Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Experiences

Thinking about daring to be different like Daniel? Apply by October 16th to be on an overseas placement in January 2016.

Writing a blog is a something I have never done before so for me so it seemed appropriate to have ‘New Experiences ‘as the title. This is the last blog for cohort 4 on project Yumba, and our placement has now come to an end. International Service has provided support for Yumba special school through the ICS scheme for almost a year now; it is the only NGO that supports the teachers and staff with volunteers from both the UK and Ghana that work together in partnership with the school on 10 week placements.

Working in International development has been a dream of mine for a long time, and now that it has become reality it still hasn’t really sunk in, I’m still expecting to wake up in my room at my parents’ house in Liverpool saying `that was a weird dream!’ but here I am in Ghana! 6 months ago when I was researching NGOs, I stumbled across the ICS website and decided to apply for it.  I was expecting to receive an email a few days later saying ‘we regret to inform you…..’ just like many other job applications and NGOs I have applied for, but it was to say I was successful! In the coming weeks I received questionnaires and eventually an invitation from ICS for an assessment day at the head office in York. I didn’t want to get my expectations up too much so I only told a few people such as my mother and a colleague in work. A week later I was at district scout camp for the weekend with my group, when I received the phone call to say I was successful and I was being placed in Ghana for 3 months. It was a good thing that I was away somewhere peaceful to reflect on the phone call.

Before ICS, I worked as an apprentice sheet-metal worker and was in my 2nd year of a 3 and half year course, but I didn’t want to do it as a career for the next 40 years. So I took a big step and handed in my weeks’ notice to my manager and told my tutors at college I that I was quitting, knowing full well I will never get the opportunity to do an apprenticeship again in my life. After the 2 day pre-departure training I was more open to telling people about the placement, that is when the reality hit me. When I finally got more information on what my project would be it made fundraising a lot easier, it gave me the motivation to work harder and push myself to achieve my goals that I set for myself and overcome them.

Arriving in Ghana, adapting to the culture, food, host home and the weather was probably the easiest part of the placement, however adapting to an entirely new work environment where I would be spending most of my time behind a desk was extremely difficult. I’m used to being on my feet all day every day so I had to jump head first into the work and get on with it. It has been so rewarding.  I’ve been able to develop new skills and improve upon existing ones, such as time management, organisation and prioritising tasks. Living with a host family has really helped me to understand the culture and lifestyle. Getting used to the countless servings of rice and beans and occasionally Banku took some time but I’ve actually started to enjoy them!  My host father was also able to introduce me to the local scout leader that he was good friends with after I told him I am a Scout leader in the UK and that was a very exciting experience. No matter where I was in the world I was able to find another member of the scouting family and exchange ideas. It was an experience I’ll never forget. After joining him and his scouts on a hike we exchanged badges, and I and another volunteer, who is also a scout leader, were invested as scout leaders of the Sagnarigu district of Tamale.

The city of Tamale itself is immense, with the market stall owners selling fabrics with vibrant colours and creative designs, the aroma of rich spices and herbs being sold next to the butchers preparing meat from a goat or cow with a machete, cutting the meat so small he almost takes his fingers off. The streets are lined with traders selling goods on the side of the road and carrying them on their heads to make a living, often with their children as well to help them make a living. The taxi rank is full of ‘line taxis’ which drive the same route and don’t depart until the cab is full, charging the passengers 1GHC each depending on the area of the city they are going to. The people are friendly and welcoming; it’s an entirely different world and an amazing experience.

I never thought I would get  this far, to be able to travel to  a developing country and work on a project that  requires so much support and work. I thought this type of work was for students or professionals with distinctive qualifications and experience, never a 3rd time college drop-out like me. But it has helped me to learn a lot about myself and the career sector I am striving for, International development. Throughout the entire placement I have not missed my life back at home until I started writing this blog, I miss my family and friends and my dog, but knowing that I have tried my very best at my job, training the teachers with basic ICT and first aid training for which afterwards they achieved certificates from St Johns Ambulance service, has made it all worthwhile. I don’t know how I will be able to settle back into a regular life when I get home, it’s going to be difficult at first but eventually it will be just as it was before, but with more cool stories!

I don’t believe my journey has ended in Ghana, but only just begun, and I know it’s going to be a great experience…

Thinking about daring to be different like Daniel? Apply by October 16th to be on an overseas placement in January 2016.

Disability and Poverty- a complex relationship...


