Saturday, 26 September 2015
What a whirlwind the last week has been. We have now been in Abenta for a week, having arrived last Sunday.
A quick summary:
Saturday 19th: made our way into Accra to have an overnight stay with Kwabena and his family for one night. Kwabena work's with the charity and meets volunteers and charity workers from the airport.
Sunday: met Neil, Village to Village CEO as well as Brendan and Aitkins, who are our volunteer reps locally. After stocking up on some Western luxuries from Accra mall, we set off in two land rovers, with three other volunteers - Keith, Patrick and Joel - to Abenta, a small rural village in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
On the same day we were introduced to the village elders and chief and were invited to a ceremony in which they offered their protection over us whilst we're here, which is good!
We were shown to our new home - a luxury(!) mud hut, which has been plastered outside and inside so you cannot actually see the mud. Disappointing! We do have electricity, so can charge our phones and have a light on in the evening. We bought a fan yesterday so we don't bake in there during the day.
Tuesday: we had our first experience of the local school - Abenta Methodist Primary School (although the name on the building is "Abenta Meth" which does have a bit of a African Breaking Bad feel about it). We're currently working with Basic 6 (anything between 11-15 years) and Basic 2 (anything between 6-11).
We've both done a bit of teaching and will continue to do so for the next few weeks, but our role is likely to change as we get to know more local stakeholders and we figure out how best to support the community when it comes to education. There is a severe lack of funding for this school and similar schools in the area. The government hasn't provided the money for building classrooms. The EU funded a building project a while back but didn't maintain it, and this is where Village By Village has stepped in. In the space of 18 months they have built a whole new school for the students here and they have committed themselves to working here until 2020, when they will hand over the current volunteer accommodation and offices to be used for a Junior High School, which the village currently lacks. The charity is staffed by locals and is plugging a gap where the government, for whatever reason, hasn't provided funding.
There is so much I could write, but Liz and I will save it for later blogs. A few more things though: The volunteers and staff are brilliant. Neil (Village By Village CEO) and Keith were only here until Thursday. Keith will be coming back in January to construct a football pitch for the local team - having used the time he was here to work out the practicalities. We were both gutted to see them go. Both are top guys. Aitkins is our main contact, he is from a neighbouring village and is the volunteer coordinator. We met his family last week and are going to their house next week for a meal in the evening.
This has become a spralling blog, so just a couple more things and I'll leave it there:
Some nice surprises: - Internet connection with 3G is cheap as chips here - 1G for 10 Cedis (which is about £1.75) and it's already lasted for nearly two weeks.
- The local ice cream man! Result. Never thought I'd be able to get ice cream out here.
- The view from our base is great - feels like we're in the middle of a forest. - Loads of food. Who knew I'd love plantain.
- Everyone knows Kwesi Appiah (ex Cambridge United legend and current Ghana striker... as if anyone needed reminding). I was proud to tell the locals I've seen him play from the hallowed Habbin North stand... They hadn't heard of the Habbin North nor Abbey Stadium, but I have time to explain.
- We haven't seen one mosquito.
- a local store selling cheep beer.
And some downsides:
- the goats and sheep just don't shut up. Joel, one of the Canadian volunteers, is getting murderous about it.
- Being called Obruni the whole time by kids (Obruni = white person, or literally, 'person from beyond the horizon).
- the heat. More of a problem for Liz than me. It can get very hot during the day but during the night it's usually cool (as in around 20-22 degrees - yes, that's cool here!)
- Mice. No explanation needed.
And some pictures:
Me, here, writing the blog.
Lots of these around.
A local couple, grounding fufu - a Ghanian staple which goes with different types of sauce.
Lots of these around too. This one is for you Graham Bryant - maybe I could bring one back so you can have your own pet goat? Very cute alive. Very tasty dead (probably).
Me vs Aitkins at table tennis. We played three times the other day, it's 2-1 to him.
The view from our base with the school in the foreground.
Liz and I with Keith a.k.a Phil Mitchell, Peggy's son
All the volunteers arriving, greeted by some local kids.
Our first meal together as a team. The food was disgusting, but we were all too polite to say anything at the time. From left: Liz, Patrick, Neil, Brendan, Aitkins, Keith and Joel