Busua Beach, Kpatia & the End.

And so my time in Ghana is coming to an end… but not without a bang! Since my last post we’ve traveled down to the coast to Asa Baako Festival, I’ve stayed 2 nights in a Ghanaian friend’s village in the north, and I’ve been busy at work trying to get everything tied up.

So first, Busua beach (and Asa Baako Festival)! This is where we visited for a long weekend due to independence day on March 6th:

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The beach was simply stunning – very serene.

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Coconut Dream was where we had breakfast each morning.

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The festival involved a stage on the beach, before moving inland for the Jungle Party at night.

Then in the week came a visit to the Nayorku community. For the Farming for Futures project, Charlie had organised for a member from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to teach the farmers of the community on best-practice farming techniques.

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The following weekend I visited Martin’s village, Kpatia, in northern Ghana. Martin and I have been friends since meeting at the guesthouse we stayed at our for our in-country induction, and I have stayed in touch with him and been to house a couple of times throughout the 3 months. Last weekend I was privileged enough to stay with his family in his home village. After buying the food Martin said I’d require, I met him at the tro tro station after work on Friday, not knowing exactly what to expect…

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Myself and Martin’s (the man to the right of me) family! They were very welcoming.

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Before heading to Kpatia I had to buy all the drinking water that I would need. The village has no market, and is simply a collection of huts/houses dotted around the landscape. This made for a very peaceful atmosphere.

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We spend much of our time in Kpatia meeting the village people and more of Martin’s family. They were all very keen for a photo (and to see and laugh at the result), offering me the opportunity to shoot numerous families! I have printed most of the photos taken, to give to Martin who will deliver them to everyone once he returns to Kpatia again.

We climbed to the top of a nearby hill, for a fantastic view over the village.

We climbed to the top of a nearby hill, for a fantastic view over the village.

This man is searching from gold in rocks he'd dug up. The village members of Kpatia are certain there is gold, and this is backed up by the large and established gold mines in a neighboring village. Kpatia, however, does not have the money or resources to begin serious gold mining and for not is restricted to guessing and either searching like this man, or building shafts just using man power and without shaft machinery... this of course can unfortunately be very dangerous.

This man is searching from gold in dug up rocks. The village members of Kpatia are certain there is gold in the land, and this is backed up by the fact there are large and established gold mines in a neighboring village. Kpatia, however, does not have the money or resources to begin serious gold mining or prospecting and is restricted to guessing and either searching like through rocks, or building shafts just using man power and without shaft machinery… this of course can unfortunately be very dangerous.

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I was privileged enough to able to attend a funeral during my time there. Having seen the Damba Festival and also cultural performances I expected to know roughly what to expect, but this was very different in its own right! A very eye-opening experience that involved various dancing, traditional wear, fascinating instruments, and also the sacrificing of animals. Interestingly, March is the month during which people wait to have the funerals; the burials are performed around the time of death, but the cultural norm is to wait until March for the funeral to take place.

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Another photo from the funeral.

And another. The drummers formed a circle, in which it seemed that anyone could jump in a start dancing.

And another. The drummers formed a circle, in which it seemed that anyone could jump in a start dancing.

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My favourite photo from the many families I photographed.

I arrived back into Tamale on Sunday evening, exhausted but amazed at the last 48 hours. Sleeping and waking up in the huts, wandering around meeting the village people, and also visiting the gold mines in a nearby village, was certainly one of the most memorable experiences from my time in Ghana.

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Back at work and training Kamel and Hardi on how to make basic updates to the new website. The previous day I had trained Saani on the website, and the following morning he showed me a photo gallery he’d created himself from the evening after – all perfectly done! The fact the training and manual I’d given him had worked was a real boost to my hope that RAINS would be able to truly utilise the new site, in particular to raise awareness of all of their achievements and help the organsation in receiving funding from both national and international donors. A great moment is the smile on their faces when they edit something their self, and realise that editing HTML isn’t as difficult as it has to be!