When we think about Disability in Developing countries we tend to focused on the issues that connect with it. My voluntary experience in Ghana has led me to consider the fact that, there is a link between disability and poverty.

Poverty and disability can be complex and multi-directional throughout the world. Disability is often seen as being the result of natural-causes, beyond one’s control, especially those being born cognitively disabled or born with a chronic health condition. One considers the phenomenons behind disability – yet can’t question or ask why?

As part of my project in Ghana, I was able to work alongside the only school in the northern region of Ghana for children with intellectual disabilities. I have been delighted by the the warm welcome I have received from the children every time I have visited.  The children were so happy; this is the one memory that significantly stood out throughout my experience. However, when working with the children, their appearance is striking. Many of them visibly show signs of a lack of attention given to them and a low standard of living. With such overwhelming numbers of disabled children living in poverty, one cannot help but wonder whether one ‘CAUSES’ the other.

My experience so far in Ghana has questioned my thinking about people with disabilities living in poverty. I initially anticipated that most people with a disability would be poor, as a form of punishment in society, where they have been socially excluded by the community they find themselves. The majority of people with disabilities find their situation affects them greatly as they are often regarded as unproductive and incapable of contributing in a positive way to society, particularly those living with an intellectual disability. According to the Ghana federation of the disabled, the 2010 population and Housing Census put the population of severely disabled persons at 3% (737,743). This means that the population of Persons with Disability in Ghana could be between 15 and 20%. An estimated 70% of persons with disability live in rural areas and encounter a lot of challenges such as participation in decision making, general access to information, resources and opportunities.  Once again highlighting the inter-action between disability and poverty. 

Many people in developing countries tend to view disability as ‘SUPERSTITIOUS’ assuming that the disability has been caused by a curse from the gods or witchcraft. As a result of this stigma, disabled people are among the most disadvantaged people in the world and are over-represented among the poorest of the poor in most developing country.

Throughout my findings I have learnt that people with disability suffer huge stigmatisation in society. For example, Formal education for most people with disabilities in Ghana is difficult, mainly because most of them are intimidated by their disability. Also it has been found that, children with disabilities are more likely to die young, or be neglected, malnourished and poor. The rate of discrimination is high as some families unfortunately also discriminate against members with disability. Breaking out of the vicious cycle of poverty and disability becomes more and more difficult.

…..If ONLY a world where people with disability can grow up healthy protected from harm and educated to reach their full potential no matter what types of disabilities they have!!.....................

In developing countries, there are rarely strong disability movements actively working to improve the living conditions for people living with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are not only more likely to be poor, but they are subject to prejudice, social isolation, stigmatisation and discrimination drives them more deeply into poverty.

There are several conventions and laws that have been established by many international organizations and countries, to protect the rights of the disabled. For Example, in Ghana; Voice of Developing Communities [VODEC] a research based institute are working together with others NGOs organisation to help eliminate the discrimination against people with disabilities faced. However, in spite of all these conventions and laws people with disability continue to battle with the situation they face with in their everyday life protect their rights with respect. Poverty and disability reinforce each other, contributing to increased vulnerability and exclusion. Eradicating world poverty is unlikely to be achieved unless the rights and needs of people with disabilities are taken into account.

…….. ‘Disability [is] a Human Rights issue. So long as people with disabilities are denied the opportunity to participate fully in society, no one can claim that the objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been achieved’………..United Nations….

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I SUPPORT........!!!!

I Support………………!!!!

The thought of volunteering on the Yumba Project of ICS all came with excitement for me. This was because I realised this was going to be a whole new experience to learn about people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID). My previous knowledge of ID was only restricted to Autism and therefore saw this opportunity to learn more about the other types of ID. I must say that true to it, this expectation has been met fully and I now have a broad view about other types of ID such as Down’s syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (AD-HD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder. With my basic knowledge in these ID, I have been able to educate myself enough about the fact that people with ID must be integrated into the society and not left out.

Upon all the joy I have about this new knowledge, one question keeps popping in my head: ‘’HOW MANY PEOPLE IN GHANA AND AFRICA ALSO HAVE THIS BASIC KNOWLEDGE OR AWARENESS OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES?’’. The reason why I keep on having this one question is the fact that if a lot of people in Ghana as well as Africa had such basic knowledge about the types, causes, and care of ID, the stigma against intellectually disabled people would be wiped out gradually and such people would be able to integrate them in the society as ordinary people.

