Friday, 21 December 2007
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
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.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
The newsletter is coming along slowly. We still have no money to get it printer, but we have someone to help us with the design and who may get us a discount on the printing! Some of the articles that have been written are excellent and at least people will get to know more about GX if they read the newsletter. It may even encourage youths in Lafia to volunteer!
Life at the school is now becoming very interesting - typical now that there's only 3 more days there. The school council set up a debate between two of the senior classes about corporal punishment today and it went so well. It was the first debate the school had ever had and it went down a storm! The kids were cheering and clapping at every good point and they want to have them every week from now on. I was so happy that it was the kids who organised it and not us - they deserve all the praise and it was just great to watch!
We also met with the principal today after wanting to see him for about 3 weeks! We gave him the list of 18 problems with the school that the school council had formulated. I was very nervous about him reading it as one of the points was about a particular member of staff who is a bit of a battle axe. He was more than receptive to all the ideas and we were pleasantly surprised with his response. He said that he will try and implement all the ideas and agreed about the particular member of staff. I said that she just needs to show more respect to the children and stop beating them for their sandals being broken!! We said that she should take on the role of counsellor and mother to the school, rather than disciplinarian. He actually called her to the office while we were ther and asked me to explian what being a mother to the school would involve!!
I just said "if I can give the example of my mother sir - she has only ever shown me love, kindness and respect and as a result, now as a grown woman, she is my best friend. If you want children to respect you, you must gain their trust and respect. It takes time, and their trust has been broken up until now through the use of flogging." We said that they can turn things around, but it won't be easy! He has agreed to change the discipline in the school from now on and has asked us to help him design a discipline scheme!! It was that easy, we just asked, and he agreed.
I am really beginning to feel that we have made a difference at that school. We have the talent competition tomorrow and it's going to be great! If anyone has any ideas about the discipline scheme - please email me as all ideas will be welcomed!
Thursday, 15 November 2007
We actually had a day off work last week as the Nigerians had to go to Abuja to sort out their Visas. Incedently, the drove all the way there only to find out they were too late for their appointment, so had to drive all the way home again! The trip wasn't a total waste of time however. The Uk volunteers has asked them to get us some cheese as we've all been craving it in our dreams. We all got so excited about it and we were fantasizing about cheese sandwiches. However, the Nigerians returned with that fake plastic cheese you get on McDonalds burgers. It is an understatement to say we were disappointed! But, on Friday we had a bonfire party with cheese, tuna and Nuttela sandwiches. So, the moral of the story is, never let a Nigerian buy you cheese! The party was a good laugh and we had a fire and danced around it like godless pagans.
In school last week I stopped some of the senior students from being punished. When I got to school, about 2o pupils were kneeling in the boiling sun for being late. I approached the dean of studies and asked him what good it did them. I said they were already late, and he was making them even more late for lessons they are paying to attend. The reality of the situation is that most of the pupils have to lok after their younger siblings and do chores beofre school which is why they are late. He gave in and let them go in the end, and when I got to school today, there were no pupils kneeling in the yard. I hope that it stays that way.
The talent show isn't going to be between schools anymore as everything in Lafia is 100 times more hard work than it would be in the UK. If you want to send a letter, you have to hand deliver it and that involves getting on a motorbike. Getting letters printed in the first place takes about 40 minutes due to the slowness of the computers! But, the venure we were hoping to use was too expensive, so the talent competition is only going to be within our school.
We are busy planning our latest community Action Day which will again be about Road Safety Awareness. I witnessed a motorbike accident on my way to school this morning. There were two children and an Okada driver on the motorbike and they just clipped another Okada and toppled over. No-one was seriously injured luckily but it happened right in front of me, while I was on an Okada behind them, and it was rather scary, Just the other day another volunteer witnessed a boy trying to cross the road being knocked down. That was a more serious accident as the boy broke his leg. So, this Saturday we are doing some street drama on Road Safety then having a fundraising event in the evening. We are hoping to donate the proceeds to the hospital to help treat road accident victims.
