Humanist Service Corps in Ghana: Volunteer Chronicles (part 3)
by Elroy Leday, HSC Volunteer
This article is part of a series written by FBB volunteers detailing their experiences in the Humanist Service Corps. The opinions expressed in this article may not necessarily express those of Foundation Beyond Belief as a whole, its staff, or donors.
Elroy Leday is a Humanist Service Corps volunteer who has traveled to Ghana for the first time as part of a year-long service commitment in the town of Cape Coast. This is his second entry in this blog series. (Click here for his first installment.)
Hi everyone, Elroy here. I wanted to give you all an update on my most recent month. It was very action-packed. It started with a festival called Orange Friday, which itself is a part of Fetu Afahye, but more on that later. Orange Friday is a festival where the entire town wears orange. There is music played throughout the town and everyone dances as they march through town. It is a high-energy, all-day event, and is particular to the town of Cape Coast. For the weekend celebrations, there are numerous pop-up bars and restaurants to accommodate. In addition to immersing ourselves in local culture, we also discovered non-governmental organizations doing great work in Ghana.
As I said earlier, Orange Friday is a part of Fetu Afahye, which is a festival the following Saturday. Fetu Afahye is a festive celebration of a time when there was an epidemic that killed a lot of people, and the people prayed for salvation from the disease. The festival is also part of a purifying ritual to clean the town. It is accompanied with the carrying of the chiefs.
Meanwhile at our partner organization SAPID (Services and Advocacy for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities), we started making really good progress on getting admin access of SAPID's Facebook page back into their hands after a hacker gained access a few years ago. It turned out to be a far harder problem that a simple account recovery option. I was, however, able to fix many of their computers, which I enjoyed, although it brought about a certain difficulty I didn't expect getting cyber-tools without internet.
Speaking of things I enjoy: for the second time, I was able to participate in P.E. with the kids and play soccer/football. As I have been steadily trying to improve my physical health while I am here, this helped to gauge how far I had come since last month in a fun and interactive way. However, not everything went so easily. I especially had difficulty coming up with fun songs for the children, as well as helping them come up with slogans for fliers and stickers. We still have more work in progress building a website and finding grant opportunities for our partners.
This month, instead of our regular beach cleanup we joined another organization's efforts to clean the beaches. That organization is called Global Mamas, and I hear they are all over the… globe. They are an international nonprofit organization that creates livelihoods for women. There was an amazing turnout! Chiemi and I did socializing as well as networking as we cleaned up. There, we also met another group similar to SAPID called ACA, or Autism Compassion Africa. More on them next month.
Back home in the village where we live, Wiomoah, we have started a vocational project for girls. It required many meetings with the chief and elders. We initially came up with a few ideas that we could do and the elders got together to discuss them and choose this project. Although because of the language barrier the talk was hard to follow, it was an interesting discussion. I met up with the elders again last week to get permission to plant some trees, and one elder told me that he is very excited for this program specifically because it helps young ladies find livelihoods. He told me about a young girl he came across recently who he found crying, because she felt she had no prospects for a livelihood. That was a heart-wrenching scenario and he was grateful to be able to tell her there is hope. I am really happy that our vocational project is happening in the village in which we live.
Recently, my close friend John invited me to his grandmother's funeral. The funeral lasted for at least three days and we had to travel back to John's maternal home town. Fun fact: in John's tribe, a person’s hometown isn't where they were born, nor even where they were raised; it is where their mother came from. So you can have a hometown that you have never visited before. The funeral is more a celebration of life than a somber reflection of death. Because of that, the village was abuzz with energetic partying and music. There were multiple funerals going on at the same time, as a rule exists restricting all funerals in the village to three one-month periods. This is in order for people traveling from afar not to need to make multiple trips. It feels weird to say I enjoyed the visit, but it wouldn't be false.
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