There are more than one billion people living with a physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disability in the world—four out of five live in low- and middle-income countries. People with disabilities experience negative attitudes that can result in violence, sexual abuse, stigma and discrimination, which can lead to low self-esteem and social isolation. People with intellectual disability (ID) are amongst the most marginalised groups globally. They experience social exclusion on a much greater scale than their able-bodied counterparts and this experience is intensified within contexts of poverty such as those in Ghana and on the African continent. Furthermore, where services are available for persons with other disabilities, ID is often neglected, partly due to the low advocacy of the disability by and for them. Research into ID is predominantly conducted in and about high-income countries. This reflects the greater investment by these governments in social services with more resources available to undertake research. The situation of people with ID in developing contexts such as the case in Ghana and Africa is starkly different to that of the western world.

Within African society, traditional conceptions of ID have been insufficiently explored. There has been a belief about supernatural causes of disability which is more common in African societies, affecting the way that it is dealt within the community. Traditional beliefs of ID as caused by divine retribution or witchcraft have been described in a lot of African countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Zambia. This belief varies with age and education with the younger or western educated individuals being less likely to hold these beliefs but they can have severe consequences for people with ID. There have been situations in Ghana where traditional beliefs caused families to hide these persons because of shame. This, in turn, leads to a lack of exposure to ID within wider society that further contributes to ongoing stigma and discrimination.

The access to education for children with intellectual disabilities is critical to their hopes of achieving greater independence and community participation. However, access to education is extremely limited for these children in Africa. World Vision International conducted a study on education for children with disabilities which notes that about one-third of the 77 million out-of-school children in the world are disabled. In Africa, less than 10% of disabled children attend school. Research carried out by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) says children with intellectual and multiple disabilities are the most likely of all disabled children to be out of school. The ACPF study reported up to 86.5% of children with ID were not in school in Senegal. Despite growing policy commitments to inclusive education, special schools are provided in many African countries as the only specific response to ID. A typical example of such special schools in Ghana is the Yumba Special School, Tamale, which is the only school in the Northern region of Ghana for children with intellectual disabilities. In Africa, most parents are reluctant to send their disabled children to school because they do not see the value of sending a disabled child to school because of their low expectations of the child. The Salamanca Statement claims that education for all can only be achieved through an inclusive orientation in regular schools and this is echoed in Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Inclusion International, a global disability organisation, advocates for inclusive education as a means of addressing the social exclusion and discrimination experienced by people with ID in Africa. 

At present, the majority of children with ID attending school in Africa do so in the mainstream. This mainstream provision does not amount to full inclusion as it is largely unsupported and unresponsive to the individual pupil’s need for learning support. The international policy direction is to expand support for children with ID in mainstream settings as a means to reaching larger numbers in a financially sustainable and socially just manner. In order to achieve this goal, Dr. Tsitsi Chataika of the University of Zimbabwe and a group of researchers have identified the following recommendations from an Africa wide conference on disabled children in Africa, held in 2008:
  • ·         The development of inclusive education systems that acknowledge African realities and serve to combat negative stereotypes of disability.
  • ·         Family and parents involvement in education, using partnerships to make the best use of limited resources.
  • ·         Governments to commit to the provision of education for disabled children in line with the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD).
  • ·         Inter-sectoral collaboration especially at the level of early childhood development, leading to a smooth transition to primary education.

Page 137 of The World Report on Disability describes support as a requirement for disabled people ‘‘to achieve a good quality of life and to be able to participate in social and economic life on an equal basis with others’’. Families and communities needs to identify and respond to the needs of children and adults with intellectual disabilities rather than relying on paid, professional staff. This is particularly important in a Ghanaian context as family and community care remain the commonly available option as opposed to the extensive and expensive social services of high-income countries. Women and mothers in most parts of Africa more often shoulder the responsibility for family care. They experience stress, less chance of employment and often end up caring for others. Often, mothers, sisters or grandmothers act as single parents as the biological fathers may be migrant workers or unable or unwilling to stay with the disabled child and his or her mother. As a result these women find themselves under extreme economic pressure as they are not able to seek employment because of the demands of caring for their disabled child. The notion of support therefore needs to be extended beyond the ID person to their carers who need economic support and respite care as well as creating opportunities for their children to socialise.

Access to the environment is often conceived of as being basically that of physical access, especially the accessibility of buildings and infrastructure. People with ID share a common concern with visually and hearing-impaired people with access to information and with all disabled peopled in access to the independent use of transport. In order for people with severe intellectual and multiple disabilities to access their environment it is essential that their communication needs are recognised and met. Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) ‘‘helps individuals with severe communication disorders to compensate for activity limitation and enhances participation in various communicative interactions’’.it is sad to note that Access to AAC services remains very restricted in Ghana and other parts of Africa and this restricts the participation of people with ID as well as their education and access to information relevant to them. Their limited access to education and literacy further restricts the ability of people with ID to gather information from their environment.

