My fifth week in Nigeria was a very busy and fun one. It began with a party in honour of our team leader Mafulo’s birthday! This meant an afternoon of cake, music and games. We spent ages playing musical statues, which was hilarious.
When I came home that evening, my host mother had finished a dress for me, made from the fabric I bought at the market a couple of weeks ago. I was so happy with it – it fit so well and it is the kind of dress I could actually wear in the UK as well. The Nigerian fabric that you buy and make clothes with here is called Ankara, and there are so many different kinds you can buy, it’s overwhelming! There are plenty of tailors in the area and you can choose any style of dress, suit, top, trousers that you want.
Once a week on a Tuesday, the ICS team split into three groups – Football club, Library and Adult Literacy. Football club meet with local youths to improve their football skills and have fun; the library group work to refurbish a local library and restock it with books; and Adult Literacy meet with a group of adults each week to teach them English Language and Mathematics.
I am part of Adult Literacy and help to teach the adults English each week. I absolutely love this part of the programme. As our project in Ikorodu is quite varied and it is up to us to create our own agenda and work day to day and for the cycle as a whole, it is really nice to have a structured placement that we go to each week, where I know exactly what work I have to do and I go ahead and do my job. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I have been doing so far during this cycle, and I’m so excited about the work and the events we have to come, but Adult Literacy is one of my favourite parts of my volunteering experience. They genuinely seem to enjoy having us teach them each week, and it’s brilliant to see them improving and responding to the lessons we give to them.
We had the first of two rallies in Majidun, Ikorodu on the Wednesday. This was to raise awareness of Child Protection in the community. Majidun is in Ikorodu West, which is where half of the ICS team work with Community Citizen Service Volunteers (CCSVs). I had never been to this part of Ikorodu before, as I work with the CCSVs in Ikorodu Central. Majidun has a lot of problems with litter, and sewage runs freely through the gutters in the streets, so it is quite a bit different from Central.
After the rally, we met our first King! It was a really interesting experience. Each area in every state in Nigeria has its own King that overseas the community. He was really friendly and said he would support us with mobilisation for our events.
The next day we all attended an annual tree planting ceremony at the Salvation Army Primary School. Another local King was present at the ceremony and we introduced ourselves with a traditional Nigerian greeting where we kneel on the floor – men actually have to lie down!
The majority of the team left in a taxi, and a few of the UK volunteers we left to wait for bikes home. Whilst waiting, the school children got excited and surrounded us, desperate to touch our skin, hold our hands and pull at our hair! It was a little bit terrifying and the head mistress had to shout and tell them to leave the area! She explained afterwards that the children only ever see people with white skin on television, so they see us as movie stars or famous people.
Our second rally took place the same day in Ikorodu Central. This was to raise awareness of the CCSVs and to mobilise more youths to volunteer. It was a lot of fun – we played music out of a speaker and chanted to get as much attention as possible. We got a lot of interest and took names and phone numbers to contact about our meetings.
We had our first Community Action Day (CAD) on the Friday. This was for the United Nation’s World Youth Skills Day. We held an event at Rhoda Youth Skills Centre and mobilised a lot of children and young people to attend, including our CCSVs.
We had engaging presentations on core soft skills – the “4 Cs”: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. We all worked in groups of 4 and the youths cycled round each group so they experienced each presentation. It was a very difficult task, from my point of view, as there were a lot of children in each group, so it was difficult for them all to hear me as I don’t naturally have a loud speaking voice, and as I’m English they don’t always understand my accent or speed of speaking. All part of personal development I suppose!
The next day we had another CAD! This was a summit, bringing together youth leaders of Ikorodu, to inform them about the UN’s International Youth Day on 12 August 2016, and to educate on the Sustainable Development Goals, as this is the theme of the day for this year.
The day went really well! The team did a presentation on the SDGs in a catwalk style – each member of the team walked down the aisle to music, carrying different goal – eg. No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Gender Equality – and a speaker explained each one. This was really engaging and fun!
Our CCSVs also received certificates for being on the programme which I think was a good boost to the morale of the members and it was a nice way to acknowledge their commitment to volunteering.
On Sunday we had a well deserved rest! A few of us also went to church in our new Ankara outfits which was really nice. We went to a local Redeem church, which isn’t like any service I’ve been to at home. First there were bible sessions in smaller groups, then talks and lots of music – the congregation all get up and dance freely which is a lot of fun. I don’t think any of the UK volunteers are used to that kind of thing so we were a bit stiff at first but threw ourselves into it to make it more fun! Any newcomers have to come up to the front as well which I hate as I get so embarrassed – I already have a lot of attention on me as I’m an ‘oyibo’ so I don’t like to have much more attention…
All in all a very busy week! I don’t think I was fully prepared for the intense workload that has come with our particular project. I think the main thing I can say is that no matter how much you prepare for ICS you will not be prepared for ICS! You can buy the clothes you think you’ll need, the bottles of mosquito repellent you think necessary and the books you assume will be enough and you will still wish you’d brought more or something different. You can feel prepared for the change of food, environment and culture but it will still be a shock to the system when you arrive. You can say to yourself that you don’t have expectations about the project or the community or what ICS will be like, but when it comes to it you’ll still be surprised, confused and maybe even a little disappointed at times.
However, it’s all worth it when you see the happy faces of the community you are impacting everyday. More on my experience next week!