Our first day of work consisted of splitting off into teams of three – one local staff member with two of us volunteers – and each visiting the two communities that we will be working with for the next six weeks. In our teams we will be setting up a play centre in one community and a reading scheme in the other, so there will hopefully be a total of six new Lively Minds centres active by the time we leave!
The first step in this process is to mobilise our communities by visiting them and reminding them about the community meetings that will be taking place that week. This helps us to build a rapport with the communities and at each village we have a co-ordinator who helps us do this. We went to our various villages by motorbike along dusty roads, which is an amazing way to see how quickly we moved from the bustling city of Tamale to the contrasting rural surroundings.
Upon arrival, it is traditional to kneel when greeting a chief or elder to show your respect. In some villages it is customary to donate a small amount of money (around 30p) to the chief in exchange for some kola nuts, which apparently give you a bit of a natural high (equivalent of caffeine).
As well as introducing ourselves to the locals this was a great opportunity for us to look around a typical Ghanaian village. The communities vary in size, some with up to 600 people, all of which live with their extended families in homes consisting of round huts (or rooms) for the women and square huts for the men. Around the villages live goats, sheep and chicken.
During the rainy season there are vibrant crops of maize, corn and rice that are grown. Farming is the main work done at this time of year and during the dry season hunting begins. Children start helping their families from a very young age, jobs on the farm include weeding crops and looking after cattle. Similarly, a skill that is mastered at a young age is carrying or balancing large buckets filled with food, drink, or even items of clothing on their heads. A couple of us tried this out and it is a lot harder than it looks!