Reliable figures for unemployment of disabled people are difficult to come by. Some research states that these rates could be between 40% and 60% higher than that of the non-disabled population. In South Africa adults with ID contribute a disability grant to the household income which in many cases provides a welcome poverty alleviation source that sometimes places their families in a better position than those without disabled family members. By contrast in other countries such as Ghana, Zambia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria there is little or no provision for adults with ID and no provision of social grants. Whilst there are some small initiatives to develop skills amongst this group, they and their families remain economically vulnerable and unemployed. In Ghana, the few special schools available offer employable vocational skills to their pupils in order to make them self-sufficient later on after they are done with their education. A school such as the Yumba Special School offer skills such as batik tie & dye making, car washing, bead making, rag rugs making, and t-shirt printing to its pupils in order to equip them to have a life of independence after school.

 It is quite an issue that the awareness of intellectual disability in Ghana and Africa as a whole is very low considering the stigma and problems people with intellectual disabilities go through in their daily lives. Stigma, access to the environment, access to education, and a lack of employment opportunities are all some of the problems intellectually disabled people go through in Ghana and Africa. The problems will continue to prevail as long as the awareness is not created in our various communities.  The awareness will wipe away the greatest problem they face which is Stigmatization and discrimination. This is first and basic step to integrate them into society. In my personal view, once stigma is wiped off it will create an enabling environment to address the other issues people with intellectual disability go through. It’s rather unfortunate that there are only a few groups and organizations out there providing the awareness of intellectual disabilities in Africa. Most horrifying is the fact that most of these groups are non-governmental organizations which means most governments in Africa don’t really play an active role in the awareness creation. In Ghana, one such organization that is playing such an active role in creating awareness on intellectual disability is International Service (IS) which is partnered with the Yumba Special School. International Service volunteers create the awareness through its various sensitization programs in various communities in and around Tamale, the Northern Regional capital. International Service volunteers also go on radio programs to educate the masses in the region about intellectual disability.

With all the efforts being made by these organizations, the greater number of the Ghanaian populace and Africa as a whole is still lagging behind in terms of knowledge about intellectual disability. I believe a united effort from both African governments and other non-governmental organizations will go a long way in helping to address issues with intellectual disabilities.
                            I SUPPORT DISABILITY RIGHTS!!!!!!

Blog was written by Abraham Donkor, an ICS in-country volunteer working on the Yumba Project. The blog highlights on the level of awareness of Intellectual Disability in Ghana and Africa. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


As I cite the International Service quote ‘challenge yourself to change the world’, I reflect on my experience at the half way point of my ICS Journey. For me, as conveyed in the quote, my goals at the very beginning of my personal journey were to step out of my comfort zone and to go above and beyond in order to make a fundamental impactful difference tackling paramount issues (my project aims: focusing on the issue of disability and creating awareness about intellectual disabilities working in collaboration with Yumba Special School). However with my focus primarily on my project at hand, little did I prepare myself for the extent to which my own personal global perspective would broaden. Therefore in this blog I would like to share my deeper understanding and widened perspective of my cultural experience in Ghana, from a Western Perspective…oh how my prior preconceptions have changed….

Deborah Catar (2013) quoted that ‘you have to taste a culture to understand it’, and I fundamentally think that this is the best way to seek true insight. 

A little over 5 weeks ago I landed in Ghana on the African continent in an unfamiliar setting, immersing myself into a culture ‘foreign’ from my ‘norm’.
Before coming to Ghana I had a preconceived image of what I thought Ghana would be like. Honestly, the 3 images that instantly came into my head were Cocoa beans, African Poverty and the Landscape of the country bearing a resemblance to the opening scene from the Lion King (unrealistic, I now know).  Here is a mind map of my key thoughts about Ghana and Ghanaian Culture without having researched or any prior knowledge; 

(Mind map based on initial key thoughts/perceptions of Ghana, none of the statements based on actual facts.)

