A summary of training week

So we arrive in Ghana full of excitement; we try our first Ghanaian food Banku which was a challenge to eat with only our right hand (the culturally acceptable way to eat a Ghanaian Meal); we revel in our achievement for a moment, only to be herded into the classroom with no time to spare. Now is the time to learn what Challenges already know about the enterprises we will meet next week.

Now we mean business!

What did we learn?

  • Overview of stereotypes both British and Ghanaian and an introduction to Ghanaian culture

The Ghanaians said that we UK Volunteers were independent, not very religious and one even said that his parents couldn’t watch Hollywood films because they couldn’t differentiate between the different white actors… Oh and we like to party which is probably true! Our stereotypes of Ghanaians were that they were very friendly, relaxed but also our stereotypes were tarnished by the stereotypes of Africa as a whole. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that Africa is a huge continent with so many different cultures that to assume one country might be the same as another is completely absurd however most of us continue to do it. We’ve been taught the Do’s and Don’ts of the Ghanaian culture (Eat with your right hand, respect your elders (in the north you squat before anyone older) and NEVER point or address anyone with your left hand)


  • Talk from DFID

Nana Arhin came to speak to us about DFID (Department for International Development) – the UK Government department responsible for the UK Foreign Aid budget which funds the ICS (International Citizen Service) Programme which enables Challenges Worldwide’s youth-led delivery of enterprise support. She spoke about the aims of the DIFD operations in Ghana and how Challenges Worldwide linked in to this. It was interesting to hear how the UK government drives international development through political, economic and social means. She was very open about her work and I think I can speak for most people in the room when I say I am now considering the UK civil service as a potential career.


  • Supply chain analysis

We were taught a brief overview of the range of industries in the region and which were the most prevalent in Ghana. Being a largely agricultural focused nation there is more primary industry and this means it is at the beginning of the Value Chain, it is a core part of the scope of Challenges Worldwide to move these industries to a secondary, manufacturing level; moving up the value chain and getting a higher margin on the goods sold. I hope to write a piece on this is in the near future.


  • Conflict resolution

This is very important when we go to work with our business to avoid conflict with our counterparts, colleagues and our host families. We will be living and working together for 11 weeks it’s not unreasonable to assume there might be disagreements along the way. Conflict management helps prevent these issues breaking down long-term relationships – it is also a great skill to have for our personal and professional lives after our placement.


  • Marketing analysis

Challenges gave us volunteers a lecture in Marketing 101: SWOT PESTLE Porters etc. If you do the same course at me at university you will be well versed. For those that don’t study Banking, Finance and Management these are all very helpful techniques to analyses the market and the business environment to build up a picture of strengths and weaknesses and the key issues affecting a particular business or product.


  • Financial Analysis

Break even analysis talk by Morgan Rees who is working with Challenges Worldwide as a mentor. He works with rapid growth companies after studying accounting and has expertise in Capital raising, Sales & marketing and People management. He previously worked at International SOS which supported Oil Rigs with emergency medical and other services.  It was a really interesting talk about the importance of break-even analysis and where it fits in to a company analysis. It helps keep control of a company’s cash flow which is especially crucial to small business, this reminds me of a phrase my lecturer drilled in to us: “cash flow is the lifeblood of a business without it the business is dead”.


 Scavenger hunt in Accra

Last Thursday we found out who we would be living with for the next 11 weeks. Turns out I’ll be living with from right to left Quaye, Julia and Gloria our WhatsApp chat is appropriately named “The best house in Accra”. After which we had our first chance to explore the city of Accra, Challenges style and get to know one another a little better. We were given 4 places that we had to get a picture in Accra mall, Legon Hospital, Ajax Park Stadium and Great Hall University. Being in Quaye’s hometown gave us an immediate advantage and his competitive nature guided us all swiftly through the City finishing a respectful second!


Team building and cultural nights

  • On Wednesday night we had Ghana Cultural Night which involved learning the history of each region of Ghana and the typical cultural norms that exist in each one. Each region was presented by an in-country volunteer and we were told by every single region that they had THE best university as well as the best-looking I particularly liked the Volta region which was presented by my housemate Gloria and another volunteer Amelia in an almost Bollywood type fashion.
  • Ironic as we Brits are; we had to host our cultural night on the eve of the EU referendum. It was a great array of trying to make the midlands sound interesting whilst also trying to show off our musical prowess i.e. the Beatles and Adele. We even threw in Darude – Sandstorm (just for bants) the Ghanaians weren’t quite the fanatics we had hoped, probably because of their distaste for Finnish music. On the other hand, they loved the Scottish dancing that quickly turned into Chaos as everyone piled in. Neil had a heart-warming speech about how proud he was of Britain’s: Multicultural, Inclusive and United… oh Neil, if only you’d waited a few more hours.


5.30 am gym sessions

  • Video to come!!

Now to meet our host families and businesses, if this week is anything to go by this is going to be an incredible 12 weeks! Thanks to the University of Ghana for hosting us!

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