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Surveys, Websites and Elephants

And so here we are again, another plog post! Last weekend we visited Mole National Park, which was absolutely fantastic. But first, this post will also contain a little update into how my work at RAINS has been going…

Last week we visited the Yama community in West Mamprusi to interview the pupils, mothers and teachers about sexual health knowledge and awareness, and also to see what they thought of our plan to bring Dinani to their community to perform a drama that taught correct sexual health knowledge and eradicate myths. Since conducting the surveys, I've been mashing the data in excel to find some shocking statistics: 67% of pupils interviewed did not what contraceptives are or had not heard of them.

Last week we visited the Yama community in West Mamprusi to interview the pupils, mothers and teachers about sexual health knowledge and awareness, and also to see what they thought of our plan to bring Dinani to their community to perform a drama that taught correct sexual health knowledge and eradicate myths. Since conducting the surveys, I’ve been mashing the data up in excel to find some shocking statistics. E.g 67% of pupils interviewed did not know what contraceptives are or had not heard of them.

One unique role I have taken on is to become RAINS's 'resident photographer' for any events, conferences or workshops they have. This is linked to my work in re-developing their website which I will go on to next. This is Hardi, the Executive Director of RAINS talking to the PTA of Kpachelo Primary School about 2014 plans for their community under one of the projects RAINS is currently leading.

One unexpected role I have taken on is to sometimes become RAINS’s ‘resident photographer’ for the events, conferences or workshops they have. It is linked to my work in re-developing their website, which I will go on to next. This is Hardi, the Executive Director of RAINS, talking to the PTA of Kpachelo Primary School about 2014 plans for their community under one of the projects RAINS is currently leading.

This is the current RAINS website, which was not only looking outdated but also heavily lacking in any content. Most areas would simply state 'coming soon...'

This is the current RAINS website, which I was dealt the task of updating. It was not only looking outdated but also heavily lacking any detailed or up to date content on the projects RAINS are undertaking.

And here we have the brand new one! Packed full of up to date information on the current projects, including recent project reports, a photo gallery and the eventual uploading of the 20 year anniversary documentary made last year. RAINS have had many great successes over the years but are always very modest about their achievements. It is vital that their accomplishments are recognized, and with the website doing just that it creates a professional front for prospective funders and for the community to be more aware of the work RAINS is undertaking. RAINS have received funding from many international charities such as Comic Relief and Hope for Children, so it is essential that they continue to develop into the 21st century in order to further promote their work.

And here we have the brand new one! Aesthetically the update is mild, but the importance lies in the fact it is now packed full of up to date information on the current projects, including recent project reports, a photo gallery and the eventual uploading of the 20 year anniversary documentary made last year. I’m now in the process of developing a ‘how to’ manual on how to do basic regular updates to the website from which I will train some of the RAINS staff, in order to make the website sustainable. RAINS have had many great successes over the years but are always very modest about their achievements. It is vital that their accomplishments are recognized, and with the website doing just that it creates a professional front for prospective funders and for the community to be more aware of the work RAINS is undertaking. RAINS have received funding from many large charities such as Comic Relief and Hope for Children over the years, so it is essential that they continue to develop into the 21st century in order to further promote their work and attract further funding from big donors. That said, with this nearing completion I am looking forward to having a hand involved with the direct ground work once again – hence the work on the sexual health stats.

Lastly, there is of course the video I'm making. Inspired by the '50 people, 1 question' series of videos, I'm asking 25 Ghanaians and 25 British people the question "Why do you think education is important?" in order to compare their answers and see how/if the two cultures differ. It's been fun making it so far, especially having the Ghanaians speaking in their local language and then having it translated by Justice and Festus for the subtitles. Some of the answers have been really fascinating!

Lastly, there is of course the video I’m making. Inspired by the ’50 people, 1 question’ series of videos, I’m asking 25 Ghanaians and 25 British people the question “Why do you think education is important?” in order to compare their answers and see how/if the two cultures differ. It’s been fun making it so far, especially having the Ghanaians speaking in their local language and then having it translated by Justice and Festus for the subtitles. Some of the answers have been really fascinating!