Yes, I can clearly see (especially after spending time in Ghana) that many of my initial conceptions may have seemed far-fetched and unrealistic - yet some of my initial thoughts are indeed evident. However many of my statements are over generalized  and cannot be applicable to all people/areas/whole nation etc (as many factors influence certain circumstances e.g social/economic and environmental factors). Ultimately, without living amongst the people and exploring the diversity of a country and its' people can one truly understand the real authentic culture. We need to be aware that we often see people and the world through our own lens and therefore we need to stop and question whether our lens' represent the true picture, as viewpoints can be distorted by stereotypes, preconceptions, prejudices and misunderstandings. And this is the reasoning for some of my unrealistic conceptions of what I 'believed' Ghana (& Africa) as a whole would be like.

The cross cultural nature of the programme has definitely helped me to gain a greater insight into the culture; this has been achieved by working in a cross cultural team, being paired with an in-country counterpart and living in a host family in a Ghanaian community.I believe this has increased my understanding about the cultures' customs and has well and truly enabled me to immerse myself into the Ghanaian Lifestyle.  This is my own personal diary of my experience;

Essentially after fully immersing myself into the cultural aspects of the programme, I believe that I can now fully understand and appreciate other cultural backgrounds other than the one I possess. Significantly I feel that having a greater understanding enables you to connect more with the culture. I regard this as of great importance,especially on this project,whereby the aims are to educate people on crucial and influential issues and empower people to create positive change, as without understanding these viewpoints the change would not be possible.

Reflecting back on the title of my blog, 'I Have 3.G But Wash Only With a Bucket' this has both positive and negative connotations, stereotyping and going against the stereotype, and also highlights my own perceived expectations and an example of the way my perception had changed.Depending on your own opinion having 3.G (access to technology) could be a positive thing as it shows development, connectivity with the rest of the world, however it can also be viewed in a negative light - having a detrimental effect on the exclusiveness of the culture. Same too, with the 'wash only with a bucket', this could be perceived as a negative thing - as it highlights that they may have lack of access to certain things, or are in a perceived state of poverty, however it also has the alter meaning of being part of their culture, and a traditional way of life. Therefore my desired impact was targeted at making people aware of how different perspectives of a concept can be distorted and without knowing the entire context surrounding it, it's meaning and connotations can be altered and perceived differently.

Phillip Bock quoted that 'culture is what makes you a stranger when you’re away from home' which is a great reflection, showing that until a culture is fully understood it will always be alienated from the onlooker of the alternative culture. Therefore, returning to my initial point of the importance of becoming globally aware, indefinitely in my view, results in individuals becoming more rounded and equipping them with the ability to see beyond from different perspectives, make informed decisions, and acquire transferable skills that will be useful to them and will remain with them for life. So all in all,not only have my 'horizons been broadened' but hopefully after my entire ICS experience I will have contributed to 'broadening the horizons of others'.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Who we are and why we are here.

How can purpose, fulfilment, and satisfaction in life be found? How can something of lasting significance be achieved? So many people have never stopped to consider these important questions. Since the dawn of time, man has questioned life. Why are we here? Who are we? They look back years later and wonder why they feel so empty, even though they may have achieved what they set out to accomplish.

We are the YUMBA TEAM.
We work in partnership with the Yumba Special School. A wonderful school with amazing kids who possess different talents and abilities. Yumba Special School enrol children with intellectual disability, which are children who are not able to develop and learn as quickly as others.
Nevertheless, despite their situation, they are endowed with so many talents and have the ability and capacity to do many things that the mind of man can never quantify. It will amaze you when you behold the handy works of these kids. These are some of their products.

This is what we do;
We organize sensitizations in communities and radio appearances to raise awareness of peole living with intellectual disabilities.
We have partnered with the Resource Centre for People with Disability (RCPWD) to organize a workshop for teachers within Tamale to learn about intellectual disability and how to supporting young people with intellectual disabilities.
We support YUMBA Special School in building capacity through training and Resource development.
There are more impactful people in the world who in the early age of their lives were struggling with intellectual disability yet in spite of their condition were able to make it in live. Example of such people is:

Jawal, a pupil at Yumba School, was diagnosed with an intellectual disability when he was six months old. Yumba supported Jawal to start competing in various track running events.
He took part in a Special Olympics Ghana competition in Kumasi and won the 400m.
He is now going to travel to America to compete in the 2015 Special Olympics.                                                                         

This is why we go to the radio station creating awareness of intellectual disability.
This is why we organize sensitization in communities.
This is why we partner with Resource Centre for People with Disability to organize workshop for teachers.

