Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Mango Tree Musings

As we near the end of our time at the Resource Centre, the moment has come for us to shelter from the harsh sub-Saharan sun and seek refuge in the generous shade proffered by the kind mango tree, taking a moment to tune out the beeping horns of those pieces of scrap metal masquerading as taxis and thoughtfully reflect on the work we have done as all the great thinkers would do.

Disclaimer: No mango trees were sat under in the writing of this blog.

Measuring the true impact of our activities is not something that can be done easily, especially in such a short time. Stigma and negative attitudes towards people with disabilities are firmly engrained in Ghanaian society, more difficult to remove than the red dust that stains our clothes. But it is clear that our sensitisation programme is making steps in the right direction. Over 1200 students have so far been educated on disability issues and seen, possibly for the first time, that disability is not inability. The students have been incredibly receptive and feedback at the end of our presentations has informed us that our message has been positively received by pupils and teachers alike.

From West Yorkshire ...
Implementing the programme has been a continuous learning curve. A great deal of work has gone in to identifying the relevant information that needs to be delivered, and refining the content and style so that as many young minds as possible leave with positive, inclusive attitudes about people with disabilities. Alas, certain improvements have been harder to make than others. The reaction to Chris breaking in to his section about visual impairments in his Yorkshire baritone, an accent that the students seem to find hilariously incomprehensible, is one that is regrettably out of our control, at least until he begins his metamorphosis into the West African gentleman that surely hides behind his Bradfordian fa├žade.

Sustainability is key to any successful development project. Now that our school visits are well established, we have begun to focus more of our attention on how the programme can continue to run successfully well beyond our time in Tamale. More importantly, we have been thinking how it can begin to run independently from the support of international volunteers. Already several of the National Volunteers at the Resource Centre are involved in running the programme. This cohort has also come up with a number of ideas regarding sustainability to which the next team of volunteers at the Resource Centre will dedicate some of their efforts. These include setting up disability training workshops for school teachers so that ultimately there will be at least one member of staff in all Tamale schools who is comfortable educating their pupils on disability awareness. There are also plans to produce educational materials and posters that can be left in schools so that our message stays in the classroom for a long time.
... to West Africa.
 We hope that the next group of volunteers will follow Team Leader Lisa’s wonderful wise guidance and will build on the foundations we have laid to create a sustainable sensitisation programme that we can all be proud of. Until then, it is time for us to leave the shelter of our metaphorical mango tree and return to the little rascals who enjoy nervously chasing us down the streets with calls of “Salaminga…Hello!”. 

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