We are also busy preparing for worl aids day, worls voluteering day and world disability day. We have got so much to do and there are only just over 3 weeks left!
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
So as I mentioned we went to Jos this weekend for our MidPhase Review. For those of you that didnt already know (I still cant get the apostrophes in this internet cafe!) Jos is the capital of the Plateau State in Nigeria. The Plateau State is really lovely. The landscape was amzing as there were many rock formations tht lookes like something from The Lion King! We really felt like we were in Africa as there were vast plains with mountains all around. The weather was also perfect. The sun was still hot, but there was a breeze that made it a bit more bearable. The nights were also very cool.
We stayed in a realy nice hotel-except that out hotel room has brilliant lime green furniture! We spent Saturday doing activites based on evaluating things like host homes, host home counterpart pairs, volunteer placements etc. It was fun and we all felt like the team became closer. We had a free day on Sunday. We went to a Wildlife Park, but all the animals had left for the day as we didnt see any! We were walking arond on foot, and the fences werent exactly very big! We think that the park used to be excellent, but that all he animals had either died or escaped due to crappy fences! However, we did climb a big hill and see a fantastic view over Jos that was well worth it.
We didnt get a chance to do any shopping which was a bit of a disappointment, but not much we can do about it. I really liked Jos. We didnt want to come back to Lafia! But now were back its back to the same old thing.
We did a bit more research with Edu link which was interesting, but hot. Ive resorted to going around with an umberella as the sun is just too hot! We have the day off tomorrow and were going to prepare for our bonfire night that were having Friday night.
Thats about it for now! Hope everyone is ok and enjoying the cold weather! I am so jealous! The closest we come to cold is going to a fast food restaurant called Mr Biggs where they always have air conditioning!
Thursday, 1 November 2007
It's been a pretty uneventful week really. We are going to a place called Jos tomorrow for a mid-phase review. I am really looking forward to seeing somewhere new and perhaps buying some genuine African craft.
The research at Edu link is well underway. We have already discovered that most families look after at least one orphan and our catchment area is not even the poorest. It's very interesting. Some of these children have one parent still living, but they get left behind when the remaining parent remarries. It really is terrible. However, most of the orphans we meet are well fed and schooled by their uncles/aunties. It's difficult work.
The work at the school is going well and the preparations for the talent contest are underway. We are having the 1st rehearsal on Tuesday, but I fear many of the entrants won't turn up. It would seem that getting these kids to really care about something is difficult. The school's main concern is making money, and the welfare and level of education comes last. One of the school classrooms collapsed during the night last week. Thanks goodness it didn't happen in the day! Children would have died. The school council have come up with some fantastic suggestions. They want simple things like prizes for the best students in the form of certificates, clocks in each classroom, the walls to be painted. We are going to talk to the principal about these things, but I don't think he will appreciate our pointers!
We had a fantastic time at Diane's Birthday. We danced a lot and even managed to get some British music played! We have only been dancing to the typical RandB since arriving, but on Saturday we played a bit of Muse (to my squealing delight!), drum and base and Groove Armada. All the UK volunteers went mental!! It was a great day and some of the guys made Diane a cake. I read a little poem I'd written for the birthday gilr which went down well.
I also went to Church on Sunday. We arrived at 9:45 and left by 12:45 - needless to say it was a LONG service!I don't have to go again until the end of November. I do find it interesting. Some of the prayers are very long. So long in fact I actually fell asleep!
Anyway, I can't wait to tell you all about our trip to Jos!
Love me xxxxx
Thursday, 25 October 2007
The rest of the time my work counterpart and I have been preparing for our Global Citizenship Day. This is a day where we facilitate a days learning about a topic on the Global Citizenship Framework. We chose education and we talked about lots of things such as the challenges facing education in Africa. We had lots of interesting debates - one of which was to do with flogging. The day went well and we gave the team lots of drama based exercises which made the day more fun and the learning more interesting. I'm glad it's over!! It was a lot of stress preparing everything what with everything else we are doing.
