Monday, January 30, 2017

Introduction from Team Bolga-Fantastic!

We arrived in Bolgatanga on Thursday evening having finished our in-country training in Tamale. This lasted 3 days and focused on team building activities alongside the people we will spend the next 3 months with. It was also important for the UK volunteers to learn about Ghanaian culture and vice-versa.
The Human Knot- team building! 

Having said goodbyes to friends heading to different communities we set off to our new homes in Bolgatanga. From the coach we were greeted by large families all eager to find their new children, one mother called out “where are my daughters?” and was soon united with two cheery volunteers.

The next morning we shared experiences of our vastly different lifestyles, yet one thing we all had in common was how welcoming our families were.

On our first day in the office we were introduced to the full time Trade AID staff and at lunch had a traditional Ghanaian goat soup with rice balls from a local café.

Come the weekend we were all hungry to explore. Having been promised smoothie bars, restaurants and swimming pools by the previous cohort we expected an exciting town, Bolga did not disappoint, whilst still presenting a laid back atmosphere.

The weather averages at about 33°C in January, meaning some of us have taken time to acclimatise, but we are told it can reach as high as 50°C by March- this will bring about a whole new set of challenges. It is currently snowing in the UK, right now an English winter couldn’t feel further from our reality.

The main task this week has been reading the previous cohorts’ handover notes, from this we can establish a project plan, with both long and short term goals.

We are currently looking at training basket weavers to make a more diverse selection of baskets, many women sell identical products and are unable to make a living wage as a result. If stalls are varied, sales should increase, helping the poorest in the community to escape from poverty.

In order to achieve our goals, we need to consult the beneficiaries of the INCOME project and work out how we can best assist in order for them to succeed in business. Because of this we took a visit to the craft market on Wednesday, where many of the basket weavers sell their goods. With the support of Trade AID, one shop is run entirely by disabled people, which is a massive step forward for Ghana.
Bolgatanga Craft Market- action research on BICAF 2016

Today we visited Vea, a basket weaving community, the residents spoke of how Trade AID has had a hugely positive impact on their livelihoods. Previously a middle man would buy baskets from them at an extremely low price and sell them for a profit at the market, leaving the basket weavers with just 20% of the sale price. The intervention of the charity, who have no economic agenda, has enabled a much larger profit to be gained by the community by cutting out the middle man. We are aiming to increase the number of orders placed by Trade AID, meaning this could be a completely realistic alternative. To combat this problem our group hope to sell the woven baskets online, potentially generating lots more orders from the global market.
Vea Basket Weaving Community- Community entry 

As the days pass, each volunteer speaks of feeling more and more settled in their new homes and some plan to attend religious services at the weekend with their families in order to have a greater understanding of local beliefs and customs.The market takes place every three days in town and is a perfect opportunity for those of us who want to buy materials for traditional Ghanaian clothes.

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