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Friday, March 27, 2015

Frankie’s story: “The only disability in life is a negative attitude”

This story comes from Frankie Hine-Hughes, our outgoing UK Team Leader. He looks back on what his team has achieved and why they did it. 

Towards the end of a volunteers placement they have to complete a debrief form. They reflect on their time working alongside their team members and partner organisation. I too have been reflecting. and  have I put some of my thoughts into a blog!

What has followed from my first visit to Yumba last September (2014) has been a life changing, uplifting, and exhausting experience. I cannot go into all of the details of what has occurred in the seven months since September. I will, though, like to say thanks to those whose work made this a project I am so proud of; 

From International Service: Akilu; Alex; Emily; Georgie; Gifty; Jake; Joseph; Rahana; Seckina; Sisu; Sophie; Steph; Sylvia; and Portia; 

From Yumba Special School: Momma Medina; Madam Mildred; Madam Christina; Mr Paul; and Mr Zac

You have all been amazing! So committed! You have all worked so hard and have made a tremendous positive change to the lives of the Yumba pupils! 

You have (and this is not everything!):
  • Set up a vibrant, and successful project - not an easy feat!
  • Created a positive working relationship. The Yumba Team does not just consist of the International Service volunteers:  it is made up of volunteers and the school’s staff. You have worked as one, and everything achieved is down to that. 
  • Brought medical support to the school. The pupils can now have their conditions diagnosed: allowing them to receive medication and have their learning tailored to their abilities. 
  • Organised trainings for parents of the pupils to better support their children. 
  • Set up a computer room at the school. 
  • Started to digitise the school’s records - saving time and improving organisation. 
  • Expanded and improved the teaching and learning resources at the school.
  • Helped the school to reach agreement with a Trust Fund. It can now build a wall to protect the school’s land and provide boarding facilities for  the pupils.

When I think of all that you have achieved, it brings tears to my eyes. 

The project’s first team came up with the slogan, ‘The only disability in life is a negative a

ttitude’. At first, I wasn’t sure about it. But the more I thought about it, the more it rang true. Negativity is disabling! It stops us and others achieving their potential!

The attitudes of the people working on the project have enabled us to do so much. 

We have faced many obstacles during the seven months: nationwide teacher strikes; no internet; long waits for budgets... And the list goes on. Many would see these things as insurmountable problems that stop all progress... Not the staff at the school and the volunteers... they have stayed positive, risen to the occasion, and developed innovative solutions. 

I will miss you all... 

But most of all I will miss the pupils at Yumba. They are so loving, inquisitive and capable. When we have shown people, here in Tamale, what these pupils can do (Tie and Dye; jewellery making; fantastic drumming and dancing), I have seen the stereotypes, myths, and negativity built up over the years start to melt away. They inspire us all, and have been why those involved with the project ‘have gone the extra mile’. 

One time with Yumba sums up my experience. On Independence Day (6th March), Yumba had the honour of leading the Tamale Schools on a march (in-front of President John Dramani Mahama) at Jubilee Park. I went along to watch. When I got there, I walked over to the pupils and staff. Within a few minutes I got roped into looking after one of the most challenging pupils and making sure that he stayed calm and didn’t get lost. We spent the next hour waiting for the march to start: both of us quite overawed by how busy the Park was. When it was our time to go, the pupils from the school started marching. The pupil I was supporting took my hand and off we followed ‘marching’ behind them. We didn’t looked perfect, but he came to march and he did it - disability or no disability! The crowd applauded, and afterwards several people came over to ask which school we were from and said they had been inspired.

This example has been like my time with Yumba and can be summed up like this.....

We can and will do it, but we’ll do it the way that fits us!


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