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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

‘BOOMA’ ! ‘BOOMA’ !! REDUCE! REDUCE!!


Terry Gilbert, 25, UK

“Dasiba, how much is a bottle of coke?” “Four cedi” he replies. “Booma booma booma booma” Iexchange as he breaks into a fit of laughter. After a verbal sparring match that he seems to enjoy as much as I do, I head off into the crowded market with my newly reduced three cedi bottle of coke and reclaiming my local title as ‘Mr Booma.’

My name is Terry Gilbert and I am one of 12 volunteers who have made the journey to the city of Tamale in this cohort as part of the ICS program with International service. I am now midway through and have spent the last 6 weeks working with the Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (R.A.I.N.S) as part of a “Safe Choices” program aiming to raise community awareness in sexual health education. Already I feel I have come a long way. With the help of our supportive, encouraging and well-organised team leaders Charlotte and Edem, I consider myself a sexual health expert with numerous other new skills.

As you can guess, bartering is one of these skills and in Tamale, the bilateral barter system is a way of life. I learnt the phrase ‘Booma’(reduce) in a quick Dagbani lesson from my new colleague Huzeima Mahamadu. She is a strict Muslim and Ghanaian volunteer from the Nobisco area and has just finished studying Spatial Planning. As someone from the other side of the world with no religious beliefs or background and who never finished university, I soon realised that we were totally contrasting characters and completely different in every aspect of life.

Despite this, Huzeima and the other ICVs have played a key role in helping me settle into work at R.A.I.N.S and have taught me so much about their culture, language and Tamale. I have realised that no matter where you are born, what you believe, or what you have done, any two people can become friends. In fact, we have become great friends! I will miss them so much when I leave! Due to Huzeima’s ability to communicate in multiple languages, she has been vital in helping our team break down the language barrier and deliver trainings, community sensitizations and radio campaigns. She is amazing to work with and I think that I speak on behalf of all the UKVs when I say that she inspires us.

Hand washing my clothes is another skill I have developed during my stay in Ghana. It is vital for survival and I could not have done this without the help of my counterpart, Mershack, and my host mother. Trust me when I say it is a lot harder than it looks! I felt abysmal as they both echoed with laughter as I failed miserably on my first attempts to correctly apply the soap to the key areas, rinse and scrub. This, I felt, was yet another reminder at how easy life is back at home in the UK.  My host brother Rayan, aged six, was able to successfully finish washing three of my t-shirts as I raised my head proud that I had completed a still rather dirty looking sock!


Despite this challenge and those faced trying to adjust here and the challenges within the R.A.I.N.S office, I know we are all very happy and grateful to be where we are: on the right path striving to raise awareness and make a difference. I cannot believe I am already six weeks through the program and I cannot wait or imagine what the next six weeks has in store for us.