Friday, 21 December 2007

Well, we arrived safe and sound on UK soil last week and I must say I became hysterically excited! The Nigerians had their hat, scarves and gloves on when we'd only been flying 10 minutes. It was rather sweet. The UK volunteers made the most of the free alcohol on the flight and got rather tipsy, but no-one got injured or maimed, so all was well.

We had a few days training in London and showing the Nigerians around London was great fun. I think Fola was a bit awe struck - but I can remember feeling the same when I first went to London! We came to brighton last saturday and I really love it here. It's such a great place! Diane and I have been placed with a reallly lovely family and I feel very lucky indeed. We have two twin host brothers who are aged 5 and abolsultely adorable!! Our host parents - Jonothan and Rachel have really made us feel at home and I know the next 3 months will be a blast!

I have been placed to work in a youth advocacy project with my work counterpart Sabiu. We get along great and the work placement sounds very interesting and we can't wait to get stuck in after Xmas!

I can't wait to go home tomorrow to spend Christmas with Diane and my family. Its certainly going to be a different Christmas, but I know it will also be very special.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

This past week has been the busiest and best we’ve had on GX so far! On Saturday the 1st of December we celebrated World Aids Day with the youths of our implementing partner NACWYCA. We all mounted two pick up trucks and drove through Lafia giving out free condoms. We had a band playing on one of the trucks so we got a lot of attention! We drove to a junction town where many truckers go to use prostitutes and therefore the rate of HIV is high in these towns. NACWYCA were offering free status checks so people could test whether they had HIV. I spoke to a guy who’d tested positive and it was a profound moment. A persons life can change course in an instant and it made me realise how fragile our lives really are.

We gave out condoms in that village and I described to a big group of guys how the should use a condom. One guy remarked that he's been told that condoms were full of holes and therefore don't work. It just goes to show that educating people goes a long way in dispelling these kinds of myths.

Then on Sunday we went to a waterfall named Ferin Ruwa which is the 2nd tallest waterfall ion Nigeria. We drove along a very bad road for what seemed like forever and through typical African villages to get to our destination. The walk to the waterfall was lovely - through bush along a rough road. When we got there it was truly spectacular. The falls were so high you couldn't see the top from the bottom. The water was running dangerously fast and it was just a once in a lifetime experience. We climbed rocks so we could see the plunge pool half way up the falls (and believe me if mum had seen me climb the rocks she may have had a heart attack!) we were like spider men! I hope my disposable camera pics do it justice.

Then on Monday we celebrated World Disability day. We prepared for 50 people both disabled and able bodied turing up. The bus we hired had to make 5 journeys to get everyone there. In the end we had over 80 disabled people in our hall! It was great that so many came, but also highlighted that this had never happened before. They brought up important issues that we will raise in local government. We did invite policy makers, but none showed up. Two representatives from each disabled group also agreed to meet Saturday to set up a social club for the disabled. I really feel like we achieved something and it was a great day.

The Yesterday we celebrated International Volunteering Day by doing a skill acquisition day and by paiting the walls of our implementing partners NACWYCA who are an NGO. It was a good day and I got stuck inot the painting!

This will probably be my last blog entry in Lafia as we fly back to the UK next week. I have learned so much since being here and much of it I won't realise until I get home. I have met some truly amazing people that have really touched me. I won't ever forget this experience and the good news is that it's not over yet!

Until the UK folks ........

Thursday, 29 November 2007

2 weeks - and counting!!

Hello folks! I'm afraid I have joined the members of the team who are counting the days until we leave Lafia. I am going to miss the people so very much - especially my host mum who I've grown very close to. I will not however, miss this place called Lafia. Everything here is so difficult and organising anything takes so much time and energy - and its very draining!

This week we have been busy preparing for world disability day. We had a fantastic meeting with about 20 disabled people in the office of our implementing partner NACWYCA. We had the blind, deaf, leppers and what the Nigerians call 'cripples' - but to you and me they are in wheelchairs. We wanted to conduct a needs assessment to determine what we will discuss in our disability forum that we are holding on world disability day. We are inviting policy makers and advisers to the governor to hear what the people ahve to say about disability iddues. We want to give these people a voice, because at the moment, nobody seems to care about them. I really hope we can pull it off, but its taking all my brain and physical energy to get thigns done!

We are also celebrating world aids day on Saturday with a rally and educating people about HIV issues. We are hoping to visit what they call a 'junction town'. These towns are where the long distance truckers have mistresses and therefore the rate of HIV/AIDS is very high in these areas. We hope to give out condoms and raise awareness while we are there.

Last saturday we managed to raise 11000 Nira for the local hospital through a day of fundraising. We did a steet role play about road safety issues and had a fundraising party in the evening. I was in the role play and I died 6 times that day because I got run over by an Okada! It was great fun and the money will go to a good cause. When we went to the accident and emergency section of the hospital they gave us a list of about 20 drugs that they didn't have. They said they sometimes have to wait up to 2 days before they can get more drugs. So if you turn up on the wrong day, it could mean the difference between life and death. We really don't realise how lucky we are that we have free access to health care.

What else? I have been buying things to bring back for Xmas and it will remain a surprise for those involved. I have become an expert at haggaling and I think the market stall holders hide when they see me coming! Roy the puppy is still very naughty and still poos on mammas carpet everyday! I wish I had the time to train him, but we don't get back until very late most days.

So 2 weeks to go until we come home!!! Unfortunately one of our UK team members had to be flown back to the Uk today as her grandfather waqs taken seriously ill. We had to say a very emotional goodbye to her yesterday, but we will see her again in London. She is a very popular member of the team, so we were all very oncerned for her. Lets keep our fingers crossed that things will work out for the best.