And then the weekend and Mole! The view at the motel where we ate lunch was simply stunning.

And then the weekend and Mole National Park! After a veery bumpy ride in a minibus, and a wrong turn that took us half an hour the wrong way, we made it.

And the view from the hotel where we had lunch was really quite something...

And the view from the hotel where we had lunch was simply stunning.

As it was getting late into the afternoon, we decided to go on the canoes and leave the safari for sunday morning. This turned out be a very lucky escape for me, and particularly the camera. I and 4 others got on the first boat and headed off all ok, but the second boat was over capacity and capsized, leaving many people wet and wrecking a fair few phones and camera as well! Never again will I take any valuables onto a canoe again...

As it was getting late into the afternoon, we decided to go on the canoes and leave the safari for sunday morning. This turned out be a very lucky escape for me, and particularly the camera. I and 4 others got on the first boat and headed off all ok, but the second boat was over capacity and capsized, leaving many people wet and wrecking a fair few phones and camera as well! Never again will I take any valuables onto a canoe again…

We spent the night in a treehouse, which took the feeling of isolation to a whole new level. It got very cold in the night though unfortunately.

We spent the night in a treehouse, which took the feeling of isolation to a whole new level and gave us a great insight into the sounds of the park at night. It got very cold in the night unfortunately; it was probably still around the mid to high teens, but it had us almost shivering.

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The following morning we got up and walked with our guard/guide back to the hotel, tracking animals occasionally along the way. Just several metres from our treehouse we found hyena tracks from the night before. We then set off on the foot safari…

We then went on the foot safari, and found elephants almost instantly. We followed them down a hill to a waterhole where we watched them for a long while.

…and found elephants almost instantly! We followed them down a hill to a waterhole where we sat and watched them for a long while. There were of course other animals, but apart from elephants Mole doesn’t have many other exotic animals unfortunately due to hunting. Still, it meant we spent a long time with the elephants! We did, however, have an amusing encounter with a baboon stealing the remainders of Charlie’s lunch.

And that was that! Rounded off with a group photo with our guide.

And that was that! Rounded off with a group photo with our guide.

Waterfalls and Crocodiles

During the past 2 weekends we’ve had the chance to visit the crocodile lake in a town named Paga located at the most northerly part of Ghana, be given a very moving and informative tour around an old slave camp, and also visit Kintampo waterfalls which were beautiful and serene. What follows is, as always, my favourite photos from the experiences!

First, the crocodile lake. In Paga, the village that the lake is in, the crocodiles are sacred to the community. This is because that the legend is that a man, named Panlogo, contesting for his position as chief was fleeing an outbreak in violence when he came across a river, where he found a crocodile. Believing already that the spirit of his ancestors resided in crocodiles, Panlogo asked for help in crossing the river from the crocodile. The crocodile obeyed, and ever since the people have sworn to never harm or kill any crocodiles.

First, the crocodile lake. In Paga, the village that the lake is in, the crocodiles are sacred to the community. This is because that the legend is that a man, named Panlogo, contesting for his position as chief was fleeing an outbreak in violence when he came across a river, where he found a crocodile. Believing already that the spirit of his ancestors resided in crocodiles, Panlogo asked for help in crossing the river from the crocodile. The crocodile obeyed, and ever since the people have sworn to never harm or kill any crocodiles.

I had the rare opportunity to get seriously up close to the crocodiles...

I had the rare opportunity to get seriously up close to the crocodiles due to them being very domesticated. They lie with their mouths wide open, giving off a sinister look!

...and I mean really close. Touching one was a surreal experience. Charlie and I opted for a heartwarming photo with the crocodile.

Touching one was a surreal experience. Charlie and I opted for a heartwarming photo with the crocodile.

