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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.

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