Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Meet Youth Alive's Cohort 4 and how far we've come!

 From the left to the right are Rosie, Shasha, Alice, Macauly, Mahera, Sophie, Gloria, Mitch, Osman, Tom, Lizzie and Nathaniel.

It’s been a challenging but exciting journey so far for us volunteers. From adjusting to heat to the bumpy bicycle commute to work and adjusting to the food. Most of us UKVs (UK volunteers) have never had an experience like this in our lives. Equally, it has been just as challenging for the ICVs (in country volunteers).

However, they are getting used to living in a different region of the country with much more severe weather conditions and language barriers. For most volunteers, the biggest challenge of all has been dealing with the cultural differences that are common practice in the area of Navrongo, in the Upper East Region.

After our week long orientation in Tamale we set off on a 3 hour drive to Navrongo. During which, the environment seemed to get hotter and dustier as a result of it being the Harmattan season. Despite being warned in advance, we were still unsure of what to expect. In spite of the scorching heat, we were excited by the prospect of finally meeting our host families and settling in. For some us it was very different to what we were used to (especially the UK volunteers).

Macauly and Nathaniel then found that they have the added experience of not having constant running water. This can sometimes result in them having to collect the water before bathing and using the toilet without a flush. Despite the mass poverty, we have found that many members of the community have welcomed us with smiles on their faces and have shared what little they have with all of us.

Grilled tilapia with pepper
The Ghanaian food is something that some of the volunteers (particularly the UKV’s) have struggled to adjust to. Ghanaian cuisine largely consists of carbohydrates served in sizeable portions with either meat or fish.

Mitchell, the group’s vegetarian, has loved everything he’s tried always leaving an empty plate. Although the food types are the same, some of the ICVs have found slight variations to the dishes they consume in their home Regions.

For example, Fufu, which is always served with a variation of soups, is made from yam in the north but is made from cassava and plantain in the South. Lizzie, originally from the Ashanti Region, found this very strange when our host mum made us fufu and it was not as she was expecting.

As it is not currently the fruit season, the varieties are very limited with mostly only papaya (popo), bananas and oranges available at most stalls. We did find a poster with the phone number of a pizza place but found the prices too pricey for our modest allowance so we’ve decided to order only on special occasions.

What’s more exciting is that Rosie and Alice discovered a shop opposite the Ghana Commercial Bank that sells McVities Digestives and KitKats! The lack of familiar food types have contributed to a couple of volunteers feeling homesick so we try and spend as much time as we can together after work hours. Our favourite place to dine at the moment is Perseverance Spot, where they serve sausages and the best grilled fish in town!

Shortly after arriving in Navrongo, we had the exciting task of choosing our bicycles and scouting out the office. Once in the office, we settled down to watch ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ while Emmanuel (our bike maintenance man) fixed up our bikes for the many miles ahead.

Cycling to the office and back the first week was a pain in the bum (literally) but as the days wore on we all got used to it.

And on market days, town being full of people walking, people on bikes, people in yellow yellows, people in cars - you get the gist - there’s people everywhere left, right and centre, and riding a bike can be very intimidating.

Lizzie and I have the longest commute out of everyone, being about 40 minutes, but with our heavy meals we all can do with the exercise and hope to have very toned legs by the end of the placement!

Having some limitations with the information and resources from the previous cohorts, we decided that our first week was going to be used to concentrate on research in three key areas. These are child marriage, alcoholism and financial literacy. 

Talking about these issues within the group raised passions and motivated us to come up with strategies to tackle these problems. What’s really motivating is when the children and toddlers get excited at the sight of us and greet us everywhere we go.

For example, while on a hunt for lunch myself, Rosie and Sophie ran into a young girl who proceeded to hug our legs calling out “fela fela” which means white person. We’ve been told on more than one occasion that seeing volunteers here in Navrongo gives the people here hope, and that’s all we need to keep us going.

It has been challenging and emotional however, we have managed to get this far with each other’s support and we hope we can make a positive and lasting effect in Navrongo and the nearby communities. Thank you for reading and we hope that you continue following Youth Alive on our journey to make Navrongo a better place. Until next time.

Written by Mahera Hussain

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