We were led around the slave camp by this man, who was a very good speaker and extremely passionate about the history behind the camp. This was a very moving experience, particularly when we were told about the punishments the slaves had to endure if they did not obey orders.

We were led around the slave camp by this man, who was a very good speaker and extremely passionate about the history behind the camp. This was a very moving experience, particularly when we were told about the punishments the slaves had to endure if they did not obey orders.

Just as one small example, the grooves in the rock here are what the slaves would eat their food out of. A signal would let them know that the food is ready, and then it would simply be first come first served.

Just as one small example, the grooves in the rock here are what the slaves would eat their food out of. A signal would let them know that the food is ready, and then it would simply be first come first served.

And then this weekend and Kintampo waterfalls. The region was very lush as were further down south. This was a welcome change from the desert-like conditions of Tamale and the north.

And then this weekend and Kintampo waterfalls. The region was very green and lush as were further down south. This was a very welcome change from the desert-like conditions of Tamale and the north!

This was the first of three stages of the waterfalls. Signs at each stage informed the waters path through and under the rocks. After this, the water disappears under the rocks and reappears 20 metres down stream. Interestingly, the sign says that "the volume of the water increases with more visitors present"...

This was the first of three stages of the waterfalls. Signs at each stage informed the waters path through and under the rocks. After this, the water disappears under the rocks and reappears 20 metres down stream. Interestingly, the sign says that “the volume of the water increases with more visitors present”…

We then wandered through the woods to the next stage of the waterfalls.

We then wandered through the woods to the next stage of the waterfalls.

Stage 2! At this point we took off our shoes and waded through the water, using that log as support, to head further down the stream to sit and take in the scenery.

Stage 2! At this point we took off our shoes and waded through the water, using that log as support, to head further down the stream to sit and take in the scenery. Zainab decided she didn’t want to get her feet wet and instead attempted to crawl across!

Carefully wandering down...

Carefully wandering down…

...and just taking a moment to enjoy the peacefulness.

…and just taking a moment to enjoy the peacefulness.

And the grand stage 3! This really did feel like a tropical paradise, and we spent a good hour or so here just fooling around in the water and relaxing.

And the grand stage 3! This really did feel like a tropical paradise, and we spent a good hour or so here just fooling around in the water and relaxing.

The stream directly after the waterfall.

The stream directly after the waterfall.

I may look relaxed here, but in actual fact lying down means you get battered by water. Fun though!

I may look relaxed here, but in actual fact lying down means you get battered by water…which is great fun though. The first time I tried to get behind the falling water to sit inside, I failed and slipped all the way down the platform I’m lying on in this photo…

Step into Tamale Market

So this week I finally went into the market with my camera to try to capture the essence of it. Tamale’s central market is where we do our weekly shopping for basics like fruit and veg, whilst we get any western specific items at the supermarkets dotted around. This market can be a right pain to go around after work when trying to find what you need, but at the same time it’s full of life and fascinating to walk around. If smellography existed, this would be a perfect case for it. The mix of meats, vegetables and a hundred other things make for a unique and dynamic smelling experience – I can assure you.

Just to set the scene. The buzz of Tamale centre!

Just to set the scene. The hustle and bustle of central Tamale!

It can get a bit tightly packed at times...

A basic first peak into the market.

Vegetables, particularly onions and tomatoes, are in abundance.

Vegetables, particularly onions and tomatoes, are in abundance.

We haven't tried the meat here, and don't plan to, but I've heard it is fresh from the morning!

We haven’t tried the meat here, and don’t plan to, but I’ve heard it is fresh from the morning!

One of the many little alleyways down the market.

One of the many little alleys in the market.

And another.

And another. It can of course get very cramped when busy!

The Vodafone mobile tower dominates the skyline.

The Vodafone mobile tower dominates the skyline.

Rice, and lots of it.

Rice, and lots of it!

I was lucky enough to find a tailor willing to let me take their photograph. This guy was so willing he wanted to pose! Most sellers and it seems particularly tailors and fabric makers do not like their photos being taken.

