Friday, 28 February 2014

Offices and Elephants

This week we thought we would tell you a little bit about our office, the people we work with and our new school for young carers, before telling you about our weekend in Mole National Park.

The building that we work in was purpose-built for the Resource Centre (RCPWD), and has provisions to host its various partners. This gives us frequent opportunities to talk to members of the various disability organisations associated with the RCPWD, and they often pop in to say hello throughout the day.

The new desks that have just been delivered
Our office is located in the main part of the building, and when the School for young carers that we are helping to establish starts in March, will be divided so that one half of it is used to host lessons in basic Maths and English. Over the past week, a lot of focus has been put into getting the School for Young Carers ready in time for its start in two weeks! New school desks arrived on Monday and we met our three new National Volunteers who will be teaching the students on Tuesday. They have arrived in line with the new ICS requirement that requires there to be an equal number of UK and National Volunteers.

The objective of the new school is to bring the children of disabled people in Tamale back up to the level of the national school system, with the aim to reintegrate them into the state school system. Those with disabled parents often play a primary role in providing care for their parents and as a result of this miss a lot of school in their younger years and frequently drop out of education entirely. Out of the thirty students we currently have registered, none are currently in school. So, the establishment of this school really represents an amazing opportunity for the Resource Centre to make a difference to the lives of local people.

The team hard at work in the office - Tasha talking to Samed
Throughout the day we work around a large conference style-desk, and everyone has settled into a pattern of sitting in certain seats at the table. Tash, as team-leader is sat at the top of the table and closest to the door, which means she is able to quickly respond to anyone who comes in looking for help or advice. Although our office is quite basic it is a great space to work in. We are kept cool during the day by several ceiling fans and the windows which line the outside wall, and have plenty of space in the room to decorate the walls with useful information. This aids us in writing letters and reports about the RCPWD and disabilities.

Samed, our centre manager works across the hall from us and is usually available to offer local-specific knowledge and assist us in forming relationships with the wider disabled community. Samed’s help and advice has played a crucial role in helping us to establish the School for Young Carers.

Ahmed is the other permanent member of staff at the RCPWD, he performs all sorts of little tasks and is always very helpful. Keeping the centre clean and tidy and greeting everyone with a ready smile each morning. Ahmed’s constant positivity always cheers us up on days when we are feeling a little homesick.

We always try to make the most out of our weekends and last weekend we had the exciting opportunity to go to Mole National Park, one of the many things I have been looking forward to as part of visiting Ghana with the ICS scheme. Having been on childhood Safaris I have vibrant memories of exhilarating and awe-inspiring experiences of being mere metres from wild animals and the prospect of doing this once again filled me with excitement.

After a little bit of research we found out that there were two modes of transport for getting to the park. One of these was a 5 hour metro mass journey that left at five in the afternoon and the other involved hiring a minibus which would take about 3 hours, organised through Moses, who was extremely helpful over the weekend!

Morning sushine
Early on Saturday morning we met outside the RAINS house, were picked up and made the journey to Mole. Arriving there in the late afternoon at Mole Motel, which sat at the top of a steep slope and provided a stunning view across the African savannah and a watering hole where a number of elephants were casually spotted going for a swim the next day!

After seeing this we headed off to do a small canoe trip, this was a really remarkable experience despite a small incident which involved some of the cohort taking an unexpected dip in the river due to their canoe being overturned, an occurrence we were informed had not happened in ten years of these tours happening. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed our canoe ride- perhaps appreciating it more as a result of our good fortune in staying dry- and the calmness of the river as we drifted along with it, occasionally seeing beautiful birds with brightly coloured plumage in the overhanging branches of the trees lining the riverside.

After the canoe trip the majority of the group made their way to the tree-house, where they slept out under the stars, and despite being a little chilly, had an amazing experience of being out in the wild. The other four chose the comfort of the Motel’s dormitories and a free breakfast the following morning. It was widely agreed by those who stayed at the Motel that the beds were much more comfortable than those at home and the pillows heavenly. Waking early to elephants casually ambling around outside our bedroom door completed the experience of staying in the guesthouse. These majestic creatures somehow manage to look graceful despite their great size.

Kalma our walking guide
The second day was made up of a two hour walking safari in which we had the opportunity to see numerous warthogs, whom our guide pronounced to be Pumbas (I like to think in a reference to the Lion King), some rather chilled out baboons and yet more elephants. Whilst, the baboons were chilled out I can however safely say that my lifelong aversion to them as a species has not dissipated and I still cannot get over the bizarreness of their bare pink bottoms.

We ended our Safari with a very pleasant breakfast and spent the afternoon unsuccessfully warding off the cunning attempts of the baboons to make off with people’s lunches before making the long journey back home to Tamale to begin another week hard at work.

This week's blog brought to you by Alex

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