Monday, June 16, 2014

An arty twist to TradeAID's work

With only 2 days left on the project with Cohort 6, read from one of the UK Volunteers on her time with TradeAID in Bolgatanga and the new skills she now has in and outside her previous area of experience

Hello and a very sad farewell...
Coming onto the TradeAID project I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Being from an arty background and not having experience in fair trade and business, I thought I would be out of my comfort zone.
As time passed working with TradeAID, I started to understand and really see the enormous difference fair trade would make to the craft workers in the communities we are working in. Initially being given the opportunity to work with some of the craftswomen with disabilities on record keeping, I was happy with the focus of my work centering on a new area. Little did I know other opportunities would start to pop up using my design and architectural skills, and I was assigned more tasks which I was thrilled about.
The design background came in handy when a visualization image was needed to be presented at the 2nd Steering Committee meeting showing what we envision Bolgatanga’s crafts fair to look like, following which the committee’s vision of the event was even greater. So I started working on the annual Crafts Fair logo, which Trade Aid initiated and is supporting for Bolgatanga to host. Consulting my colleagues in the process, followed by a presentation to the Ghana Export Promotion Authority & the Centre for National Culture, I presented the chosen logo at the 3rd Steering Committee meeting headed by the Deputy Regional Minister for further suggestions. The outcome is still in progress.
Logo design shenanigans
During my work with TradeAID, the group went to meet the craft workers TradeAID associates with.  I used this opportunity to focus on the basket weavers, as I had the opportunity to measure both working workshop centres – Zaare and Vea.  I am producing a CAD drawing for future plans of duplication of craft centres in other areas.

Johnny (my new assistant) and I
surveying the craft centres

A bit of fun with baskets after the hard work!

You’re probably thinking all she has talked about is unfinished work with no visible results. Yet for me, I am leaving Bolgatanga having started ongoing projects & relationships I intend to honor. I have also started processes that others can build on.
I came here thinking I will be a little less useful than others, but with time I started to adapt to my new role.  I was able to use my design skills in an international development context and also learnt new skills. For example, I filmed and edited a video in support of World Fair Trade Day 2014, a form of media editing I have never attempted before.
Work aside, I have experienced a culture full of happiness and warmth. I have enjoyed and loved every trip and event my colleagues previously mentioned in their blog posts. Every day I learnt something new and became more appreciative.
Johnny in action during his English session
following my Maths lesson
I adapted to the culture quickly, loved teaching the children in the community with Johnny, walking through the community saying hello to everyone and always to the old ladies weaving baskets by the tree, one of which always screams in Fra Fra at me. To my obliviousness after months of hearing it I found out that she was asking me to marry one of her sons which was endearing, filling me with gleefulness and big smiles every time I remember.
Surprising to me the difficulty wasn’t cultural or social; it was my very own body and immune system betraying me at times. Regardless of that, my experience was not compromised as it has been embedded in my memories as a very happy insightful experience. I have made incredible new friends I would have never crossed paths with, my patience was tested, and my skills and personality were developed massively. I have a happier approach to life thanks to Ghana and as much as I write I cannot do this experience justice hoping this will not be the last time I see Ghana.
The UK members of cohort 6 after
the Third Steering Committee meeting at the
Residency of the Regional Minister

So until next time Ghana… 

By Sara

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