolga:  Cohort 6 of TradeAID/International Service ICS volunteers

Emily (By Desmond)
Born in the U.K, in the 20th Century she’s about 5.4 feet tall, and has brown gold hair, not long not short. She is very energetic and loves to dance to every Ghanaian song or beat she hears. She does the “Azonto" and the "Akayeda” dance very well, she is a very happy person and so cool with everyone and loves to see a job well done. She is really a team leader. She never stops amazing me whenever she asks “how do you say this in "GRUNE" popularly known as" Frafra"? (Language spoken by the people from Bolgatanga), very ready to learn and speak “Grune”. I am very happy to have her in the team and looking forward to knowing her more…” The Reggae Queen” Emily Kate Malcolm is her name.

McDavies (By Johnny)
McDavies is an artist, an orator, a radio host, TV personality, teacher and an integral, if not the integral, member of the INCOME project’s team. He’s already passed on his knowledge of Fra-Fra, (his third language) to us, and continues to guide us along the way in Ghana. He’s been volunteering with TradeAID for almost six months now and has implemented a host of training and business management workshops for the people of Bolga.
Probably the easiest way to describe McDavies is through the anecdote he told us about finishing school. He left school for a university course in Mechanical Engineering and realised he actually wanted to have a career in management. Therefore he re-enrolled on a Business Management course, which is far more his style. So, to assist other young people in choosing the right career path, he went back to his old school and began giving careers advice to young school leavers. He knew he could help others and did it, in a heartbeat. That sums up McDavies - a true legend.

Sara (By Mathilda)
Sara Al-Turaihi was born in Iraq and has been living in the UK since the age of 11.  Sara is a training architect and takes the most beautiful photos.  She can’t cease to amaze every one with her perfect photos, even when taking them on a bus. She loves to visit interesting places and go round to take photos of things that beat her imagination.  She is good at remembering things and reminding the team, and we have seen how good her bargaining skills are! She also has a beautiful smile.

Johnny (By Sara)
Anything I say about Johnny doesn’t begin to explain how amazingly experienced, interesting and kind he is. Johnny’s adventures began in Vietnam and that’s what shaped him and enriched him with many lovely Vietnamese stories. Focusing on fundraising will be a breeze for Johnny given that he is experienced at approaching organizations; he will push fundraising to its limits and hopes to develop links in parts of the world he never thought about before.

Mathilda (By Emily)
I truly am delighted to have Mathilda on the team. Mathilda is from the beautiful Upper East Region, has a strong background in Marketing, and has already worked on the INCOME project for an extensive amount of time, making her such a valuable member of the team. Mathilda has been to Trade Fairs around Ghana, and with her expertise we are sure to organize a successful Trade Fair in Bolgatanga towards the end of the year. Not only is she a great work colleague, but also a good friend who showed me around Bolga when I arrived and will hopefully soon show me where she gets her gorgeous dresses made.  We also have had some great Azonto dance moments together as she is my dance teacher! I very much look forward to working and getting to know Mathilda even more during the next 3 months.

Carla (By McDavies)
Carla is an International volunteer on the IS program at TradeAID Integrated, Bolgatanga. She is 22 years of age, Scottish and female. She is intelligent and very beautiful. She is also very affable and respectful. Her hobbies are reading, researching and music.

Desmond (By Hala)
Desmond is a national volunteer from Peki Avetile. He’s a smooth operator with impeccable style and a charming smile. He also takes longer than me to get ready in the morning which is no mean feat. One of his favourite things is food and he is a very keen student when it comes to cooking, however needs some coaxing when it comes to setting the table. Desmond is officially an expert in all things media-related and a trainee Forensic Detective; he also has a mysterious past as an actor and model. He is our in-house cultural guide and protector, expertly negotiating our taxi prices and guiding us around Bolga. His knowledge of Ecotourism, Trade fairs and passion for the INCOME project are proving invaluable, and we are all so happy to have him as our housemate as well as our colleague.

Hala (By Carla)
Hala speaks several languages so take your pick. She loves getting people together eating and talking, and at home in London she will cook you dinner with ingredients you haven’t heard of. She has a fetish for a few unusual things; bridges, bodies of water, Celts, and beards. Before ICS she organised events that encouraged cross-cultural communication beyond multiculturalism. In ICS she’ll be taking the reins on Trade Aid’s social media plan and online presence, designing and hopefully implementing some training for Trade Aid’s staff. This is part of the wider marketing plan to boost demand for Trade Aid’s products and their message making trade work for the poor.

Our team planning at the in-country orientation week in Tamale

Back to our first weekend in Bolga...

We are lucky to have two security guards at our house in Bolga - Abaa and Bawa - and on Friday night they were kind enough to invite us to the funeral of an important member of the community - an elderly father of one of their friends. The funeral had started a couple of days earlier and was due to go on for a few more, as funerals in Ghana are intended to be an effusive celebration of the deceased’s life and as such are longer in length and involve more elaborate rituals and customs. 

Invited to a funeral on our first day in Bolga
Needless to say, we could not have asked for such a radical exercise in full cultural immersion, and it was an extremely affecting experience for all of us that we will never forget. After helping Abaa to dress himself in traditional funeral wear-animal skin, hat and bows and arrows, we headed down the road to join in the celebrations. 

As we approached we were greeted by innumerable shouts of “welcome!” (“Zaare”!) and surrounded by smiling faces. For the next four hours we laughed, danced, practised our Fra-Fra, danced, met the community elders, danced, and drank more than a reasonable amount of brandy and Pito/home brew (an obligatory custom, of course). 

Star of the show was undoubtedly Team Leader Emily whose unending capacity to shake it in the midday heat fully dressed in thick West African traditional dress earned her praise of the highest order, when Abaa informed us that our supreme leader was in fact “better than a man”.

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