 So that people will understand that;
  • It is not their fault that they are living with intellectual disability.
  • Children living with intellectual disability have so much to offer in live.
  • They also have dreams, goals and ambitions like any other person.
  • Disability is not inability.
To break the misconception that people living with intellectual disability are;
  • Cursed
  • Unproductive
  • Financial burden
To speak to the conscience of people to stop;
  • Stigmatizing people with intellectual disability.
  • Discriminating against them,
  • Maltreating them.

 Parents, Teachers and all Caregivers should know that;

A child is like a butterfly in the wind

Some can fly higher than others,
But each one flies the best it can.
Why compare one against the other?
Each one is different.
Each one is special.

Each one is beautiful.

It is our passion to make life worth living for people with intellectual disability and to change the worldview of the public about disability. It is our burning desire to see the rights for those living with any disability are being enforced in all aspect of life. To make an impact in someone’s life can be worth lasting.
We are fulfilled and satisfied when people understand and accept people living with disability into their society.

"We are not here merely to make a living. We are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. We are here to enrich the world, and we impoverish ourselves if we forget the errand."                                                       Woodrow Wilson.

Disability Is Not Inability.
            The Only Disability In Life Is Negative Attitude.
           The Worse Disability Is The Inability To See Ability.
If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at begins to change.

                                                                               BY ICV:  Mathias A. Akuoko

Monday, July 6, 2015


Hello, my name is Charlotte and I am the Team Leader for the Yumba Project. This is my first time visiting Ghana, and my first time in Africa, and I am so very grateful to be able to be here for 6 months! Back in the UK, away from the sunshine, I live in London, however I am originally from the North West of England. For the last 2 years I have been lucky enough to work for two international NGOs working on a range on different issues both local and global, such as youth empowerment, anti-prejudice, and human rights. This experience motivated me to apply for the ICS programme, so that I can learn more about international development experience a new culture and hopefully make a tangible difference to the lives of others. As someone who is very passionate about minority rights and anti-discrimination, I am thrilled to be working on the Yumba project. Over the remaining weeks on the project we will be raising awareness around intellectual disabilities in the community, developing resources for Yumba Special School and organising various training workshops for teachers. For me the ICS programme gives me the opportunity to learn about so many new things and meet so many new people. I hope to leave the programme knowing that our team have made a lasting impact, and with the strength of this team, I know we will!

"Use the skills that I have got. Do not focus on what I have not"

Hello, my name is Jodie and I am from Redditch in the UK. I have just finished my final year at University of Worcester studying Business, Marketing and Advertising. I have always had a passion for helping others which is why the ICS program is perfect for me. Throughout my time in Ghana, I hope to gain more experience of learning and intellectual disabilities as well as disability rights which is something I hope to continue working with when I return to the UK. This is my first time in African but I already know it wont be my last!

"If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will go its whole life thinking that it is stupid"

Hello, I’m Abraham and I am from Accra in Ghana. I have just finished my final year studying Business Administration (Marketing major) at University of Ghana. I joined the ICS program because throughout my life I have always been guided by one principle and it’s a quote by Napoleon Hill which says, “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way”. I believe my involvement in the ICS program is my way of giving back to society in a small manner but in a great way. Aside giving back to society, I in turn also hope to learn a lot from people from diverse backgrounds.  

"Inability is not disability"

Hi, I’m Daniel and I live in Liverpool in the UK. I am currently half way through an apprenticeship in engineering. I joined the ICS program as I want to make a positive impact for communities living in poverty. I hope to gain an insight into international development and this could potentially open up new career paths for my future.

"The only limits we have are the ones we set ourselves"

Hi, I’m Mathias and I live in Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. I have just completed my degree at University of Ghana in 2015 offering Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with Adult Education. I joined the ICS programme because I have desire to make a change in people’s lives and I think making people conscious or aware of something they don’t know will go a long way to create change in them and their environment as well as influence their attitude towards issues and challenges. The ICS programme has really broadened my mind in different fields and working on the YUMBA Project has kept me more informed about intellectual disability. I hope to gain more experience in programme development, public speaking, team working skills and also to learn new skills.

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced"

Hello I am Eva from the Ashanti region but I live in Accra in Ghana. I studied Nutrition at the University for Development Studies. I joined the ICS program to gain new skills and ideas, I have a passion and desire to help people in need so being on the Yumba team is very great.

"Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone"

My name is Princess Briggs, I am from the UK.  I am currently studying at the University of East London.  I have always wanted to make a difference in people lives and my course involves an aspect of Development study; ICS is a great opportunity towards my career and my passion for helping people.  I hope to gain a wide range of knowledge working in a developing country.

