Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Life Outside Home is Challenging, But Making an Impact is Amazing

This environment is unfamiliar! Can I cope with this for ten (10) weeks? How about my family? How about the fun activities I had with friends? The restrictions are too much!!

These were questions lingering through my mind after the first three days on placement. The reality dawned on me–“life outside home is challenging”.

The key question then was; should I give up? As I sat in my room, lost in thoughts, my eyes flashed my ICS T-shirt hanging directly opposite me. The back had an inscription “challenge yourself to change your world” There again I realised, after all, the ICS journey was a challenge in its entirety. I was motivated to keep moving.

The first week was full of planning the activities for the period. It was fun and full of expectations. But I wanted to make an impact.

We got into full blown activities in the fourth week after initial research on sexual reproductive health. Our visit to Nantong kurugu was revealing and re-energizing. I recovered my initial enthusiasm as I pronounced to myself, this is the ICS I desired to work with. The community demonstrated in conspicuous terms the impact that ICS (previous volunteers) together with the project partner had on them.

Volunteers Alhassan and Nikki receiving feedback from the Children's Community Club in Nanton- Kurugu

Members of the children’s club were more open and willing to share on sexual reproductive issues than my experience from other parts of Tamale. Their desire to learn and impact other lives was welcoming. But it did not end there. My timidity begun fading away as I exhibited some level of confidence as I got involved in the interaction. I also felt important in the team and realised how crucial it was to have people to support you. What a glorious opportunity from ICS!

I knew I could make an impact!

I knew we could make an impact!

I knew lives depended on us.

And I realised: “Making an impact was amazing”.

Volunteer Alhassan after the Children's Community Club in Nanton-Kurugu

By: Alhassan Yahaya, Volunteer, RAINS

Friday, August 4, 2017

Jeff's Experience

Jeff’s Experience

Week 1From the beginning I felt very happy I was going to work as a volunteer, arriving at Radach on the first day alongside my fellow ICS volunteers. I was already really excited to meet people from different regions and countries, and walking into the room, full of welcoming faces made me all the more excited.I found my seat, alongside my fellow RAINS volunteers, whom I got to know over the duration of the day, as we were being introduced to our project. Following this, we were told that, that very evening we would be meeting our host families, whom we would be spending the next 10 weeks living with alongside our counterparts. So, after the day of training was completed we awaited the arrival of our host families.The journey from Radach to the home of my host family was quite far, however this did not detract from their beautiful home, and lovely family, whom we spent the evening getting to know over dinner.One of my favorite parts of the training over the following days at Radach was the food – wow it was amazing! And we ate a lot of it as a result. Work Begins: Monday 17th July 2017During the first week, we worked hard as Team Unity, bonding through our mutual desire for the project to succeed. Consequently, on Friday afternoon, we all went home for the weekend happy. Not only because we had officially become team unity, but because the project had finally begun!

Our First Guided Learning DayIn the second week, we also had a guided learning day around volunteering. This was led by Monalisa, Nikki and myself. I felt that it was a great success, and went really well. We had fun activities such as quizzes and debates to compliment the important topics we were broaching. These were important in getting everyone involved in the day, and making it enjoyable and educational for all. I loved it.

Week 3 – Our first meetingIn the third week, we had lots of work to do, as we were organizing a day with PPAG, NTCD’s in order to train the Peer Educators. It went really well, with our whole team working hard to organize it. The day itself was a success. It was interesting and educational, and I feel like we all really learned a lot. We used the whole day for the meeting which meant that it was also very tiring, but definitely worth it.

Week 4Now in the fourth week, we are planning to do our first community entry this coming Thursday. A lot of activities will be taking place on this day. This includes our meeting with the chief first and foremost, overseeing the Children’s Community Club and using the questionnaire’s we previously wrote around the Kayeyei, teenage pregnancy, Non Traditional Condom Distributors (NTCD’s) and Healthcare to retain information from the community of Nantonkurugu. Our team is currently doing really well to organize this day, working hard to achieve our goals to make this day and all the following ones a success.

