- I was going to wake up to the community’s stare
- I was going to be that Volunteer, CorpsAfrica trained
- I was going to start my integration and where I would start from.
Morning came and there I stood, behind the door to my room after I had dressed up to go on rounds. Doing what? Hmmm! Rehearsing how to walk, talk and especially speak a language to replace the community’s language: Ewe, which I didn’t understand as well as how to win over the community.
I finally stepped out, greeted my host family and took off to start from one of the peripheral sections of my community which should take you 7 minutes or less on foot. I was escorted by my host family’s son, popularly called “Uncle” (who is 7 years old and in class 2). As we walked, we were not talking because he could not speak English and I also could not speak the local dialect but in place of oral communication, we kept smiling at each other and our hearts were at peace. Before I forget, Uncle was my only hope in taking pictures for and of me, and guess what he delivered. Wait till I show you his shots.
The walk lasted more than 7 minutes. Why? Because of the fear of what to expect, it was as if whenever I took a step forward, I also took 100 steps back. Please don’t laugh.
The time of reckoning had come! I arrived at the very first household and greeted them, “Good morning”. It was as silent as a cemetery. This gave me the feedback that I wouldn’t get anywhere with my English phonetics so I quickly switched to “Twi” (a local language largely spoken by most Ghanaians). Though my “twi” was not the best melody you would want to hear, it got me a seat and an opportunity to engage the household while we (the household members, Uncle and I) worked on the palm nuts they had harvested. Fast forward, I made a friend from there who accompanied Uncle and I to the other households, and through similar stories in other households, I became a friend of the entire community.
I became the Volunteer the community was waiting for, not because I was a messiah but in community work, one has to appreciate community dynamics like: observing more, making no interpretations, asking relevant questions, creating a psychologically safe environment for others and building trust, just to mention a few. The above things I did, got me the magic and much more which I will share with you……. Come along with me. I worked on farms, roasted “gari”, worked as a laborer and taught as a classroom teacher. I’m still teaching and will be teaching for my entire stay. I also attended funerals.
In a split moment, I phased out of the panic zone (a zone characterized by fear, uncertainty and self-doubt) into the comfort zone. This switch from the panic zone to the comfort zone was extremely relieving. However, for some reason, I still thought the switch was not true, but I was made to realize that I was indeed in a comfort zone. Though page 18 of my volunteer handbook says, “Outsiders are not insiders”, in my case I earned it through a significant personal sacrifice and commitment. However, I may remain an outsider, but while it may last, I have the singular honor of redefining development and making that lasting impact according to CorpsAfrica standards.
My household visits, the friend I made. Also, my hands on palm nuts for first time ……Uncle took this shot