"There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person more"

Hi my name is SinĂ©ad Healy. I was born in Royal Leamington Spa, UK but now reside in Cork, Ireland. Prior to ICS I graduated from Liverpool John Moores with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and was working as a Mencap Support Worker for Adults with Learning Disabilities. In September I am to pursue my PGCE in order to become a Qualified Primary School Teacher. I love being positive, I love helping others and I love making a difference so I thought ICS was the ideal programme for me!  From the ICS experience I hope to make a meaningful contribution in developing communities to empower people to overcome barriers they may face. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to work on the Yumba Project, standing up for the rights of children with disabilities. It's something that I am so passionate about!

"As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person"

Monday, May 11, 2015

Culture and Cultural Shock

So it is a global village I heard, the word is one big village! One might assume we all understand the same things the same way or even think the same way. But this obviously isn’t the case. 

What brings the differences then?? Culture! 

Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. 

Culture can be defined as the ways in which people relate themselves to their physical and social environment, and how they express these relationships. 

·         Influences our expectations of what is appropriate or inappropriate (eg. a guy wearing a piercing to               church) 
·         is learned (how the Ghanaian volunteers would say 6:30 but the UK volunteers say half 6) 
·         reflects the values of a society 
·         frames our experiences 
·         provides us with patterns of behaviour, thinking, feeling, and interacting 

Team member Adam has his ears pierced - this wouldn't be acceptable in most Ghanaian Churches

In summary, culture affects every aspect of daily life - how we think and feel, how we learn and teach, or what we consider to be beautiful or ugly. However, most people are unaware of their own culture until they experience another! In fact, we don't usually think about our culture until somebody violates a culturally-based expectation or we find ourselves in a situation where we have the feeling that we violated somebody else’s cultural expectations, but are uncertain how. 
Now, let’s dive more into one practice is Ghana, precisely Ashanti Region.  Let us have a look at Puberty Rites which is called ‘Bragoro’ in Akan. 

Puberty Rites 
These ceremonies mark the entry of young women into adulthood. 

In the Akan culture, women represent the beauty, purity and dignity of the society and are guarded against corruption by our traditional laws and regulations. The most lasting impressions about life and the character of children are built during their early and formative years, which they spend mostly with their mothers. So the Akans believe that they need properly trained mothers with good morals to bring up good children. It is therefore little wonder that the initiation of women into adulthood is given more prominence in the Akan society than that of men.  

Under the supervision of the queen mother of the town or village, in collaboration with some female opinion leaders, young women who have had their first menstruation are secluded from the community for a period between two and three weeks during which they are taught the secrets of womanhood. During this period of seclusion the girls are given lessons in sex education and birth control. They are also taught how to relate to men properly so that they can maintain a good marriage and their dignity in the society. 

After the period of seclusion, a durbar is held which is attended by the chief and almost everybody in the community. The newly initiated women are dressed scantily with very beautiful African beads and cosmetics showing off their vital statistics. Young men of marriageable age troupe there to feast their eyes on the young women and to select their prospective wives.  

Amidst drumming and dancing the rituals are carried out with the spirit of Oynankopong Kwame, Asase Yaa and the departed ancestors are invoked to bless the participants and ensure their protection, blessing and fertility during their period of motherhood.  

A traditional meal called eto is prepared for the young women. It is usually decorated with hard boiled eggs. The young women will then have to eat the meal, and swallow the eggs whole. It is believed that, when the eggs are bitten into, the young women have bitten and crushed their wombs and they might be barren. 

According to traditional law no woman is allowed to get married without haven gone through the puberty rites and every young woman must remain a virgin prior to this. These laws ensure that young women grow up disciplined enough to control their sexuality and to prevent them from premature motherhood and unwanted babies.

So important are these laws that any woman who gets pregnant or breaks her virginity before the rites are performed is sometimes ostracized together with the man she has fornicated with. On top of that, a heavy fine is imposed on the guilty party after which purification rites are performed to rid the society of the negative repercussions of their actions.  

An example of traditional African Beads - here worn on the waist underneath clothing

Cultural shock 
Culture Shock is a term used to describe the anxiety produced when a person moves to a completely new environment. This term expresses the lack of direction, the feeling of not knowing what to do or how to do things in a new environment, and not knowing what is appropriate or inappropriate. The feeling of culture shock can usually set in after the first few weeks of arriving in a new country. It is a normal part of adjusting to new foods, customs, language, people and activities. 