What I love about my experience so far…I really love this project, as it has opened my eyes to a lot of issues in the world, as well as allowing me to work with lots of different and interesting people. I have also been using the work we have been doing to learn new skills which will benefit me in the future. My fellow volunteers are fun to be with, as we are constantly learning from one another. Our team leaders are also very hard-working, not only regarding the project, but also when it comes to keeping our team active, happy and united. As a result of this project, I think I will become more confident in myself and my abilities. However, my main aim within this project is to make a difference in the lives of others. A difference I aim to continue making even after the project has finished.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Come Rain or Shine

The rainy season in Tamale is in full effect. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that such a religious country would suffer from rains of such biblical proportions. The rain can be as merciless as it is surprising, cutting off power, destroying roads, and claiming lives in the process. However, the past two weeks have not at all been reflected by the weather; birthdays and project work have provided a deluge of opportunities to laugh and learn.

The realization has also struck that living in Tamale will always be a learning experience for an outsider. However, whilst societal norms vary wildly between Britain and Ghana, one thing that has become abundantly clear is the overwhelmingly welcoming nature of the locals. Greetings are exchanged between complete strangers, as if they were lifelong friends, a concept that is sadly now alien to most Westerners.

The RAINS team have been hard at work, our planning phase is now complete, and we have swung into the meat of the project with a renewed passion. Already we have had meetings with local reproductive health organisations and community members, and our first community entry begins next week. Special mention must be made to individuals in the team who have persevered through illness and homesickness, and still have the strength to contribute with enthusiasm and care, they are a testament to themselves, and to the programme as a whole.

The quartet of birthdays have been a blessing amongst the project and the weather, featuring homemade cakes, party games, and a lot of dancing! It has been lovely to relax, unwind, and to watch people from entirely different cultures celebrate in unison. Parties in Ghana are often whole family affairs, and regularly end in someone being soaked in water. Music is an essential part of the experience, and it appears that louder equals better is the general rule of thumb. Interspersed between important project work, these parties have been a true gift.

So much has happened in the past two weeks that it feels futile to try and condense the experiences down into a single blog post; it has been a whirlwind of elements, people, noise, and joy, but to sign off for the week, here is a photo of us having a swim in the rain.


Originally posted on clewics.wordpress.com

Friday, July 28, 2017

Straight Outta Ghana

Colourful. Unique. Passionate. Are all words that spring to mind when considering Ghana. Specifically the city of Tamale, within which project RAINS is situated. A city such as this, as we quickly realised, allows one to become wholly immersed in its culture. Such a society carries many unique customs, within which a love for both the people and the place itself evolve.

One can draw several similarities between London and Tamale. The myriad of smells and sounds, for example, that characterise each specific part of town you find yourself exploring. Lost in the hustle and bustle of this lively city. The similarities do not cease there. For with great hustle and bustle comes great amounts of traffic. Said traffic includes the mind-blowing concept of line taxis and the fleets of motorbikes, all accompanied by the infamous Yellow Yellow’s. Such modes of transport which make up the basis of all background noise in Tamale, create an ambiance not dissimilar to that of London.


However, the foundations of such a city are carried by its culture, beautifully unique to any other. These traditions originate from an unspoken agreement of mutual respect between all, aided by the sense of community. Such a culture allows you to feel at ease even when you are 3,924 miles from your physical home. I say physical, as the emotional connections one is easily able to form with both your host family and the people of Tamale creates a united feeling. A feeling which captures the culture of Tamale. A feeling which allows you to become a part of the community immediately. A feeling which makes the Ghanaian culture such a pleasure to experience.

The people, specifically, make up the untarnished City of Tamale. Common greetings which are overlooked in the vast majority of the world contribute to the core beliefs ingrained in Ghanaian society. The phrase ‘how are you’, for example, carries an unexpected amount of gravitas. Demonstrating a general caring for any and all others you may encounter on your morning journey to work. Other morning encounters can be less…verbal. This is referring to the wildlife, such as the goats, existent in every area of Tamale. Literally. Every. Area. Making them the sort of pigeon of Ghana, albeit much cuter. I, personally, see the goats as a second community within the already bustling population of Tamale. They live within the communities, and even create those awkward street encounters where you have to sort of manoeuvre yourself around one another.

Both communities, verbal and non-verbal, contribute to the overall experience of Ghana. Specifically, Tamale. An experience I have cherished thus far, and one I would most definitely never change. It has, without a doubt, come with its challenges, but with the aid of a fantastic team, supportive community, and spring rolls, I look forward to what the next seven weeks has to hold. 

