Shia Effort

Always guaranteed a warm welcome in Ghana!

I am pleased to say that, apart from being woken at 6am by the church bells and somehow obtaining half a dozen mozzie and ant bites, I slept well. It’s just as well as today I am experiencing voluntourism and I think painting 3 buildings in the 35 degree heat of the day will require some stamina. We have breakfast of cold omelette, bread (which is a bit more sugary that at home) and a dairy lea triangle. Thankfully there is coffee to keep me functioning and numerous bags of water.

Madventurer have been working on renovating the Shia Technical College and it’s our job to paint the buildings just in time for a Yam festival this weekend. MAD built an extra classroom and office block this year and it needs a lick of paint before it’s ready. The Ghana education board insist on peach and terracotta – which actually looks better than it sounds. With rollers and paintbrushes a-plenty we have a very productive morning.

We break for lunch at midday and are delighted with the spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce that is served up. Although a little sluggish with our tummies full, we walk back to the school and the painting begins again. The children in the village are fascinated by our presence; we are definitely welcome and the villagers are all very friendly, greeting us and calling out “yevu” (meaning white person in the local language Ewe).  I’m looking forward to meeting more of the local people as the days go on.

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Ghana is Shia class!

Our chariot arrives!!

The whole purpose of my trip to Ghana is to witness the work of Adventure Travel Company Madventurer and explore the ways in which they work with African communities and UK volunteers to renovate and build classrooms, health clinics and toilet blocks. It’s been 5 years since I first met John Lawler (founder and Chief) who set up Madventurer (fondly referred to as MAD – Mottey African Development) back in 1998. Since then, the demand from our supporters to volunteer overseas has become increasingly apparent just as the desire for MAD to partner with a developmental NGO such as COCO has occurred to John.

We are staying in the village of Shia in Eastern Ghana on the Togolese border where MAD renovated a nursery in January this year, one of many projects MAD have undertaken in Ghana.

After a somewhat bumpy ride to the village we arrive at our accommodation. I’m really pleased to see that there is electricity but the skinny mattresses on the floor, lack of running water, mozzies and 29 degree heat of the night are not so welcome but necessary if I am to truly experience volunteering Madventurer style. After a liberal application of mozzie repellent we head to the Chief’s house for dinner via a local bar for a much needed ice cold coke.

Dinner is rice and some kind of spicy corned beef dish accompanied by ice cold water (the Chief has a fridge): delicious! Water for us normally comes in a plastic bag as opposed to a bottle and we have to bite the corner off and suck it to quench our thirst. The heat and

The sun sets on my first day in Shia.

the travelling has made us all quite tired and although our beds are not very appealing, we are too sleepy to worry about it. After our mozzie nets are secured over our skinny mattresses, we get our heads down with a cacophony of nocturnal creatures providing a soundtrack!

The next few days will comprise painting classrooms, speaking to volunteers and community members about the impact of volunteering in the area and witnessing how sustainable development is taking place in this community.

The COCO Chronicles Commence!!

COCO Director Lucy Philipson

COCO is now a well established international development charity having celebrated our tenth anniversary this year. As Director I often enjoy the privilege of visiting our project sites in Africa. On the eve of my latest trip, this time to Ghana it seemed appropriate to launch our latest initiative.

“The COCO Chronicles” will keep you up-to-date with my journey around Ghana and the time spent by our new Projects Coordinator, John Davis, in East Africa later in 2011.

Inbetween times we’ll use the blog to let you know what’s going through COCO’s head!! Expect opinions about innovations in the world of international development and our view of big news stories emerging from Africa. In short, expect this blog to become your one-stop shop for international development news, views and, of course, updates on our efforts here at COCO!

You’ll hear from me soon,

Lucy Philipson

Director