Thursday, July 27, 2017

First Steps in Bolga

Zaare (Welcome)!

25 hours after leaving the UK volunteers arrived in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region in Ghana. Over the first week we met our Ghanaian counterparts, many of who had also travelled far to arrive at the conference centre. On our team we have Zacharia, Nanayaw, Macdonald, Maxima and Samira who are in-country volunteers and Kakoko, Glory, Shakirah, Nikola and Cynthia from the UK. Our team is led by Eunice, who comes from Ghana, and Fin, who has travelled from Scotland.  During training our team came together to discuss human rights, compare cultural differences and learn more about our project. We also developed our slogan ‘INCOME: HARDWORK, DETERMINATION’, which we chanted at every opportunity we got in the training room.

After having to chase a fallen suitcase down a highway we arrived safely in Bolgatanga on Friday the 14th of July. We spent the weekend settling in, getting to know our host families, and relaxing – with the exception of Kakoko and Zacharia who got busy straight away attending a wedding on Sunday. Our host families ensured that none of us went to bed hungry, with hearty food such as banku or TZ.

On Friday we visited Zorko, Sumbrungu and Zaare to introduce ourselves to the basket weaving communities and do some preliminary research. After travelling in a van for half an hour we arrived in Zorko where we were greeted warmly by the basket weavers – the views throughout the journey were astonishing, worth the bumps. We stayed for an hour, discussing how we can improve the relationship between ICS, Tradeaid and the basket weavers.  This was all done with the aid of our resident Fra Fra speaker, Zacharia, who translated for us.

Another bumpy van journey later and we arrived in Sumbrungu. As our van pulled in front of the craft centre the women began to dance, clap and shout in greeting. The atmosphere was amazing and for 20 minutes we celebrated together. The group ensured that each of the volunteers practiced the greeting dance, making us more excited to start working with them. The weavers showed us some of their completed baskets. The baskets were beautifully intricate and colorfully woven and for many of the UK volunteers this was the first time we’d ever seen the famous Bolga baskets. These groups work hard on the hand-crafted baskets, ensuring each is unique in its own way.

From Sumbrungu we travelled to Zaare, the final community in which we will be working in for the next 2 months. Each group, although not so close to each other, had similar areas that they were looking for our help in. Their feedback is going to help giving us an active start to the INCOME project.                              
We have already begun planning training sessions and reviewing potential sponsors for BICAF (Bolgatanga International Crafts and Arts Fair). Outside of work we’ve also visited the local commercial street a number of times and, after visiting Melcom 4 days in a row, the UK volunteers have satisfied their need to spend the majority of their allowance on Oreo’s and Indomie. Upon the recommendation of the last cohort many of us also braved torrential rain last weekend to visit the Blue Sky hotel. The journey through mudded roads is definitely one to experience, like doing an extreme off-road but in an old taxi.  

Overall our first week living in Bolga has been amazing and we’re all excited to see what the next few weeks will bring. 

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