On Tuesday night there was an epic storm. I absolutely love them! The thunder seems to thump right at your bones and the sky is completely illuminated by the lightning. Everywhere is lit up - you just can't imagine it! The rain pelts down as if all the lakes in Africa are being emptied from the clouds. Even though the sky is alive and hectic there are still little fire flies hovering around. It really is absolutely magical. I feel likie a child watching at our bedroom window.
We have actually started our research with Edu link. I think it will be ok. I am however frustrated that I can't ask people more questions. We have come across families who are looking after orphans. I want to know how these children are orphaned as I think it's important to establish. Some of the time we were asking these orphans questions. I felt terrible. We were only filling in a questionnaire, then leaving again. Their eyes were full of hope as if we were going to help them. I'm thinking of setting up a play group or some sort of football club for them. Even an idea like this takes so much time to plan. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I have set myself to do. I can but try!
I initiated setting up a school council as the National High School. We have our first meeting tomorrow. I can't wait! I know it will be a challenge as the senior children think they have power over the juniors and often flog them. I will have to emphasize that they are all equal and have to remain so for the duration of the meeting. The members of the council were all fairly elected and I just hope it's a success.
It is Dianes Birthday on Saturday and we're having a big party. It will be nice to relax as a team and hopefully meet some new people. I have finally found an internet cafe which has air conditioning, no power cuts and a fase connection! Can you believe it??
Until next week! xxx
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Ive had a good week and yet again lots has happened. I cant punctuate properly as im using a very weird keyboard. Last thursday at the school im working at I witnessed children as young as 4 being caned, or flogged as its called here. They were flogged for being late - some 3 times across the palm of the hand with a cane and some 3 times across the back of the legs. I was horrified. Even though I know there are far worse things happening in the world, it was still very shocking to witness. I hope to convince the principal by the time I leave here that there are better more effective punishments in use. Even though the kids are flogged, they continue to be late everyday! I know I must be sensitive in the way I go about it, and Im being careful. I will keep you up to date on my progress!
Thursday and Friday were a religious holiday here so we had the time off work. It was Sala- the end of Ramadan. It was one of the team members Birthdays so we had a bit of a party where there was much dancing and persperation! We spent Friday doing nothing - surprise surprise! We had a barbeque in the evening which was nice then were forced to go to a party. Now, call me a party pooper, but we were all tired, sober,hot and bothered. We were then karted off to a golf club in the middle of nowhere where the electricity wasnt on because someone was ironing!! They put the worst music on so loud we couldnt hear a thing, gave us all a carton of 5 alive and made us dance for about 2 hours. We were also expected to mingle with the important community members. I made an effort to do this and met some Senator or other who wasnt even based in Lafia. It was a bit shambolic. The bus even ran out of petrol after it had dropped a few of us off home! Ahh Nigeria! You gotta love it!
Work on the research project is progressing rather slowly and were in the school again tomorrow starting our counselling. I hope the students actually come, but Im not convinced of it! Were also holding a community action day about road safety on saturday which were hoping will attract a big crowd. Wer marching along the main road and we managed t get 30 police men to patrol. This was all thanks to my cheecky charm with the chief of police! We had a rather nice religious debate in which he told me I was the first person hed ever met who didnt believe in God! It was rather amusing! The team were surprised I had the guts to do it, but the chief was quite a cool dude.
Anyway, apologies for the lack of apostrophes, but I cant figure out where they are on this blinkingf key board! I wil post again next week after the community action day with hopefully a good report about it.
Lots of love xxxx
Monday, 8 October 2007
It was lovely to speak to mum and Dad this weekend. It is such a wonderful thing this technology business! Thanks also to everyone who's emailed - I somtimes don't have enough time to reply to everyone, but I will eventually!
