Thursday, October 3, 2013

One step back, two steps forward!

Since our last blog we have been working non-stop. It been a few weeks of highs, lows, and lots of challenges, but we won’t let it stop us from finishing our project in the best possible spirits.

Both sub-teams (A & B) have been on research outings since the last blog, ensuring that all the 21 clubs are visited and researched before we leave. Team A have been to Zinaire, where another IS project called Kabeela is based, whilst Team B travelled to Koudougou to visit their respective clubs. An over-night stay was not needed as both places were within an hour of Ouagadougou; although this doesn’t mean the teams got to have a lie in though... as meetings here often happen quite early! Both teams travelled at about 7am (the early bird catches the worm) which everyone has got pretty used to now. Team B met their affliated club in Zinaire, which proved to be a relatively quick turnaround, as the participants wanted to fill out our questionnaires in their own time. This is understandable, as we have noticed that many participants often have trouble remembering dates of competitions and training, as well as their associated costs. It’s not easy without Google to remind you, nor a paper trail for instance. Getting the chance to go back and think about it may therefore give us better information!

As for Team B, their trip was slightly longer, and a lot warmer (not a good day for an outside meeting)! The visit and meeting with the club was very successful, a good range of participants (athletes, coaches and management) were present to give us an insight into the current situation of disability sport in Koudougou. All club members said they felt motivated to push their club forward since our visit, and hearing this alone was enough for us to feel justified that the visit was worth it. Sometimes all that is needed is presence. After a fruitful discussion, time soon flew by, meaning the team missed the bus home. Luckily the coaching company was happy to change our tickets without any issues, if only it was that easy at home! The national volunteers from both teams continued to meet and collect data from the clubs in the ‘forbidden regions’ of Burkina Faso. It’s a shame that we all don’t get the chance to go so as to get the bigger picture, but we understand the safety issues. Having national volunteers in this sense is great, as it means we can make sure no stone is left unturned near, for example, the border with Mali. After the trips, we have successfully collected all of the qualitative and quantitative from the questionnaires onto a digitalised database, and now everything is officially up to date.

Every time the teams visit the athletes there’s a sense of pride because the National Championships were on the horizon. ‘Goodbye’ soon became ‘see you at the Championships’ as the event drew nearer; everyone was looking forward to competing and being re-united again. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the National Championships have now been postponed until the 28th of September. There’s no doubt that both the Education team and ourselves are disappointed, we have been working alongside the Federation members getting everything prepared for ‘the big event’ and we all wanted to see the fruits of our labour and share in what would have been such a great day. But, we have gotten used to expecting the unexpected, and as a result everyone is still keeping positive. Flexibility and adaptability has been key throughout our whole time here, not just for when things get changed, but also for when they get dropped altogether. So we are optimistic that the new cohort of volunteers will at least be able to watch the Championships and appreciate the cause that their projects are based on. It will be a fantastic experience for them and I’m sure the day will be a great success. What better way to get a feel and understanding for your project than to experience disability sport at a national level. In the mean time, it also means we’ll have more time to publicise the event to make it even better! It’s all about the silver linings!

Aside from work, all the international volunteers have been getting involved with some traditional Burkinabe activities! Rachel from our team got in contact with a family friend who lives in Burkina Faso (small world eh?), and organised what turned out to be one of the best days we’ve all had here. We travelled to what we found out to be an orphanage on the outskirts of Ouaga. Called Wamde, the organisation focuses upon teaching street children essential life skills and providing them with an education they would probably never gain without the orphanage’s help. It also encouraged them to take up hobbies such as music, art and dance. We all felt like it was such a great initiative and the smiles on the children’s faces told us just how much it meant to them. 

The day consisted of a cultural workshop at four different stations; one involved traditional African dancing, another African drum lessons, cultural board games, and tie die t-shirt making! It meant we had something to take home as a memento, even though we all looked like we’d fallen straight out of the 1980’s. The children and students then performed a show for us, dancing till their feet fell off and producing what can only be described as a phenomenal display of music. No one had ever heard such powerful sounds before, the timing of the sequences showed that they had practiced a lot. All the volunteers watched in amazement and admiration, until they were all asked to go on stage and demonstrate the activities they had been doing all day themselves... Everyone was asked to play the drum on stage and even got the chance sneak in a cheeky little solo, before then returning to the stage to show everyone at the orphanage how good the Brits were at dancing (needless to say we gave them a show they’ll never forget)! It was a great cultural exchange. The day was one of many fantastic memories and it was something special to be a part of.

A number of the Inclusive Sports team members with the children from WAMDE 

Now were almost at the end of our placement where has the time gone? A lot of work still needs to be done inclusive of our de-briefing tasks, but everyone is focused on the task at hand. We plan to take full advantage of the weekends we have left to explore this beautiful country, not forgetting of course the all important safari, which nearly all of the volunteers have booked to do now! It’s time to make the most of it while we can, because we’ll be home before we know it. Bring on the last few weeks!

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