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Monday, September 30, 2013

The Start Of A New Chapter!

First impressions, expectations and excitements from team RAINS

The new dream team - (left to right) Hafiz, Carmen, Matt, Alix, Vicky & Justice
Our UK Voluteers - Alix, Vicky, Niki and Carmen

            We arrive in Ghana and our first impressions are of how beautiful it is; the expansive sky is huge above the low rise buildings, with wide, red dirt roads that stretch across the flat plains to the distant horizon, weaving between lush green fields and foliage; laughing schoolboys plummet down them on their bicycles, scooting between beeping taxis and women in amazingly colourful dresses, gracefully carrying their wares upon their heads on the way to market, who smile and wave at us as we walk past, beaming and overwhelmed with excitement to be here. 
            Our first week in Tamale has been full of moments like this; wonderful moments of being happily overwhelmed by all the new sights, smells, sounds, and tastes. And over all, the impression from everyone on project RAINS (that's Alix, Vicky, Niki and Carmen) that it is an incredibly happy and friendly environment to be in; all of us feel instantly at home and comfortable where we are.
            As for our initial expectations, whilst we would all love to say we could change so much whilst working here, we know the realistic expectation of our time spent here is based on our work being a small cog in a large wheel of change. A real highlight of the week was learning more about our partners, RAINS, as Hafiz and Justice, the national volunteers, and Gloria, project staff member, explained to us about the projects we will be working on with them, setting up a farmers co-op to prevent boys dropping out of school for livelihoods reasons, and organising a cultural performance to teach boys and girls about contraceptives, to prevent girls dropping out due to pregnancy. On both sides, it seems RAINS are doing amazing work that really addresses educational issues in workable ways, and we feel very lucky to be able to work with them over the coming months.
            For all of us, although we expect to be confronted with challenges and bridges we must cross along the way, the thing we are most excited about is to get stuck into the work. That and getting more immersed into Ghanaian culture, from learning to cook the local food to being taught how to dance! We've also been struck by how friendly everyone is and how easily we all get along already; it's early days yet but we're looking forward to not only creating working relationships with the team but also to make friends and enjoy the laid back Ghanaian culture together outside of the office.

...From our Team Leader Matt...

            The volunteers all clambered/fell out of the bus from the airport in great spirits and were all smiles from the first minute! This didn’t even diminish when they had to sit through the ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’ training session (which trust me, is not that fun). Since meeting the volunteers my expectations have definitely changed… Only for the better though! They all have some really great experience that I will be calling upon during their placement, to really get the projects kick started and off the ground.
            One the best parts so far has been Niki deciding that my name for the next three months is going to be ‘Chief’ – It is definitely something that I am going to have to get used to, but I love it really! Like the volunteers I'm excited to see the boys focused project grow and develop (under their skilled guidance) and start to take on a life of its own!
  
And from our National Volunteers Hafiz and Justice

There was a feeling of anxiety when we got news that the group of volunteers had arrived in Ghana, judging from the last group we our expectations were through the roof on the type of personalities we would have the opportunity of working with this time round. Generally the entire group were really fun to work with through our induction. Cultural exchange was so much fun, with most of the UK volunteers showing off some really cool dance moves, matched by Justice and Conrad.
Just as the last group, team RAINS got some really interesting volunteers. We were also privileged to get a new national volunteer in the form of Justice Atiim… So far it’s been great getting to know the team, figuring out the different personalities and also learning of the interests they have.  Surprisingly the Team embraced most aspects of the Ghanaian culture very quickly. The foods especially, Team members could be heard mentioning names of some Ghanaian foods, like; fufu, wagashi, kenkey, red-red (plantain with beans stew) etc. they had the opportunity to try some of these foods, actually eating them the African way (with their hands).
As part of the cultural exchange session, we took UK volunteers through some basic Ghanaian language lessons. To our surprise, team members quickly grasped as they could also be heard making efforts to speak some basic aspects of our local dialects. Notable amongst which was how to buy items from the market, how to greet etc. 

All in all, it could be said that working with the team is going to be an unforgettable experience.