Women in Tamale have very strong necks…
I never imagined that the current strike in Ghana by medical doctors could have had dire consequences like this until I became a victim to this power play between the Ghanaian Government on one hand and the medical professionals on the other hand. I believe that those who wrote our labour laws did not make any mistake when they categorised certain services, including medical services, as being essential.
According the labour laws of Ghana, those who are categorised as essential are not supposed to go on strike – but should they continue to work to detriment of their conditions when all supposed avenues to addressing their grievances have proved futile and unhelpful? Your guess is as good as mine.
Personally, I am not so much concerned about who is right or wrong; I am more interested in what the innocent poor villager would have to go through under this difficult condition. As a subscriber to the National Health Insurance Scheme, a social policy meant to cushion people when they fall ill, I majestically walked into the hospital to be treated for the malaria that I have been battling for some time now. The moment I got to the hospital, I could see hundreds of destitute parents and their children lying on the ground waiting to access health care services.
I made an enquiry at the front desk as to why these helpless souls were lying unattended, only to be told that there was nobody around to attend to them. I pushed for more answers as I ran out of patience. All the front desk officer could do was to direct me to the administrator of the hospital. The administrator told me that the hospital was in that state because there wasn’t any doctor to attend to these patients – including myself – because the doctors are on strike.
At this point, I wasn’t looking at myself as a patient, because I could still go to the private hospital and access good health care services. I was so much touched by the condition of the innocent and helpless children and their parents who have no option at all. So I ask myself, so why do we have this situation in modern Ghana? Why should it get to this extent? Is there any end in sight? I don’t know…
As part of our voluntary experience in Tamale we are fortunate enough to go out and observe firsthand the work that RAINS and its partner organisations are doing in different communities. So, a few days ago we were invited to accompany Regional Advisory Information Network Systems (RAINS) staff and a partner organisation, Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC), to the Sang community in the Mion district. It was a welcome treat to visit Sang on our second day in the office. During our journey we noted the countless green trees that lined the major roads and we also found that driving over certain large and unexpected potholes drew out amused, nervous and relieved laughter from us all, but not necessarily in that order.
Arriving at Sang we were greeted with song and dance which was really nice, and after speaking to one of the representatives of the Chief there were discussions into what work had been done in the past by RAINS and CTFC and if there were any pressing issues that needed to be discussed for the future.
The interventions carried out by RAINS and CFTC over the past 6 – 7 years have been with aims to enhance quality education for children, developing a food security resource programme and to improve livelihoods. The community also thanked RAINS & CFTC for all the work that had been done so far. The women were keen to show us some of the products yielded from their own farming such as okro and we were given a tour of the local primary school, the Sang Al-Zakaria Islamic School.
We found out during the trip that a major concern for the people of the Sang community was water availability, there’s not enough water in the existing bore holes that water is being pumped from. The alternative of using local dams may not be the best as there won’t be enough water available for everyone with the lack of rainfall, high humidity and sanitation concerns. The next steps for RAINS and CTFC will be to develop alternative methods of access to clean water and possible partnership with water NGOs.
What we took away from the visit were the following,
- A very warm reception and the people of Sang are very welcoming (children especially were excited to see new faces)
- Visibility of results in agriculture and education which the work by RAINS and CFTC has produced
- Development work is a gradual process and there are always opportunities to do more
- Access to enough clean water is important to the community
- Speed bumps were everywhere – which was good as there are quite a lot of goats wandering around
- Find out more about the work being done in Sang and what can be done to help
We are looking forward to learning more about the work RAINS is doing in Ghana, as well as visiting more places and meeting new people!
The brand new batch of volunteers for the International Service Ghana team had the delight of spending the final night of an icebreaker-filled induction week indulging in some traditional Ghanaian food, music and dance.
The evening started with some of the local cuisine. Around the table we saw numerous plates of Jollof Rice (a new personal favourite of mine), Banku (fermented corn dough) and not forgetting a variety of different local meats including goat, guinea fowl and chicken. The meal would not have been complete without, of course, an obligatory ‘lights out’ (more commonly known as a ‘blackout’)… something we have adapted to very well upon arriving in Tamale. Various torches/other light bearing concoctions were put into place and the meal carried on as normal… (as you do).
Following on from this was something we had all been very excited about – our evening of watching and participating in some local drumming and dancing.
The whole team headed over to the Youth Home Cultural group which is situated in the centre of Tamale where, just like everywhere else we have been so far, the atmosphere and the people we had the pleasure of meeting was so warm, friendly and welcoming.
