Thursday, 3 August 2017

Early Saturday morning we all gathered outside our beloved Quality First supermarket in Tamale town centre, eager to experience our first community entry. This was Kanvili; an area on the outskirts of the city that had been highlighted as requiring the training and support we could offer.  We had arranged to meet the Assembly man once we arrived in the community; as the society's spokesperson, he is a gateway into being able to carry out our work.

As the last cohort of volunteers had faced difficulties with working here, the pressure was on for us (cohort 7) to move forward, and therefore to make a good first impression. As we walked around the community for over 45 minutes, many locals greeted us “Dasiba (Good morning), Kawula (how are you doing?), Amaraba (Welcome), Nigorim (How was your journey?). Children walked with their parents behind us smiling in wonder as to why this large group of foreigners were in their town.

Somewhat distracted by the unfamiliar setting, we nearly bypassed the assembly man’s house until he shouted “HEYYYYYYYY, I’m here”. His family greeted us with warm smiles and the usual Ghanaian hospitality was not omitted. We discussed our mission and from this, he was eager to lead us to the elders of the community. The minute we all watched him bend to greet the elders and explain the reason of our visit, we all quickly bowed with hands clapped in reverence to the respectable group in every society. The elders are valued in all communities across Tamale and at first some of us even thought we were actually in front of the chief.

The assembly man enthusiastically explained our reasons for the visit and the project mission and activities planned for this community to the elders. Following this, teenagers quickly grabbed benches and chairs and invited us to sit down under a tree whilst the elders spoke to the chief. Whilst waiting for the chief, we were introduced to Naazoo “the friend of the chief”. Despite the conversations surrounding us taking place in Dagbani (the local language) we all knew he was an important man due to his special smock and everyone else’s respectful behaviour towards him. After we had been briefly introduced, we were invited into the palace to meet the chief and the full council of elders. This was an experience that will not leave us quickly.

The friend of the chief acted as a spokesperson for the chief for the entirety of the encounter (a common practice here). After initial pleasantries regarding where we were from, what our charity’s mission was and how we plan to carry out development campaigns, we were grilled as to what concrete plans we had, and the justification for allowing outsiders to come in; were we qualified? A little nervously (it must be admitted) we explained that we are a group of Ghanaian and British volunteers with the passion to empower women in Kanvilli to provide sustainable solutions to the communities needs. This is following on from insight conducted by the previous cohort with the aim to deliver sessions as requested by the women’s group. Thankfully, the chief gave us his blessing for work in the community and expressed he was truly grateful and wiling to support us in any way. This was a such a huge relief and motivation for the group as we became even more excited to join the women’s group as they held their weekly meeting.

The women’s group is called Kpag-Mag Ka-Wuni Sog which means "do well and God will help you" The group shared areas of interest and asked us to deliver sessions on hygiene and sanitation, family planning and financial independence. These topics will help improve their standard of living, their confidence and their wellbeing. It is safe to say that we are more than excited to help facilitate this.

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