I have just returned from an action-packed two-week trip to Ghana and Kenya to meet with our staff and Project Co-ordinators and to help put the finishing touches to our 2017 volunteer programme as it gets underway.
These annual meetings with Project Co-ordinators, who are often such well-respected members of their respective communities, provide a humbling opportunity to find out the true impact of the work our volunteers have done over the previous 12 months. Of course, it’s easy to see pictures of classrooms that our volunteers have built or text books that they have donated. However, to learn about the practical difference they make – together with dozens of other initiatives, which you can read about in the Community Development section of our website – is probably the most rewarding part of my job.
To know that classroom sizes are shrinking, that teachers are enjoying their job more and that school culture is changing for the better, means that the programme – whilst not perfect, by any means – is working.
Equally, these meetings give me an opportunity to understand both new and ongoing challenges faced every day by those we support. Why is this important? Because it shapes the work we organise and, indeed, the way we deliver it. As an organisation, we must adapt to the needs of those we are supporting, otherwise we stray from the very purpose for which we exist.
Some of these challenges are ongoing and change slowly over time, such as overall school performance and attendance. Others, such as short supplies of specific resources at schools, can actually be remedied pretty quickly. Our team on the ground do a fantastic job of ensuring open dialogue with projects so that, even when we do not happen to be hosting volunteers, we can still provide support through African Adventures Foundation.
Thankfully, though, we are gearing up for our busiest ever programme of volunteers, with a great mix of schools, colleges, football clubs and solo travellers set to embark on some life-changing journeys over the next six months to give us some more inspiring stories to share.
I am delighted to say that our teams in Ghana, Kenya and Zanzibar are now ready and waiting to get started!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much spare time during my visit but I did manage to jump on a bike to squeeze in a couple of training rides.
As you might already know, to help raise funds for one of our partner projects in Kenya, later this summer I will be cycling with five friends from Nakuru, Kenya to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. My visit provided a welcome opportunity to test some warmer climates and, whilst there are a lot more practice miles to pedal, the start line is moving ever closer and I can’t wait. More information to follow!