I was lucky enough to find a tailor willing to let me take their photograph. This guy was so willing he wanted to pose! Most sellers, particularly tailors and fabric makers it would seem, do not like their photos being taken. Be sure to note the traditional Ghanaian fabric!

Men and their machines...

Sitting proudly with his sewing machine. The tailored clothes here are great. I’ve yet to have my own made but it’s only a matter of time.

This lady has the decorative sewing machines often seen being used.

This lady shows off the decorative sewing machines often seen being used.

A very 'red' picture.

Just outside the market. A very ‘red’ picture…

Just outside the market, people selling veg against the walls of the Vodafone centre. Despite the barbed wire, during the day there is a normal shop inside.

Again just next to the market, people selling veg against the walls of the Vodafone centre. Despite the barbed wire, during the day there is a normal vodafone shop inside.

Off roading, more dancing and… The Jungle Book.

So aside from the weekends, what have I been doing here!?

I’ve already spent 3 weeks working with RAINS, and things are beginning to get moving. Be sure to read my ‘about‘ section before going through this post, so you know what’s what!

Our journey so far has been successful so far, but I’ve quickly learnt of the challenges that accompany international development in my time here already – especially when it has felt like progress is slow. There are many geographical and economical issues to overcome, as well as the matter of the extremely laid back way of life here! The office work, meetings, planning, and phone calls are all the essential back work not included in this post. What follows are some of the highlights so far in the projects when we’ve been able to get out of the office and put our work directly into action.

This was for the uniform recycling project. Here we are loading the donation boxes, created by the previous volunteers, onto a pickup truck to deliver to the donor schools. We piled into the back for a fun ride... of course!

The uniform recycling project, named ‘Students for Schooling’. Here we are loading the donation boxes, created by the previous volunteers, onto a pickup truck to deliver to the donor schools. We piled into the back for a fun ride… of course!

We visited several schools, delivering and presenting the boxes.

We visited several schools, delivering and presenting the boxes. The names on the boxes are those of previous volunteers, who created the boxes, and any other people who have contributed to the project.

At each schools we got the chance to have a photo taken with some of the pupils.

At each of the donor schools we got the chance to have a photo taken with some of the pupils. The next stages of this project are mainly to begin contacting seamstresses who can adapt the donated uniform for the beneficiary schools. But first…

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…the following week we visited the beneficiary schools, which are in more rural areas a fair few miles out of Tamale. This day was absolutely exhausting, travelling for hours to visit each school and going off road what felt like 80% of the time!

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The children were incredibly interested in our arrival, as is so often the case!

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This was speaking to a teacher of one of the schools, introducing RAINS and what we hope to provide for the school. If only Festus could have looked a little more keen!

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The driver catching a short break in the shade. As I mentioned, it was an exhausting day travelling along dirt roads for hours at a time to each school. It was fascinating going into the rural areas after living in the hustle and bustle of Tamale. The rural way of life was eye-opening, but the extensive development going on was also clear – many villages had electricity, whilst those without had the poles up ready to accommodate the power lines.

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Our cinema fundraiser day, in which we put on The Jungle Book, sold popcorn, coolaid and even had Dinani perform! We were putting this on to raise funds to buy professional costumes for Dinani. After flyering the private schools around Tamale, and even managing to get a mention on local radio station Kesmi FM, it was a great success. We achieved 20% of our fundraising target in this one go, which was far beyond expectations.

We even had Dinani welcoming everyone into the RAINS offices in true style.

We even had Dinani welcoming everyone into the RAINS office in true style.

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Jill with the popcorn maker a RAINS colleague kindly lent to us. Jill’s mum sells popcorn, and so with some sneaky tricks of the trade she was creating some truly fantastic popcorn. There was, of course, none of that left by the end of the day…

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Dinani performing in the RAINS front grounds, just before the film was shown. For this project as a whole, the next key stages are to continue to raise funds for Dinani through various ways and then begin organising another sexual health based performance in West Mamprusi.

