Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Farewell to Sandema

This week we've all been working hard in the office, sorting out end of placement paperwork and doing our final bits of work. Here are our final reflections on our time in Sandema...

Emily - I’m afraid that I’ve had a rather painful separation from Sandema, CBR and all the people I’ve grown to love there, as I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to any of them! I’ve been detained in Tamale and am flying home a week early because I have a little bit of a broken leg, obtained by slipping over in front of Melcom (supermarket) in what I’m sure must be least dramatic injury ever.I am exceedingly grateful, however, to have had 10 spectacular weeks in this beautiful country with such amazing people. I can’t pick out a favourite work memory from the haze of typing, meeting, greeting, cleaning, feeding, laughing, planning and even dancing, but my favourite memory from the trip in its entirety has to be standing on the very top of the sacred Kintampo waterfall in the sunshine, with my fellow volunteers, just watching, and feeling like there was no place we’d rather be.
Goodbye Ghana, and Kubasa!

Lee - For me, the ICS experience has been challenging but rewarding. It’s been the longest I’ve been away from home and coming to Ghana was definitely going out my comfort zone. The work has been really interesting and it feel like we’ve started to make a tangible difference. Our partner organisation, CBR, plays such a vital role in ensuring people with disabilities are integrated into the community and have access to the right healthcare and education and it's been great to support their work. My favourite moments have been the 5 am starts for New Era’s production. Having a laugh with the women and seeing them produce is simply great.  Apart from our battles with paperwork, work in the office has been interesting and stimulating. I feel like our team is more like a little family now (with Bolga being our extended family and Tamale our distant cousins). I’ve really enjoyed the Group Reflection sessions discussing issues around development and the world. The placement has been marred by a few organisational and financial issues and a surprisingly high incidence of punctures, but otherwise my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Luckily, we've managed to travel at weekends has meant that we’ve seen quite a bit of Ghana, which is such a beautiful and lively country. I think I’ve grown in terms of confidence, skills and capabilities and ICS has definitely made me want to do more volunteering in the future.

Gifty – I was so excited when I was called for the International Service assessment – it was wonderful. The questions were really interesting and gave me the opportunity to think critically and also analyse issues. I was also totally overwhelmed when I received the congratulation message from International Service about my volunteer application. The training in Tamale went successfully even though it was very challenging, but by the grace of God everything was successful. I also enjoyed my stay in Sandema as a volunteer, because the LIFE project has enabled me to learn so many things about disability, how to live with them, my previous perceptions and through our sensitisation programmes my attitude towards them has changed. The placement has also given me the opportunity to work with the UK volunteers, this is actually my first time of interacting with British people, and I was so excited. I have learnt a lot from my ICS placement and I would encourage everybody to volunteer with International Service. Also, my serious challenge has to do with the distance between where I stay and the workplace, due to the cycling involved. Volunteering with International Service has helped me improve my strong communication skills, high level of confidence, ability to think critically and analyses issues. In the future, I would like to involve myself in more volunteering jobs so that I continue to improve, learn more and contribute to development!

Joana – I visited the DPOs with the team to find out their challenges as People with Disabilities in their communities and homes. I felt sorry when I heard how people mistreat them even in their homes. I made an impact by helping the team carry out our sensitisation
programme – I went to Balansa Presbyterian Church to discuss how they should accept People with Disabilities as we are all human beings and we are all made in the likeness of God. I also met with the traditional leaders to help change the minds of the people towards People with Disabilities in the Builsa Land. From there Amy and I supported the DPOs to write proposals for the District Assembly to effectively involve People with Disabilities in the Feok Festival. I also helped with the clean-up of Sandema DPO. This project has helped build my knowledge and changed my perception of people living with disabilities. I have enjoyed working in Sandema and also enjoyed working with the UK volunteers. They are very lovely, kind and helpful to me as well as the team. Thanks to IS for giving me the opportunity to work with them and also to build up my skills. My biggest challenge has been the lack of resources for field work which has made our work very difficult. Apart from this I have enjoyed my work. I am now applying for more voluntary work because my mind has been opened up to things I never knew. Through this programme, I can now take people through the sensitisation programme, stand up in front of traditional leaders who are more respected than me and also have gained the passion to help the needy, especially people with Disabilities.

Juliana – Sandema is a lovely town – I have access to good food although it is of a high price. The LIFE project has three parts – integrating people with Disabilities, New Era Soap production and the Girls’ Club. During my three months I was massively working on the Sandema Girls’ Club while supporting my colleagues on the other areas. I took Girls’ Club sessions on Leadership and People with Disabilities, which improved my confidence and professional skills. The passion and commitment I have for PWDs in the community has only grown following the stories they shared about how they were excluded from all the community activities. Though Sandema is a town, getting access to trotros apart from market day is a big challenge. The roads are full of potholes and dust. Also getting to work in rush hour on the bicycle has not been easy for me. Disability is not Inability – it was very amazing seeing disabled women engage in soap production. The women are blind, deaf or physically challenged. The LIFE Project in Sandema has inspired me on the great things People with Disabilities do in the Builsa districts with the help of CBR. I have come to understand that a little commitment can make a difference in the life of other people. After my placement I have realised that everyone can do something when given equal support. With the experience I got through working in partnership with CBR I would like to devote myself in volunteering to make change.

Amy -  It’s still hard to believe that my time in Sandema is almost over. Who knew that 11 weeks can go so quickly? My time on the LIFE project has been full of ups and downs, challenges and successes, lots of sunshine and the very occasional rain, hard work and fun times, and some amazing friendships. It has been an honour to have the opportunity to work alongside such a special development programme, and I hope that my time here has made even just a small difference. The work that CBR does is inspiring; making such a difference with so little resources and so many challenges. Persons with disabilities face so many problems in their daily lives in the Builsa region; they experience stigmatisation and ill-treatment from their families and the wider community, they face barriers to access services and are denied opportunities because of their disabilities. But the collective strength and hope amongst persons with disabilities and the organisations that work towards ensuring their rights and equality, like CBR, instil me with faith that there will be lasting change in the Builsa region.  I feel that the sensitisation programme that we have begun implementing will make a real difference, and I hope the project continues to advocate and champion for the rights of all the inspiring people I’ve met with disabilities in the region.

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