We sat and soaked in the overwhelming cultural experience we were being given, learning about the traditions and stories behind each song and dance and seeing the spectrum of different colours each persons costume entailed. It was so liberating to see the passion and feel the energy behind each routine.
And then …it was time. Each and every member of the IS Ghana team took to the stage to learn a small dance routine from the group’s leader. Let’s just say that some of the team have been blessed with slightly more rhythm than others…
So, if this was our introduction to our time here in the northern region of Ghana, I think I can speak on behalf of the whole IS Ghana team when I say I am thoroughly looking forward to experiencing and learning about an incredibly traditional culture as well as being able to work closely with our project partners and to ultimately embrace every moment of the next 3 months of our Ghanaian journey. Dasiba Tamale!!
…Team Tamale #2!
Fatawu and Zoe have been joined by 3 new volunteers – Iyanu (who has been given the local name Chentiwuni by our colleagues), Molly (Timtooni) and Ali (Nasara).
Over the next ten weeks you’ll be hearing from all 5 of us about our project at RAINS and our experience of life in Ghana.
Last week, I took advantage of a week’s break between groups of volunteers to see some of the parts of Ghana that are that bit too far for a daytrip from Tamale… There were some amazing sights, but as always in Ghana, the trip was made by the people I met… and the things that they said…
1. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” said E, who was pretty much a stranger when we agreed to get in his car for a trip to Akosombo Dam and Wli waterfalls. While the kindness of this stranger could not be disputed, it was somewhat unsettling that he kept quoting Blanche Dubois, a character who is committed to a mental institution.
2. “I insist that you take my bed,” said L. After we arrived in Nkawkaw at the beginning of the 4 days of Easter celebrations with no hotel bookings, L, who sells phone credit at the bus station, took pity on us and invited us to stay in her own home… and, in fact, in her own bed, while she slept on the floor.
3. “I can’t help it that she’s such a big girl” said the pilot of my paraglider at the Kwahu festival after we crash-landed into a patch of scrubland. Followed by “it’s only a scratch” as he rubbed dirt into the open wound I’d sustained when I hit the ground violently, with him on my back. The local children gathered around laughing and taking photographs of the bleeding foreigner on their mobile phones.
4. “Oh, I just sold you to that man in the comedy sunglasses” said S, when I asked why everyone on our trotro from Lake Bosumtwi was laughing. “Oh right, for how much?” “Fifteen cows. You fetched a good price, because you’re white.”
5. “I’m ready… but not desperate” said F, in Cape Coast, when asked of his opinion on marriage, immediately drawing a contrast with the UK where a single man in his mid-twenties would be very unlikely to admit to wanting to marry… and also distinguishing himself from those who take more of the ‘desperate’ approach when chatting you up…
6. “See, you cannot work here!” said the shipyard owner in Elmina. We had asked him if we could have jobs, and he had told us that girls couldn’t do the work. In an attempt to show off our strength, we tried to pick up a small wooden boat… and failed. Guess it’s back to volunteering then…
7. “You have to pay me, that’s how trotros work!” said the rogue trotro driver who had picked us up after our journey to Nzulezu. “Yes, if you take us where we want to go… but not if you tell us that you are taking us to our destination and in fact take us half an hour in the opposite direction.” 13 ½ hours after we had set off, we arrived back at our hostel.
8. “If you are having issues in the bedroom, see me after the tour,” said the brilliant guide of our ‘nature walk’ in Kakum National Park to the rather embarrassed middle-aged father on our group. She had managed to turn information about every tree or plant that we looked at into some form of relationship advice – the strangler fig was a reminder of the importance of giving and receiving equally in a relationship, while the mahogany tree apparently provides a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction.
Thank you so much to T, E, P, L, S, H, I, F, B and everyone else we met on our travels. It was an amazing week and wouldn’t have been the same without you…
The three of them have been amazing volunteers and they’ll be missed by everyone in the office.
The placement ended with a validation meeting at which we presented the results of our Impact Assessment of RAINS’s Next Generation Project, which set out to tackle child trafficking and child labour, and to address the downsides relating to kayaye (headportering) and fostering, in the Northern Region of Ghana.
Our report included suggestions for how projects like the Next Generation Project could be improved. It also highlighted a number of opportunities for further work in the Northern Region of Ghana. The next groups of volunteers coming to RAINS will use this analysis to build on some of the opportunities identified.