Friday, February 14, 2014

Fighting the Good Fight, and Getting Schooled

Although we are well aware that lots of our work is a contribution to longer-term processes and that in many cases we will not get to see the fruits of our labour, nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing your efforts make an instantaneous, perceptible difference, and over the last couple of weeks, the Mandem have been lucky enough to experience just that. Alongside our longer-term work alongside the Sandema Disabled Peoples Organisation and our preparations for the Independence Day Football Match, we have been busy implementing our plans to run free, inclusive, evening classes for young people in the community, which is the first time such a scheme has been successfully established locally.

Centred about Rob’s karate sessions and Ollie Ashmore’s performing arts workshops, we have been holding regular classes in a local community-hall and attendance has been steadily increasing week-by-week. As well as having the slightly surreal effect of replacing English with Japanese as the main lingua franca in our interactions with the local youth, we feel that the classes have been a great success so far, and it would seem that we are not the only people to think so. Word of our work has reached the Paramount Chief who is very approving of the classes; so much so, that he has whispered in a few ears and reduced the price we were being charged to rent the community hall by 75%.

Whilst the primary aim of the classes is for the participants to enjoy themselves and socialise in a safe, supervised environment, we are also intending to capitalise on this opportunity to engage with the youth by expanding the scope of the sessions to include an explicitly educational element, discussing issues such as citizenship, hygiene, and sexual health.

As well as searching for ways of ensuring the sustainability of these classes following our departure, we have been paying regular visits to local primary schools, acting as teaching assistants in English, Maths, and Physical Education classes. The task of interacting with a large, unruly group of Ghanaian children can initially be a little daunting, but gradually we have adapted to the different standards of classroom etiquette and methods of teaching, and look forward to our visits to the schools as the highlights of our working week.

We were also privileged enough to be invited to Sandema Hospital to observe the visit of an eye surgeon, who incidentally had trained in Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London. What we didn't realise was that we would not just be meeting and greeting the doctor, we would be donning scrubs, joining him in theatre, and watching him performing cataract operations on his un-anaesthetised patients, which some members of the team coped with better than others.

Nevertheless, this weekend, all of the Sandem Mandem, traumatised or not, will have a chance to recuperate and recover in the dizzying bright lights of Tamale where we can enjoy the luxuries of Western food, swimming pools, Lebanese shawarma wraps, and buy cheese and other deluxe items which are unobtainable in the Upper East.

I guess we’re kind of looking forward to seeing our other ICS colleagues too.

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