By Florence  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Let the Project Begin!

As soon as we left the airport in the North of Ghana, there was an overwhelming realization that we had entered a different world and that was in no way a bad feeling. On the car journey to the hotel (where we would be staying for the duration of our in-country training) we gazed out the window and took in the unfamiliar surroundings. I and my fellow volunteers saw a great number of bikes, women carrying buckets of supplies on their heads and a flock of goats that were free to roam the streets of Tamale. To say that we were tired from a two-day plane journey would be an understatement but never the less we were glad to meet more of the volunteers at the hotel Radach, who we had gotten to know very well at the UK training day.

As the first week progressed we soaked up as much as we could of the Ghanaian culture. On Thursday the 13th of July 2017 we were treated to a drum and dance performance which was hugely energetic and fun and by the end we were on our feet dancing along to the drum beats. I even got to have a go on one of the bongos which was really cool. Then everyone finally departed to their host homes.  

My host family was very welcoming and were eager to help, which I was very grateful for. My host mother who we call auntie speaks very good English which helped calm my fears of there being a language barrier. To my amazement I have begun to like spicy food. The sauces they use, mixed together with fried rice and chicken makes for some very tasty dishes.

Project RAINS is also shaping up to be quite an ambitious undertaking. The group will be going to various communities and raising awareness of subjects such as teenage pregnancy and ways in which it can be prevented, which will have a guided learning day run by volunteers, Florence and Tina. Disability which will be headed by Alhassan, Jeff and Blake, focusing on educating the younger generations on the different types of disability and how they can help integrate the physically and mentally challenged into  society. Every one of us is itching to get started and make a small but significant difference. There also some promising potential to go on various cultural day learning trips, to the Larabanga mosque to delve into its fascinating history, all being looked into by volunteers Chris and Tina.

The UK counterparts have also found the first week of the project ‘’Exciting and interesting” full of researching and participation. By the end of the placement the Ghanaian counterparts hope to gain more confidence in public speaking and leaving a positive impact to the lives of the people in the various communities. The Ghanaian counterparts have also expressed how they have enjoyed getting to know their UK team mates. I also think the same could be said for the UK counterparts. It has been an overall eye opening and surreal experience so far, from the extremely friendly locals, to the cars without seatbelts! We have a feeling that the best is yet to come.




Monday, July 3, 2017

The one with hindsight: 10 things we wish we’d known about Tamale in week one

                We’re now approaching the end of our project and have a lot of work to complete. It’s been a wild ride from the moment we left Heathrow. On hindsight, we wondered what we would be telling ourselves at the beginning of the project. So here are ten things we wish we’d know about Tamale in week one.

1)      Branch out your food options; ask the locals where the buy the best yams. The best food will always be in the most unexpected place.

Isobel, Katie, Daniel and Nuru at the radio station

2)      Eggy bread for breakfast is one of the best things about Ghana. It’s basically an omelette in a pan-fried, buttery baguette. Establish the eggy bread stations early on so you can make an early trip before work.

3)      Prepare to become overly-friendly. Even the natural extrovert will become overwhelmed by the amount of attention you receive. Just revel in all the attention you get and take the opportunity to have a few great conversations along the way. Those chance meetings are among the moments you’ll never forget.

4)      Buy a spare phone out here; you can get a very nice little smartphone for a fraction of the cost in Ghana.

5)      Ghanaians are very passionate people; you’ll have marriage proposals and constant requests to be your friend. Take it all with a pinch of salt.
Bronte and Katie in Nanton-Kurug

6)      Don’t bring so many clothes, shampoo and conditioner: you can find it all in Tamale. Albeit it is quite expensive with the budget you are given, but don’t expect to be completely isolated from your home comforts.

7)      But bring as much hand sanitiser as you possibly can. It’s very expensive and very necessary.

8)      Bring memory sticks as well. Group sharing of documents becomes a nightmare when you have to do it over the internet.

9)      Start buying fabric and going to the seamstress early. You’ll be tempted to put it off for weeks to search for the perfect fabric, but when you finally get around to it, it’s addictive and you’ll wish you had more time to experiment with the Ghanaian style.