Well, since thursday I started my work at the school. The principal forgot we were coming, but it didn't matter much. We were shown around all the classes and I as met by amazed stares (that happens a lot being white). We went to some of the junior classes who were asking Seun, my work counterpart, 'does she like Nigeria?', 'where is she from'! I said 'don't be afraid to talk to me!!'. It was rather amusing. More amusing was my map of the UK!
Anyway, there are lots of ideas floating about. We want to do a talent competition with some of the other schools and we've managed to get the local tv network involved with the help of another gx volunteer who's working there. I really hope we can make it happen because I think it's something that may happen every year after we leave if we make it good enough!We also want to start a peer counselling service and my other gx friend sam, who's working with the Red Cross is helping us with that. So all in all, there's lots to get my teeth stuck into!
Diane and I went to the market on Saturday, and it's not an experience I want to repeat. I was greeted with hostile stares (and a few nice smiles) and many taunts. We are used to hearing the words 'oyebo' which means 'white', but we're told people don't mean any offence. The markets are full of tat, and none of the genuine African craft I would like to buy. Somehow, we managed to wander into the butchers area and I was almost sick everywhere. The smell was very intense. There were all sorts of meat displayed on nothing more than wooden desks. There was everything from stomach to brain covered with flies and onsale. There were whole cow heads on the floor covered in blood and I was tryng so hard not to look up and be sick!! Now I can see why they have to cook their meat until it's like rubber!
On a brighter note my counterpart had brought some Nigerian material with her so we could get some clothes made. We picked them up yesterday and they look wicked! I can't wait to go out in them - a white girl, wearing a helmet and Nigerian clothes will oficially make me the town freak!!
The 'Okada's - i.e. bikes (sorry if I've already mentioned that!) aren't bad. However, the GX volunteers are the only people in the whole city who wear helmets. We therefore get more attention than we normally would by just being white! It's rather amusing! They don't go very fast, but the fumes they pump out are extremely bad for the environment. But, how can these people be expected to care about the planet, when they struggle to putfood on the table.
We're hoping to go and visit a waterfal near by, which is apparently the 3rd biggest in the world! It will be nice to get out of Lafia, as there's not much to do at all. We have to be in before dark, and if there's no electricity, it's bed by 8:30! We are all getting a bit bored, so I'm hoping to organise a quiz for everyone.
It's still hot, I've caught the and I ate something last night that resembled pounded poo and diorreah! It didn't taste half as bad as it looked, but I won't be having it again!
Thursday, 4 October 2007
Anyway, enough moaning! I started one of my 2 work placements today. We have a huge task to do. We are starting a project which wants to establuish how many vulnerable children there are living in a certain area of Lafia. Once this research is done, we hope tomeet the basic needs of the most vulnerable. Our job is to start the ball rolling and complete a framework by which other volunteers will work. The program will still only just be starting by the time we leave, but at least we will have helped to set it all up. The guy we are working with is very passionate and I hope we can really help with it all. I start work at the school tomorrow, so I will be able to say more about that next time.
I really love my host family and I feel as volunteers we are making them closer. Most evenings we play some of the games we have learned as a team with them and we have a great laugh together - mama even joins in and she's 61! She was dancing around the dining room last night shaking her booty! It was so funny! Her grand children are 10 aqnd 11 and so lovely. They like the game 'Boomchikaboom' which I will teach you all when I get home.
We have some new friends in our room with whiskars and long tails - yep we have mice!!!! They don't come near me because of my mosquito net, but I can hear them scuttling about!
My counterpart had Malaria for a few days, but she's ok now after a few injections. It's not such a big deal over here as once it's diagnosed, treatment is swift. I was very worried, but it was all ok in the end. We are getting on very well and laugh a lot together!
There are probably things I have missed out, but I only have 3 minutes left so i shall have to go!
Love Abs xxxxxxx
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Also, please feel free to email me any news as I really want to know how everyone is. I'm logging on to my hotmail and there are no emails for me, which is a bit rubbish! So, buck up and get typing because I am missing you all. I don't care if it's really boring, don't underestimate how much it means to me to hear from you.
