Wednesday, May 4, 2016

LIFE in Sandema (by George Tall and Mohammed Fouad)

Coming to Sandema after 3 days of in country training in Tamale was exhilarating. On our way to our community we dropped off our other cohort members at their projects. Seeing how quickly the countryside and communities diversified meant each person’s view of what we were approaching was left to their imagination; would it be like the busy streets of Bolgatanga or like the quiet, tucked away, dusty roads of Sirigu? The anticipation built until only the LIFE (Local Integration for Empowerment) team was left on the bus and rolled into the vibrant, close-knit community of Sandema.
After settling into our host-homes and exploring the community over the weekend, we moved into our office at the Presbyterian Community Based Rehabilitation Centre. Presbyterian CBR are our project partners. Their aims revolve around including disabled people more in the community and helping them build sustainable lifestyles for themselves through a range of community actions, including inclusive activities and sensitizing the communities around Sandema on disability rights and issues.  The office is at the top of a short hill which would be a meagre challenge in the balmy (the Ghanaians might call it freezing) English spring weather, but is an entirely different challenge under the weight of the 40C heat we have slowly been adjusting to.
Work kicked off immediately. By the end of the first day we had planned our first week and begun to establish what the cohort before us had aimed to do and achieved. Our project has three Clubs – Boys Club, Girls Club, and ICT Club - two research topics, and a handful of different community and school sensitisations. Whilst planning our first week of running the clubs we began our entry into the community, meeting such people as the police, doctors at the hospital, a multitude of schools, and the paramount Chief of the Builsa District – a good humoured retired educationalist. One evening we paid a visit to the radio station (Radio Builsa) to introduce ourselves on the air. It was privilege to be able to advertise our work to the whole of the Upper Eastern region.
The people of Sandema are enthusiastic about our presence and take a great interest in our work. It is impossible to avoid going through the town without a multitude of people waving and greeting us. The children here have a phrase they use whenever they see the UK Volunteers. In our first week when we were visiting schools we became used to an epic cluster of children pouring from their classrooms screaming “smally smally”. For some it is the first time they have ever seen someone from the UK – I wonder if the Ghanaian Volunteers feel left out.
One thing that is a bit of a problem is the UK Volunteers’s accent. At times their accent is not all that clear to the In-Country Volunteers’s and so what they say is very difficult to understand and comprehend. At times the In-Country Volunteers’s step in to help clarify what is being said for one another and so it isn’t a barrier to our teamwork. One of the biggest cultural differences we have learnt about is how people from the UK and people from Ghana invite each other out. In Ghana if you invite someone out it is taken that you would pay for the whole meal or drinks whereas in the UK you may usually split the bill or awkwardly dance around the matter until one person pays.

In Sandema the days are long, hot, and serene. The UK Volunteers and some of the Southern Ghanaians marvel at our surroundings; from the long, winding, dusty roads to the old women watching shops from the shade that is found rarely in the middle of the day. The whole team is excited by our work and enthusiastic to make as much impact as possible so that when we eventually leave Sandema we have made our message heard – disability is not inability.

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent post; you've really given us a flavour of your first few weeks. Look forward to hearing from you again. Say Hi to Tim from me!