The Team in Nayorku

10)   Finally, don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on the project. This was reinforced to us at the beginning, but it was only by the end that we really got what it meant to take initiative. Take time to learn what the project is, and then start putting faith in your own opinions.

By Bronte


The one where they all go to Ghana

                Welcome to Tamale, Ghana. Where else can you get a taxis for twenty pence, wake up naturally at six in the morning and feel cool in 30 degree heat? We, Cohort Seven of International Service have been in Tamale – a city in the northern region of Ghana – for just over a week and already feel completed immersed in Ghanaian city life.

Team Leader Katie's Birthday!

                It’s been a wild ride from the moment we left Heathrow up until now. We arrived in Tamale on the Thursday night and met our wonderful host families. We’ve learnt to navigate the taxis system in Tamale, which functions as a car-based version of the London Underground. We’ve learnt the language and the many different greetings which are used in Ghana, when you will undoubtedly use the wrong answer many times. We’ve learnt when mangos are good for eating (and when they are good, they are good). And finally, we’ve learnt about sustainable development in Ghana and what we actually came here to do.

                We are working for a charity called RAINS (Regional Advisory Information Network System) on a project called ‘Safe choices’ that aims to educate children on how to make better long-term decision for their future. For us, this mainly involves encouraging children to stay in school and teaching them about sexual health. Also we go into the communities to make sure the people there are provided with accurate information about sexual and reproductive health.
Emily, Bronte and Katie in Nanton-Kurugu

This cohort we are beginning to investigate the rates of teenage pregnancy in communities and, by the end of it, we hope to have gathered enough information to establish the first women’s community club. We will also be establishing more Children’s Community Clubs in the communities and doing a lot of baseline research. We believe its important that the children have the right information at the right age but we also believe its important that parents have the information too. So a lot of research will be done on how we can spread information to people and make sure that the work we are doing is sustainable.

                Ghana is an incredible place to live. Everyday something surprises you. Hopefully we’ll be able to wrap our heads around living here soon. But even in the first seven days we’ve had many experiences that we will never forget, who knows what the next three months will bring! 

The One Where Langa Forgave Us!

As part of our job with RAINS we work with five different communities focusing on keeping children in school and sexual and reproductive health. The communities we work with are Nayorku, Langa, Nanton-Kurugu, Zokuga and Gbimsi. For a few years now our relationship with Langa has been strained and the past cohorts have worked towards rebuilding that relationship with them.
                On the 26th of May the RAINS teams travelled to Langa to establish a new children’s community club and take the biggest step in two years to working with the community again. It was our second trip to the community this cohort following an initial proposal to establish the children's community club. Being able to assure Langa professionalism and making sure safeguarding measures were put into place for the wellbeing of children was a huge key to our success to re-entering the community.
Sway, Illiasu and Emily running the children's community club

                On this day we were able to enter Langa and meet with the wonderful peer educators willing to help us at the school and also a group of local women eager  to discuss establishing a women's community club. We decided to keep the children's community club focused on two essential topics for our children's community club: Malaria and personal hygiene.
We started the programme with a talk about Malaria, we saw this as an important issue because of the rainy season. The children were educated on the causes, signs and symptoms, treatment and ways to prevent the breeding grounds of mosquitoes. However, the team focused our attention on the importance of sleeping under a treated mosquito net and destroying the breeding places of these mosquitoes through keeping the environment they live in clean.
The Malaria talk was followed by a Hygiene game to demonstrate to the children how disease can spread from person to person by hand by not keeping them clean. Therefore, we realize that there is a need to educate them on hygiene because it is said that cleanliness is the next to Goodliness for every society to develop. We then enlightened them on personal hygiene, types, benefits and consequences of poor hygiene. From our research we observed that hand washing can prevent most of the diseases around our region.  Proper hand washing was demonstrated to them to also keep their hands clean and safe.
The team with the children of Langa

The day was lovely and the children wanted to have us the whole day, but time wasn’t on our side to pursue that. There was a final bye-bye with children running after our bus.

