Friday, July 22, 2016

A new home in Bolgatanga

So we've been in Bolgatanga coming up 3 weeks now and the team are going from strength to strength. Here are a few words from two of our team members describing their feelings towards the last crazy 3 weeks:

When arriving in a new place and totally different place, to stay for a long period, it is often easy to get dragged down by homesickness. Especially when jumping continents and leaping into a culture markedly different to the one you left at home.

However, since entering Bolgatanga, living in my new host home and beginning work my volunteering project at TradeAID I have felt thoroughly at home.  The home is situated on the outskirts in a tranquil part of town, where the songs of crickets and frogs create the most noise after 8. Living in a host home has already given me the opportunity to immerse myself into the culture of the Upper East region of Ghana. Whether it be meeting and speaking to the friendly people  of all ages in the community, despite my broken fra fra. Or seeing first hand how families go about their daily lives in Bolgatanga, trying exotic new foods like banku- even if it highlights my capacity to handle chilli is not what I thought it was.

The town centre embraces the friendly feeling whilst in contrast to the quiet setting of my host home, is a frantically busy town, especially every two days when there is the local food market, as well as the usual stalls and traders, though there are no western style shops, a radical difference to town life in the UK, this adds to the friendly and inclusive feeling of the town. Making Bolgatanga an easy place to feel at home.

Likewise, almost everywhere you look there is interesting wildlife. Including the the three geckos who share the TradeAID office with us.

Working at the TradeAID office is also a positive experience, the INCOME project seeks to end poverty in the upper east region, by getting people involved in craft work. Farming is the dominant job provider here, so crafts provides an excellent opportunity to create new businesses and enhances entrepreneurialism by diversifying traditional products. Bolgatanga is renowned for its vibrant craft sector, already a significant employer in the town. The ICS program has already helped TradeAID make a positive impact.

It is especially exciting to be involved in the pilot apprenticeship scheme where we will provide 4' 18-25 yr olds the opportunity to spend four months learning a trade with the opportunity to continue and create a sustainable business. This has enabled me to research appropriate sponsors for the future to back the program, rekindling my interest in research since I left university. Similarly, it has allowed us to go into Bolgatanga to see the interest in the apprenticeship and find out more about the local community.

Working in a team of 12 people and 3 geckos from totally different cultures, whether they be regional or international gives us all the opportunity to learn new methods of learning, working as a team and developing as individuals. Whilst it has at times proved challenging, the group is moving on up and working together with an improving and productive team spirit. Similarly, the ICS program enables volunteers to pick up new skills for our return, we will facilitate marketing and digital training for crafts people and raise awareness and create a social media campaign for the BICAF craft fair in December.

Living in Bolgatanga and working for TradeAID is radically different to anything I have ever done before and has already hurled me out of my comfort zone. This is an exciting change and has not had me trapped in the mire of homesickness. I have already made many new friends and learning new skills. Bolgatanga has provided another perspective on better ways to live, being more friendly and having a more relaxed attitudes to the difficulties of life.

It all started one bright Tuesday morning when I got to the office and went to take the days papers from the security post. That was when I learnt of the ICS volunteering advertisement in the Daily Graphic. I had always had the passion of working with NGO’s although I have done several volunteering schemes with different organisations. Besides, it seemed like a good idea since taking part in the programme will give me more insight about various cultures and societies which interests me because I studies sociology in University. I finally applied to join and went to the cafĂ© and filled in the online form.
After a number of missed calls one sunny Friday I tried to reach back but to no avail. O felt that a valuable opportunity had slipped past my reach. Fortunately for me, I went through my mails and there it was, an invitation for me to attend an assessment workshop. At this point all I had in my mind was to challenge myself to change the world in which I am part of.
 On that day when I got to the assessment centre I met two ladies and thought the meeting might not hold but the assured me that it will soon start. I was soon joined by other ladies and gentlemen from all parts of the region in Ghana and the atmosphere was calm and peaceful. I immediately prepared myself mentally for all that the assessment entailed. It involved a lot of learning procedures and was based mostly on group work. Group discussions lead to me finding various ways to approach problems and phenomena and how to find solutions to them.
 My success journet started when I received a congratulatory call inviting me to come for a pre-placement training. For me, the training gave me an insight about what I was getting myself into and what was expected or me for the next 12 weeks. My project was in a new environment although I was changed from the the NFED Tolon project to the TradeAid project in Bolgatanga. I was to like with a new family (host family) also work with non-Ghanaians (UK volunteers). Although in the beginning I found some difficulties working with them, as the days went by everything became normal.
My team and I finally arrived in Bolgatanga everything wasn’t too overwhelming as I have visited the region before. I finally met my host parents, who are so far the best to be with. They are currently making my stay here a beautiful one. Everything was going smoothly as planned. My colleagues and I managed to clean out our office and my team leaders, Abbie and Foster, with their help, hardworking and selflessness managed to make everything so far a success.
As I write, my success today started from baseless ground to that of a solid ground and I owe my greatest gratitude to ICS for granting me this opportunity and guiding me to challenge myself. Volunteering has given me the insight to work and learn from different types of people despite their age, gender, physical appearance and socio-cultural background. Also ones success is built on healthy relationships and selflessness. Again through ICS we are learning through our mistakes and choosing new ways to approach situations and find solutions to them. As volunteers we must create a warm environment where everyone is loved and accepted.
As an ICS volunteer I am not only happy that I applied to the programme but that I have dedicated my time to work with a wonderful group of people who are all willing to give back and help change our world.
This experience will give me a clear insight in my career journey where I will learn new skills. I am looking forward to developing a positive attitude. You will do well to join well when you hear anything that has to do with volunteering experience as you will get a new good feeling which can be life changing.
So there you have it, an exciting look in to volunteering and the first few weeks of mayhem, madness and laughter. See Ya :)

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