Symptoms of cultural shock
·         Insomnia or a desire to sleep too much or too little. 
·         Changes in your temperament, getting angry easily at things that usually wouldn't bother you, depression,        feeling vulnerable, feeling powerless. 
·         Anger, irritability, resentment, and an unwillingness to interact with other people. 
·         A feeling of sadness or loneliness. 
·         A feeling of being lost, overlooked, exploited or abused. 
·         Identifying only with your own culture and comparing negatively to your own country. 
·         You wish you were home and have a strong longing for your family and friends back in your country. 
·         Unable to solve simple problems. 
·         You are trying too hard to absorb everything new about the culture. 
·         Feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence, insecurity, loss of identity, not fitting in, and doubting your           ability to succeed. 
·         You start developing stereotypes about the country and its culture. 
·         You may start developing different obsessions such as: over-cleanliness; over-tidiness; over-eating; over-       drinking. 
·         You feel you can’t have a normal conversation with anyone. 
·         Having a feeling of helplessness, and thinking you need help from people in your own country. 
·         Being afraid to do new things or go to new places. 

Examples of cultural shock 

Nudity among women 
It is common to see in France, women who are topless at beaches. In other places women might wear a bikini, here in Ghana, women still find it uncomfortable that’s why we usually wear almost full clothes at beaches. 

Do you dress modestly enough? 
At the other end of the spectrum are women who must cover most of their body; including their arms, legs, ankles, neck and even their face like the Bedouin Woman and women from Muslim countries who’s custom is to dress this way mainly to enforce female modesty.  

People enjoying the water at Kintampo Waterfalls - Some fully dressed

Is it polite to pick a winner? 
Most of us are taught from an early age that it’s just not polite to your nose. One must use a tissue or handkerchief and blow our nose into it, then put the tissue in your pocket until you can dispose of it later. In some parts of Asia, the thought of blowing your nose into a tissue and saving it for later is disgusting. 
You’re probably wondering, well how do they blow their nose right? 
Tutorial: How To Blow Your Nose In Parts Of Asia. 
Cover one nostril and blow out the other so whatever is up there will get blown out like a projectile and hopefully land on the ground. That’s it. 
This may sound gross to you but blowing your nose in a handkerchief is way more gross to them. 

Toilet paper: essential or not? 
Brace yourself for more culture shock: You probably think toilet paper is necessary. 
Ha, you are wrong, You don’t need toiletpaper! 
In some cultures like India they use their hands to wipe themselves after using the toilet. I know what you are thinking. 
WHAT! They use their hands to wipe their bum? 
Yes it’s true. Using toilet paper to wipe your bum bum is consideredinappropriate and dirty because it smears it around down there. Indian people consider it much cleaner to use your hand and water. 
In case you are interested in ever going to India or anywhere else where toilet paper is not readily available, I thought I would give you an education on bathroom Etiquette. 
Tutorial: How to use the toilet without toilet paper in India! 
Usually there is a bucket filled with water and a smaller container in the bucket called a dipper to scoop out some water. 

Kidnap and marry 
Latwoka , a tribe in Sudan has a very weird marriage tradition. If a guy wants to marry a girl, he kidnaps her. After kidnapping elderly people of his family go to girl’s father and ask for her hand. If girl’s father agrees he beats the guy as a symbol of acceptance and if he doesn’t agree, the kidnapper marries the girl forcefully. 

Semen for the breasts 
The Masai also believe for the girl’s breasts to develop, she needs a healthy man to seriously give her some lessons in sexual intercourse, by sleeping with her. These are girls between the age of 8 and 13. The warriors are mandated to have intercourse with these girls before the onset of puberty; their clitoral initiation to indicate that they are ready for marriage. Since they are also young and cannot conceive, the Masai believe the healthy semen of young warriors will give them the boost or hormones they need to develop their entire body. Warriors are an example of what is healthy and respected among the tribe. Their semen is seen as what every pre-puberty girl requires to develop breasts and to grow into a real woman. 

What can you do about culture shock? 
Some people find it impossible to adapt to other cultures while others adapt more easily. 
Your best chance at overcoming culture shock is to adapt to your new culture and try to understand the history and reasons why the cultural differences exist. 

Look at it as a learning experience to gain a new perspective and develop a better understanding for that other culture. 

You just might see things in a whole new way and find it easier to adjust and deal with the differences. 

It’s these differences that make travel so interesting. If you want everything to be the same, you can always just stay home 

TIP: Once you understand the reasons, you begin to see necessity may be part of the reason why culturaldifferences exist. 

Thank you for reading,