The only major project not covered here is ‘Farming For Futures’. With regard to setting up the cooperative and organising the best practice farming sessions, these are at the early stages of making contacts and meeting people. We have already made contacts within the Ministry of Food & Agriculture and with NGOs who specialise in best practice farming techniques. However, meeting people is not always easy in Ghana; timing and schedules are less of a part of the culture than in the UK.

There’s a lot to be done! As always, keep in mind this really is a just a small glimpse displaying the key progress points so far.

Sunrises, shrines, and sights

Another week and more to tell! A work related post is overdue, but it must wait for now. As last weekend we ventured north to the town of Bolgatanga where we walked to the Tengzug Shrine and Tongo Hills. This was both stunning and fascinating, so I had to share it with you.

On a side note, if you haven’t read my ‘about’ section yet, it is worth knowing that the organisation I’m working with (RAINS) have their own blog here which is run by us 4 volunteers together and is generally based off the work we are doing or cultural matters in Ghana. So keep checking back there for another angle on my life in Ghana!

Anyway, after a 3 hour journey in what is called a ‘tro-tro’ (a cramped and questionable minibus), that unfortunately included a tire bursting 15 minutes in, we arrived in Bolga on Friday evening to meet the other ICS volunteers (where we slept on the roof… just because you can) ready to set off the following morning. What follows are a set of photos to lead you through the journey!

We set out at around 6am for our 11 mile walk, hoping to avoid the midday sun heat. This meant for a rare opportunity to catch the sun rising!

We set out at around 6am (ouch!) for our 11 mile walk, hoping to avoid the midday sun heat. This meant for a rare opportunity to catch the sun rising!

Something just to give you a flavour of what  sort of terrain we were walking in.

Something just to give you a flavour of what sort of terrain we were walking in. The extreme flatness meant it was often easy to see for miles.

Now very close to the Tongo Hills, which you can see in the background.

After 4 or so hours we were now very close to the Tongo Hills, which you can see in the background.

We stopped for a short break on some rocks before heading into the hills. Please excuse the two hooligans...

With the heat now taking it up a gear, we stopped for a short break on some shaded rocks before heading into the hills. Please excuse the two hooligans…

Only after a minute or so of walking into the hills, we stumbled upon a fantastic view!

Only after a minute or so of walking into the hills, we stumbled upon a fantastic view!

The new terrain for the next 30/60 minutes.

The new terrain for the next 30/60 minutes…

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Once we arrived at the visitor centre for the Tongo Hills and Tengzug Shrine, we were first led by our guide to this arrangements of rocks. Believe it or not, this was once the local school! Inside there is a ledge upon which the children would sit and learn.

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We were then introduced to the local chief. He told us a little about himself, such as about the development work he has done in his region to build wells and also the fact he has 19 wives.

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The last leg before reaching the Tengzug shrine!

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Like I said, we stumbled upon some great views. This was the final spot before we had to remove our tops, shoes and socks (if wearing trousers then they had to be rolled up to be like shorts). The guys went first up to the shrine, before heading back down to let the girls go up second. I hadn’t realised quite how hot the rocks got in the sun!

Just outside the topless shrine...

Just outside the Tengzug shrine, where we weren’t allowed to take photos. The shrine itself is slotted between the rocks and is very simple and predominantly spiritual based. It was very peaceful and cool inside, where there was a priest who told us about the shrine and let us ask questions. People come from far around Ghana and surrounding regions to visit the shrine, which dates back to 500 BC, and people who wish to worship there must bring an animal to be sacrificed, eating the meat and leaving behind the rope and fur (which there is a sizable pile of inside the shrine). The reason for the topless requirement is because traditionally Ghanaians would wear only simple rags to cover themselves around the waist; so since that was how people used to visit the shrine, this tradition has been kept to ever since.

Damba Festival!

