Monday, January 23, 2017

A New LIFE Begins in Sandema, Ghana, for Team 19

On Monday 9th January, the in-country volunteers and UK volunteers met each other for the first time. Over the next three months we will comprise cohort six, team 19 of Project LIFE. Project LIFE is a sustainable development programme run by International Service and is helping to integrate members of the disabled community in Sandema, Ghana, into civil society. Approximately 40% of the population of Sandema are diagnosed with a disability, and therefore the voluntary work we do will have a significant impact on the community.

Cohort six, team 19, is a culturally diverse and tight-knit team. With six volunteers from Ghana and six from the UK, including two team leaders, we have managed to exchange a great deal of cultural knowledge, including our political priorities, religious beliefs and our general behaviour. We met at the training centre in Tamale, Northern Region, where we were given lectures to prepare us for the next three months, as well as brief us on the potential threats to our health and security.

We arrived in Sandema on Thursday 12th and were warmly welcomed by our host families. All 12 members have settled well into their new homes and have started the process of community integration; activities have included attending church, watching football at the local “cinema”, conversing with the locals, and learning the local Buli language.  The UK volunteers have learned that Ghanaians are naturally polite and relaxed, showing levels of affection that are not common on the streets of Britain. Sandema consequently has a very strong sense of community, with residents always prepared to stop and converse with a friend. Their willingness to commit a large portion of the day towards relationship building has led to the development of “Ghana-Man-Time” (the delayed version of Greenwich Mean Time). The UK volunteers have adapted well to the relaxed approach of Sandemans. The local children have been particularly keen to greet us, showing a great desire to be part of our team photos. Our experiences during the first week of work have set a great precedent for the coming three months.

The first week of our project in Sandema has been focused around team management and preparation. Building a strong and cohesive team is integral in achieving our project objectives. We have therefore dedicated a lot of our time towards understanding each other’s strengths, fallibilities and interests. Most importantly, however, we have organised our team into various departments, including the Communications Team, Radio Team, Monitoring and Evaluation Team, the Boys Club Team and the Girls Club Team. Each department will work closely with one another, as well as our project partners, to meet our objectives. The activities planned for the forthcoming week will improve our identity and knowledge of the community, which will enable us to work efficiently and effectively once our budget has been approved. On Friday we met the chief of the Bulisa district. He welcomed us kindly into his district and we departed feeling humbled by his hospitality. Chieftaincy institutions in Ghana are commonly regarded as superior to elected politicians, so it is important to have the approval of our local chief before conducting our project activities.

Team LIFE is a loyal, united, and motivated workforce that will undoubtedly serve the local community well. All members of our team are passionately committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities, and some have extensive experience working with them. The team has all the ingredients required to achieve our goals and objectives over the coming 10 weeks.
log 1.ek One

Oliver Hounsfield, 18

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