Friday, November 18, 2016

Cultural Differences

David Achuroa, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator
 at PCBR (left), and Nelson (right)
APINA NELSON is my name. I am known as ‘Prince of Peace’ because I am calm and I always encourage people to get along well. I’m from a small town named Chuchuliga-Namonsa in the Builsa North District (UER) and located, and raised in a comfortable home by lovely parents. I have a physical challenge but that hasn’t stopped me. Even though things were bit difficult, I was encouraged  to press on towards a goal and here I am today. After my secondary level of education, l came across a lot of opportunities including International Citizen Service (ICS). l decided to go for ICS because the LIFE Project stands to raise awareness of persons living with disabilities (PWDS) and l was very happy to work with these peoples to create more freedom and justice for PWDS.

There are nine volunteers and two team leaders working on the LIFE Project currently. Six of us are Ghanaian; the other five are from the UK. So far, we have done seven good weeks of work, raising awareness of persons with disabilities through the radio, churches, mosque, and also organising inclusive class room training for teachers in order to provide freedom and justice for students living with disabilities in the rural schools. From the beginning of placement till now, we have been doing great working together with effective communication and we are also moving forward with our team bonding. We have good relationships with each other and our beginning to understand each other’s cultural values.                                                 

However, there are still challenges and misunderstandings because of cultural differences and I will share a few of these. In the first place, in the UK culture, asking for some things without the word please is unacceptable whilst in Ghana it is sometimes normal. Again, greeting someone in the UK without the person knowing you, you would be surprised and maybe suspicious of their intentions. In Ghana, it is important to greet people – particularly those people older than you or of higher status – because that shows your respect and obedience towards them. I have also learned that in the UK, young people are taught to think critically and question ideas openly. This can cause conflict, as voicing opinion without invitation can been seen as rude by Ghanaians, but British people might think that if you don’t vocally share your views, you do not want to communicate with them.

Nelson (far right) and other LIFE Project volunteers
at the Calvary Community Chapel
Another, more fundamental contrast, is the differing attitudes of Ghanaian and British people towards religion. Not all people from the UK belong to a religious group but in Ghana almost ninety percent are religious. Whilst other cultural differences are quite small, the differences which have their origins in religion are large and have really astonished me. For example, homosexuality between two men or two women is legal in the UK but it is totally prohibited in Ghanaian law. Leaders from all the main religions in Ghana – Christianity, Islam, and traditional religion – speak against homosexuality on the grounds that it is immoral.

Although we are confronted with many cultural differences and frustrations due to language, we are at peace and we work together as a team to build up the rights and freedom of PWDs. We alert people that disability is not a curse, nor is it an evil spirit, and make people understand that anyone can be affected by disability at any time. Hi all, let’s us not forget that, persons with disabilities are created from God and also have a plan and purpose on earth. Let’s have compassion for them and help them to carry out their day to day activities. Fellow Africans, l plead with you to do your best to include our beloved brothers sisters with disabilities who are facing various challenges in our regions to participate fully in our activities.

In conclusion, l want to use this platform to thank ICS and my team leaders. I also want to profusely encourage volunteers on the LIFE project which stands for (Local Integration For Empowerment) and all volunteers on ICS to drive for maximum impact with their work. Let’s not lose hope or be discouraged but stand firmly and confidentially to fight for the rights of people living with disabilities. Therefore, let’s come together as one and treat persons with disabilities with respect, care, fairness, honour, equality, affection, and integrity because disability is never inability.

Thank You. 



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