After 12 hours of travelling (Gatwick to Ouagadougou via Istanbul and Niger) our cohort of 21 landed with a bump in the capital of Burkina Faso and although it was the middle of the night, the heat and humidity hit us as soon as we stepped off the plane. Once through customs we were greeted by the International Service staff and our Team Leader Hannah, then were sorted in to houses: Our team – Amy, Kathy and Ryan – are living with a team of four other IS volunteers working on disabled sports education (for more information visit their blog at http://disabilitybf.internationalservice.org/). A taxi ride later and our life in Burkina had officially begun.
Week one of our placement is designed to bring the newly arrived cohort of volunteers together with their team leaders, national volunteers and key International Service personnel. It also gives volunteers the chance to get to know partner charities and what the 12 week placements will involve. Every day, each household of volunteers would travel to the Palais de Jeunesse to meet the rest of the cohort, to participate in team building exercises; French and Mooré lessons; cultural awareness discussions and group talks on health, safety and security. It was here that we met Jean and Esther, the national volunteers that complete team Tigoung Nonma. They’re both great, easy to get along with and keen to get started – they’re also going to help us with Mooré!
Outside of our training, the TN team were fortunate enough to be invited along to meet the local Chief (Morinaba) on only our fourth day. This was a real honour for us as many locals have never seen him, and his palace and compound are private. We arrived with Handicap Solidaire Burkina (HSB) to watch the ‘faux départ’, a weekly Morinaba Ceremony (complete with cannons!) before entering the palace grounds and waiting for our audience. HSB were asking for the Morinaba’s help in finding land to expand their office space and he agreed, before making a generous donation. All in all it was a great experience and one we’ll never forget; we were even allowed to take a photo with him - a rarity for anyone, never mind IS volunteers.
The weekend provided a break for us so that we could go and get to know our city better, and also find local food shops near our accommodation. After a day or two of rest we’re now raring to go and start work with TN. We’ll be updating our blog every week, make sure you come back and check on our progress!