On Sunday and Monday we had the great opportunity to experience the Damba Festival, originally an Islamic ceremony dedicated to the birth and naming of Mohammed. We were lucky enough to be invited by Chief Anusa, who we know through the work we are doing with the Dinani cultural performance group, which was originally established by Anusa and RAINS to give underprivileged kids the opportunity to learn traditional dancing and drumming whilst teaching them life skills. We are now working with Dinani to teach kids about contraceptive and sexual health through traditional African performances.Chief Inusa surrounded by drummers. If only you could see the moves Inusa has!

Chief Anusa surrounded by drummers. He seriously knows how to dance.
A dancer wearing a traditional Ghanain smock

A dancer wearing a traditional Ghanain smock

A detailed peak into the passion put into the drumming, along with an example of the unique bent drumstick....

An up-close peak into the passion put into the drumming, along with an example of the unique bent drumstick….

These guns packed a serious punch, hugely adding to the atmosphere but get too close and you'd be left with ringing in your ears. On the second day I was left right in front of one of these, as the kids were sharp and scampered off in front of me, leaving me to be covered in gunpowder dust and partially deaf.

Each chief has “warriors”, who brought along guns that they filled with gunpowder and straw and fired into the air, packing a serious punch and hugely adding to the atmosphere. But get too close and you’d be left with ringing in your ears! On the second day I was left right in front of one of these. The kids in front of me were sharp and scampered off, leaving me to be covered in gunpowder dust and partially deaf for a minute… good fun though.

I thought it was worth showing you a photo of just how incredible a chief's outfit is. Finished off with some sleek sunglasses for good measure.

I had to include a photo displaying how incredible Anusa’s ceremonial outfit  was. Finished off with some sleek sunglasses for good measure.

This was a few seconds after turning to take a photo of all the children crammed on top of the bus trying to get a good view. I cannot stress enough how much (most of) the kids love having their photo taken, practically sprinting to get into the shot and pose.

This was a few seconds after turning to take a photo of all the children crammed on top of the bus trying to get a good view. I cannot stress enough how much (most of) the kids love having their photo taken, practically sprinting to get into the shot and pose.

Chief Inusa and his white homies.

Chief Anusa, his family and us!

This needs some explaining, as the gunshots were really not as intense looking as this (although if you convert that fire into sound than that's a more accurate representation).

This isn’t quite what it was like, as the gunshots were really not intense fireballs like this (although if you imagine transforming that fire into sound and smoke than that’s a more realistic representation of what we experienced).

The only photo from the second half of the Damba Festival. The chiefs made there way through this crowd on horses, surrounded by supporters, towards the chief's palace where they were congregating. The atmosphere was outstanding, but also a tad overwhelming as the crowds were vastly uncontrolled. We managed to escape thanks to the help of some friends who knew their way around.

The only photo from the second half of the Damba Festival. The chiefs fought their way through this crowd on horses, surrounded by supporters, towards the paramount chief’s palace (Dakpema) where they were congregating. The atmosphere was outstanding, but also a tad overwhelming as the crowds were very intense. We managed to escape down a side alley thanks to the help of some members from Dinani who knew their way around.

Less to do with the festival, more just a photo of two children with great expressions.

Less to do with the festival, more just a photo of two children with great expressions.

An eventful first week and a bit

So I have eventually come round to uploading my first post. So much has already happened and I really could go on forever about every detail. Here is the first ‘literal’ snapshot into my life in Ghana so far. This really only scratches the surface and covers the basics of where I work, my house and a little bit more!

The RAINS staff along with all the new volunteers. Our projects are looking very promising based off what we've read from the previous volunteer cohorts.

The RAINS permanent staff along with the new UK volunteers (Me, Jack, Jo and Charlie), the national volunteers (Justice, Festus and Jill) and our team leader (Matt) . Our projects are looking very promising based off what we’ve read from the previous volunteer cohorts. There is huge amounts of detailed research to work from.