Written by Godsway and Iliasu

The day was lovely as children wanted to have us the whole day, but time wasn’t on our side to pursue that. There was a final bye-bye with children running after our bus. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

The one with the four-day wedding and a baby naming

                The differences between a British wedding and a Ghanaian wedding are evident from the start. Firstly, there no need for an invitation, because you are invited. Everyone – even if it is your second counsin’s ten times removed neighbour’s nephew – is invited. The whole of Kalpohini (an area of Tamale) was shut for business on Sunday. And a month before-hand there were posters plastered everywhere advertising the wedding, as if it was going to be the next block-buster to hit the cinema. We were told weddings are a key social event in everyone’s calendar and it was promised to be the highlight of our time in Ghana. So, naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to attend.

The wedding lasted for four days. It began on a Friday and finished on a Monday. Throughout the weekend a huge operation takes place all around the neighbourhood, as the meals are cooked for the attendees. Everybody comes together to help with the preparations. We woke up on Sunday morning to find our house had been turned into a cooking operation on an industrial scale. There were trees literally being fed sideways into the fires to fuel the massive feast being prepared.

Once you get to the actual ceremony, the first thing you will notice is the myriad of colours. All the women have traditional Ghanaian cloth cut into a stunning shapely dresses. The men stride up in Islamic robes of white and the bride herself wore a yellow dress embedded with golden sequins and hands adorned with henna designs. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get the dress code and was told off by a few of the women for not ‘wearing [our] cloth’. Therefore, should you ever get the opportunity to attend a wedding, make sure to get a highly colourful dress made for you by one of Tamale’s many seamstresses. For one you’ll avoid the embarrassment we encountered; secondly, you’ll never again be able to wear such a bold dress as you can sport to a Ghananian wedding.

                And now on to what actually happens at the wedding. It is very much like a British wedding, you get the opportunity to take photos with the bride and very unlike a British wedding you will get money stuck onto your forehead in the middle of dancing with most of the congregation watching you. Across the street peoples’ back-gardens were open to the public and in each house there was another little party going on. Towards the end of the evening we went onto a bus and were driven a good half an hour away to the groom’s house…ahem palace. It was only then we realised that the groom was the grandson of a former president of Ghana – (and the first functioning toilet we’d used in weeks!). We danced a bit more and got dragged into some photoshoots.

                To conclude the weekend we attended a baby naming ceremony. In Ghana a child only receives its name seven days after it was born. The seventh day is when the priest attends to the child and the name is announced to the whole family. Again, free food, photos with the child and greeting the entire of our host family’s community.

This weekend highlighted the wonderful sense of community that exists here in Tamale. All weddings are a party for everyone, every child is everyone’s child to celebrate and everyone contributes to the labour. In Ghana they often say when you enter their home; ‘you are invited’. It not only means you are welcome, but you are welcome to eat their food, dine with them and stay however long is needed. This wonderful idea of hospitality is so defining of Ghanaian cultural that, in the end, it means a few strangers from England can feel right at home in the middle of Northern Ghana.


By Bronte Wright

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

It always seems impossible until it is done

The RAINS team have spent the last 11 weeks working in the Nelson Mandela Development Centre, in Tamale, so feel that the quote ‘it always seems impossible until its done’ by the famous South African president, helps sum up our placement nicely.

The team has had some significant setbacks along the way to get to this point. However here we are 11 weeks on, stronger than ever! We have achieved a total of 6 Children’s Community Clubs in 3 different communities in which we have talked about a variety of sexual health related topics, such as personal hygeine, puberty, STIs and teenage pregnancy. We have done some serious research, wrote report after report after report, a Peer Educator and Non-Traditional Condom Distrbutor Training and a whole community sensitisation.

It is fair to say that 11 weeks ago, all of this would of seemed impossible. Three months really does fly by and before we knew it, we were reaching the end of our journey. We are now all looking forward to returning home, whether it’s somewhere else in Ghana or the UK. Our Accra volunteers are looking forward to arriving on the beach while the UK volunteers are really just looking forward to some chicken nuggets.
To say good bye on the final blog post of this cohort we have decided to reflect on our placement together.

What have we learnt? How will this help us when we return home?

One thing we can all agree on is that we have had a great time and will miss each other so much! A trip to Ghana 2018 is definitely on the cards for this team RAINS, we just can’t seem to live without each other!

Although it seemed impossible at times, we have done the work we needed too to help make our mark on our communities so it’s a good bye and a pat on the back for us!

Written by Beth Crawford