I can't believe I forgot to tell you that yesterday we went to a nearby village where the chief for the whole of the Nassawara state lives. He is basically a very important man. As we arrived in the village there were a group of dancers to meet us and we all joined in. It was amazing. We than had to take our shoes off to go into the chiefs palace where we were very warmly welcomed. We each had to introduce ourselves and I said thank you on behalf of the team.
As we were leaving all the children from the whole village were there and wanted to touch our hands. It's like when you see celebrities going to Africa and all the children crowding around them - that's exactly how it was for us! I was completely blown away.
So, our living conditions are ok. We have to bath from a bucket of water and the toilet is a hole in the ground. It's all very character building stuff! I got locked in the bathroom the first time I went in, and as I was trying the lock the biggest cockroach crawled from out of the side of the wall and I almost had a heart attack! Cockroaches are something I have to get used to. All our clothes have to be washed by hand and that is such hard work. My host Mum helps along with my counterpart whom are used to it.
Today the chief whom we met yesterday came to an official community welcome in Lafia. He actually spoke to us, which we are told is a great honor. There were loads of people about and We all introduced ourselves. I was last in line and I said "Ina Kwana your highness", which was met with huge laughter! I said good morning to him in Hausa which is the main language spoken here. People always laugh at me when I try and speak Hausa, but at least I'm trying! I also said "Nagodi", which is thank you which was again greeted with lots of laughs!
Tomorrow we are going to a football game and Monday is independence day so we have been invited to meet with the first lady of the state. We start our work placements on Thursday and on Wednesday we have our first Global Citizenship Day run by our program supervisors. The theme will be HIV and AIDS. There are lots of slogans about the place saying "Conduct not condom, abstinence is best. Aids is real". Lets just say I think this issue may divide the team as there are a mixture of religions and beliefs.
Anyway, I am having the best time and I can't wait to get stuck into my work placements!
Lots of love xxx
Friday, 28 September 2007
We spent the first few days in Abuja meeting the rest of the team and doing training. It was really good to get to know everyone - they are all such nice people! We even had a pool where we were staying, so we were very lucky as it was a fantastic way to cool down.
We arrived in Lafia yesterday adter a long, cramped and hot bus journey. I have my first experience of squatting for a wee in the Bush which isn't an experience I want to repeat! We arrived in Lafia which is a very poor place. It is very hard to describe the types of conditions we were wtinessing people living in. You will see by my pictures, but lets just say things are pretty bad for these people.
After arriving our host homes came to pick us up. My counterparts name is Diane and she is absolutely beautiful! She is so lovely and we are getting on great. Our host mum picked us up and she is great! We are to call her Mama. She is 61 and a very happy lady. She lives at home with her 2 children and 2 grandchildren who are 10 and 11 - and very cute!
I don't have time to write a lot as the server keeps crashing! So quickly I will say I am missing you all very much! The weather is rather unbearable and we are all constantly sweating. I think the clohes I have brought aren't suitable, but they will have to do. I am looking forward to starting work. I'll be working at a school and at something called Edu link which helps people with health issues, HIV and Aids awarenes, teaches people knitting and sewing (I'll need to learn first!!).
Sorry this entry seems a bit jumbled up, but time is short in the cafes over here but I will try and write another better entry soon.
Abi x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
This is just a little note to say I have now created my blog for my big adventure! I'm not sure how often I'll be able to update it, but I will when I can.
I'm feeling very nervous and excited about the whole experience and can't wait to get started. The packing is going well and I have made lots of lists about my stuff which makes me feel better (diagnosis of OCD not needed thanks!).
We are off to London on Friday for some training then we fly to Nigeria at 10:15 on Sunday. We have recently been told that we will be making most of our journeys while out in Nigeria on motorbike!! Not only this, but we are expected to make space in our luggage for a helmet that we will be fitted with! I will just have to wear it - at least I'll be protected in the event of a plane crash!!
I will try not to make this blog to boring when I do update it, so do log on occasionally to see if I have been up to anything interesting!
Bye for now! x x x