Hard at work already in the RAINS office. Our work is mostly office based, where we do research, contact people etc. Here we were most likely gathering details of agricultural NGOs who can help us run best-practice farming workshops for our cooperative, or looking into small scale funding ideas in northern Ghana to raise money for the Dinani cultural group who we use to raise awareness of contraceptives and sexual health.

Hard at work already in the RAINS office. Our work is often office based, where we do research, contact organisations etc. This week we were mainly reading through the previous cohorts reports, and then gathering details of agricultural NGOs who can help us run best-practice farming workshops for our farming cooperative (for the Farming for Futures project), looking into small scale funding ideas in northern Ghana to raise money for the Dinani cultural group (for the Girls project, which uses Dinani to hold performances that aim to raise awareness of contraceptives and remove myths), and lastly we began to sort through the clothes already donated from the privileged schools (for the uniform recycling project) as seen below!

At work sorting through donated clothes for the uniform recycling project, where we aim to get clothes donated from the better off schools (as you can see the previous cohort already made a good start) and then give the uniforms to the less well off schools. All the clothes need sorting through and a lot of them repairing as well, not to mention making them suitable for each individual school - a lot to do then!

At work sorting through donated clothes for the uniform recycling project, in which we aim to get clothes donated from privileged schools (as you can see the previous cohort already made a great start) and then give the uniforms to the less well off schools. All the clothes need sorting through and a lot of them repairing as well, not to mention making them suitable for each individual school – a lot to do then!

As you may have already seen on Facebook, this our home! It's basic but we already have warmed to it and it'd odd characteristics...

Our home! We’ve already warmed to it and its peculiar characteristics…

The view as I immediately step out of my front door, note the family over to the right. They are very friendly and their children, as you'll see, are not shy to come over and say hello!

The view as I immediately step out of my front door, note the family over to the right. They are very friendly and their children, as you’ll see below, are not shy to come over and say hello!

The children from the homes surrounding our house came over one day to say hello. We showed them how to draw with crayons and then showed them photos of themselves - which they found absolutely hilarious!

The children from the homes surrounding our house came over one day to say hello. We showed them how to draw with crayons and then showed them photos of themselves – which they found absolutely hilarious!

Me and Jo with the group of kids from outside our house. They found it amazing seeing photos of themselves, so we of course we couldn't pass up the opportunity for a group photo! Although this was taken by Jack, we in fact had some of the kids taking photos themselves once after this!

Me and Jo with the group of kids from outside our house. Like I said, they found it amazing seeing photos of themselves, so we of course couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a group photo. Although this was taken by Jack, we in fact had some of the kids taking photos after this!

Our plan for what we want done/begun by the end of next week. DOC = Department of cooperatives.

Our plan for what we want done/begun by the end of next week. DOC = Department of Cooperatives. GP = Girls project. There are three regions we hope to carry out a Dinani performance in (Gbimsi, Wulugu & Nayorku). So far, one performance has been done in Gbimsi – the region worst affected by dropout rates and young pregnancy as revealed through previous research,

Heathrow at 1am

Twas the night before Ghana, when all through Heathrow
Not a drink was stirring, not even a cappuccino
No shopping was in sight,
Nor was a flight.

Heathrow at 1am – something that is probably all too familiar for many people (well, maybe more like 4/5am).

I’m finally here – tired, nervous and excited! The trip began from the off with a touch of drama as I discovered that my suitcase’s zip was on the brink of breaking, forcing me to scramble my things into my Dad’s suicase an hour before leaving. A good start.

Excuse me if this post is not the best (I apologise for murdering ’twas the night before christmas’, as it’s now 3am (having wrestled with worpress for an hour or so) and despite my flight being at 7:55am I left my house at 9pm yesterday! Getting the train and tube seemed the best way when planning it …

So as you can hopefully understand, right now I cannot wait to get on the plane and fall asleep.

So for now, wish me luck!

PS That photo of a desolate looking Heathrow on the front page will of course be changed to a lovely photo of Ghana in the coming days, but for now it sums up the journey so far all too well! Hopefully I’ll work out how to have high quality images on wordpress as well.