Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yeebeogo Burkina

Tom explaining a tennis exercise at école CEFISE, school for children who are deaf or have hearing impairments

It was an intense first week in Burkina Faso, stepping off the plane into the furnace of West Africa in April was certainly an experience in itself. We were greeted at the airport by our smiley team leaders, Boukary, Alison, Valentina and Louise, and the even more smiley national volunteers Stanley, Gerard, Jean et William Thomas. We were quickly divided up into our teams and taken to our respective houses.

left to right: Abdul, Tom, Biba, Gerard

In our team, Paralympic research and Inclusive Sports there is Rhiannon and Robert on the research side, both graduates, and Abdul and Tom, on the Inclusive Sports Education side, both on a gap year. Robert studied history at Oxford and will start his career as a civil servant in September. Rhiannon also studied at Oxford, doing Law and French Law, and she will be doing a Masters in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Geneva come September. Both are fiendishly intelligent, and it has so far proved futile to challenge them in their own field without a suitably evidenced argument.
Also fiendishly intelligent is 19 year old Abdul, named Tiraogo (strong man) by Boukary, who will be going to study Natural Sciences at UCL in September. Finally is the emotionally unstable Tom, given the name Burkimbila (son of Burkina) by Gerard, whose political leanings have so far won him nothing but uncompromising ‘realism’ from the others. He will study Development Studies and Swahili at SOAS in September.   

Gerard leading the warm-up at école CEFISE

The national volunteers in our team are Stanley and Dielika doing research and Biba and Gerard doing Inclusive Sports Education. Stanley is a very eccentric Economics graduate, who has an insatiable thirst for English idioms, which of course provides the UK volunteers with endless entertainment. Then there is Dielika, also an Economics graduate, she brings a much needed sense of composed calm to the team, and she seems to look cool even in the 45 degree heat! Gerard, on the ISE team, is a psychology graduate, and his passion for politics is very impressive. He has found a strong ally in Tom. Biba is very kind and studied a bit of everything. She is always smiling and is a bubbly presence around the office. She has been dubbed ‘Michelle’ since Abdul was called Obama by the president of Ecole Cefise, and they have become the opposition to Gerard and Tom.

Stanley explaining the rules of the game

The first week was principally training, and while it was at times dry, it was made infinitely more enjoyable by the national volunteers, whose enthusiasm was infectious. The admin sections of training were broken up by ‘energisers’ led by volunteers, aimed at waking people up, and were performed to good effect! During the week we also visited all the partner projects, which included an hour and a half bus ride to Cabella. It was by far the most entertaining bus ride of all time, there was never a dull moment, with singing all the way from Ouaga to Kabella, which is in Ziniare, around 30km from the capital. The UK volunteers were well and truly put to shame by their lack of English songs to sing! It was a tiring first week as it was a lot to take in, but by the end of it everyone was looking forward to getting started on their projects.

For our team the second week was also comprised of mostly training, and also planning our time on project. It was a productive week, as we visited all the projects with which we’d be working. These included ABPAM, a school for children with visual impairments, CEFISE, a school for children with hearing impairments; ARCHE, a community for children and adults with intellectual disabilities; and we also visited the University of Ouagadougou to discuss the possibility of a raising awareness event, which we have planned for 31st May. Another event that we have planned is a raising awareness session at the village of the Burkinabe Paralympian Lassane Gasbeogo, who competed at Handbike at the London 2012 paralympics.

We are all itching to begin for real, and will be putting out a weekly blog updating our progress.

Nindaaray! (until next time!)

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