Friday, August 12, 2016

And the crowd goes wild when they make it to the half way line!!

So here we are WEEK 6!! Time flies when your having fun aye....It's not fair to say that the team has just sailed through to week six, there have been many hiccup's and challenges. This weeks blog will focus on some of these challenges but not for negative reasons. It will focus on the challenges purely because day by day I can see this team changing and growing stronger because they have over come challenges and disputes. We have a team of athlete here jumping over the hurdles. Listen Up:

This is our sixth week on the ICS program, which means we’re exactly half way through! We have been having the most amazing time, and we’ve done so much as a team, but the last six weeks have not been without their challenges. Throughout this  blog I want to talk about the issues we’ve faced, and how we have overcome them – because the fact we’ve tackled each of these problems makes every success so much better!

We had a lot of issues in the beginning working together as a team. Cultural differences (both between ICVs and UKVs, and within the group) meant that we struggled to work as one group. But we knew this was an issue, and we wanted to make a change. Our Team Leader Foster led some group dynamics session that really helped, and now we are so much stronger! Everyone told me that I would come back from this trip with friends for life, and now I would agree without hesitation.

Another challenge with working here is the frequent power cuts. When we first came into our office, we noticed a previous cohort had left a list of things to do when the lights went out, we laughed when we saw it, but it has actually come in very useful! No power means no fan, no light, and most importantly, no wifi. Without these it’s hard to do any work, so we’ve often been set back by this. It’s something we’ve very quickly learnt to adapt to though, playing card games or planning meetings – hide and seek has been suggested more than once, although I’m not sure the rest of the TradeAid staff would appreciate 11 adults playing that around their office.

We’ve also faced difficulties with frequent changes to our team plan. At the start of the 12 weeks, we sat as a team and planned what we were going to do – and all got so excited for what was ahead of us. But it turns out getting things finished in Ghana is very difficult! The director of TradeAid, our project partner, decided that some aspects of the plan didn’t fit with the charity’s brief, and that instead he wanted to focus on other tasks. It is also very difficult getting trainings organised, as finding a day when both a trainer, and enough members of a craft community are free seems to be impossible! That being said, when we do achieve something, the fact we made it despite all these setbacks makes it so much better! For example, when UKV Stacey finished the website for Bolgatanga as a Fairtrade town (www.bolgafairtrade.wordpress.com) we were all so proud of her. And when it finally seemed like the Apprenticeship scheme we are piloting was going to work out, it felt like such an achievement!

A huge challenge for our team in particular has been illness. In fact, last week one of the UKVs had to go home, which has had a huge impact. So far, 6 members of our 12 person team have been to hospital. The word malaria has been banned in our office because so many people have had it! But, despite various tropical diseases, all of them have been back on their feet in no time!

Overall though, facing up to these difficulties has only made us a stronger team, so much more determined to make a difference in Bolga. There’s no way to avoid it – this experience is challenging, but the point of ICS is to #challengeyourself, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world! Bring on the next 6 weeks!    

Khan B is the name and I am on the ICS programme in Bolgatanga working in partnership with TradeAid Intergrated on the Income Project. I consider myself lucky to be part of the ICS programme to challenge my world. Initially I was not pleased with my placement in as much as I felt lucky to be part of it. The team started the journey from Tamale to Bolgatanga together with my team leaders Abbie Dacruz from the UK and Foster Siaw from Ghana. The team consists of 5 UK volunteers and 5 Ghanaian volunteers not mentioning our 2 team leaders. So we have:

·         Eleanor Brown

·         Jonathan Sabuli

·         Emanuella Kabiri

·         Rebecca Quarshie

·         Stacey Roberts

·         Edward Banks

·         Aaron Wghtman

·         Teresa Valente

·         Jacob Laar

·         Myself – Kanfitin Khalid Biyea

Life in Bolgatanga was something I was not sure of, relating it to various aspects such as weather conditions to social living but there was nothing I could do but to see what fate awaited me which as an ICS volunteer was a concern.

   There are many ways to better understand and respect other cultures as we move along but for me the most effective has been volunteering.  I left home to travel for many reasons and I had many pre conceived ideas about what I would find outside the comfort of my own home and the confined centre of Accra. Travelling dispelled many of those notions almost immediately but it was only when I slowed down and said to myself “Hey Khan chill, you’re gonna be fine in Bolga” that I was able to fully sink into the programme. Adjusting to life in Bolga has been good so far, much thanks to my host family Mr and Mrs Innurah.

   The income project has been a lot of work so far and with my tram as we prefer to be called Team Selfie. There has been a lot of work so far to integrate with the community and running awareness raising on BICAF. BICAF is the Bolgatanga International Crafts and Arts Fair. This gives crafts people the opportunity to exhibit their products to more consumers. There has also been a radio sensitization which was excellent because the team talked about the youth in Bolga to enter into the crafts sector.  Also the team visited various craft communities which I was used a lot as an interpreter between my team and the local people because the language is FraFra.

   Recently the team had it’s mid term event at Sirigu and the atmosphere there was fun because we saw other teams and friends, so it was really fun.

  Living in Bolga for the very first time, although this is the homeland of my mother, I overlooked the negative aspects in mind and instead fuelled my volunteer efforts with enthusiasm. Major themes I analyse here in Bolga is how I really want to adapt in a different atmosphere and how open and friendly the people are here. They are always ready to welcome you.

    Before I started my journey I understood the macro-industry around volunteering thus the interplay between volunteering and development work. I now have a further understanding of the scope of development issues. Life here in Bolga has so far been wonderful and upgrading as the days pass. The perception I had is totally gone as if I never had such. I am building upon certain attributes and learning new things from my team and beyond. I would like to say a big thank you to my team and International Service in general. BYE

See, lots of hiccups. However, I could not be prouder of this team. They are champions in their own rights and will all get a gold medal for that. They overcome challenges with dignity, composure and usually laughter. The next 6 weeks will go so quickly and I can't wait to see them continuing to champion themselves and others. GO TEAM GO!!

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