Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Former ICS Team Leader, Tracy will be running 200km this July - find out why in her blog post!

My name is Tracy Rowlinson and I traveled to Ghana in January 2013 as a ICS Team Leader and absolutely loved it.  The people, the country, the project.  Everything was perfect.  In June 2013, just as I was preparing to come home, I was asked to stay on as Team Leader for another 3 months.  The thought of leaving actually brought me out into a panic, so to be asked to stay for another 3 months was a dream come true.

Sadly, that dream went sour when I had an accident and broke my ankle less than a month later.  Life with a broken ankle is not easy.  Life with a broken ankle in Ghana is even harder.  Getting around on crutches is one thing, but doing it on an uneven dirt path is an entirely different kettle of fish.  Yet, with the support of my volunteers and fellow Team Leaders I got by. 

I didn’t know how I would do it, but I had every intention of staying in Ghana and negotiating life with a broken ankle.  How could I possibly give up and go back to the UK just because it would be easier? I had spent 6 months encouraging people with disabilities to play sports, convincing the Chiefs and local government officials that people with disabilities should have a voice, have rights, and should be able to participate in the local Feok festival.  To give up because I had a temporary disability didn’t feel right.  And yet, the need for surgery meant coming home was inevitable.  As much as I wanted to foster the strength of the Builsa people (the district of Ghana where we were living), my dependency on my fellow volunteers would be unfair to them.  And so, with a very heavy heart, I returned home.

To say I felt guilty and embarrassed about coming home is an understatement. An estimated 600 million people (according to The World Bank) are living with a disability, and 80% of those people live in developing countries.

Life with a disability in the UK is not easy.  My dad is an amputee and he certainly struggles to get around. If you live in London, then only a quarter of underground stations are accessible to you.  It isn’t easy. 

Now imagine life in Ghana, where traditionally, people with disabilities are hidden away, a clear sign the family is cursed or being punished for a sin; where going to the market requires a 3 mile walk in 40 degree heat; where the once tarmac road is now a sea of pot holes because the annual floods have washed it away. Imagine doing those 3 miles in a tricycle, which breaks every other day because the wheels aren’t strong enough to cope with the pot-holes, where you can’t go into most of the stores because you can’t get your wheelchair across the gutter and up the step; where most people grow their own grains but you can’t because you can’t get out to the fields.  Now that is hard. 

Now picture a group of 20 women, who have all come together to make soap to sell in the local market. Making soap isn’t easy – it is a physically demanding process.  Yet these 20 women all have a disability. Some are blind, some are amputees, others have learning difficulties, and others were affected by polio as children.  These women have set up a successful (profit-making!) soap production business.

Picture a group of dancers, all living their life with a disability, recreating the infamous Builsa war dance and participating in the Feok festival for the first time.

Picture a group of school children, some with disabilities, some without, all playing football together.
These are all activities that International Service ICS volunteers have supported in Ghana.  Disability is not inability.

Almost a year to the day since my accident, myself and my colleagues on the International Service Alumni Board are embarking on a challenge to #GoTheDistance.  And we would like you to join us.

We plan to run, walk, swim or cycle the (approximately) 17, 000 KM between all of International Service’s ICS projects around the world in order to raise money for the International Service Alumni Small Grants Fund, which provides ICS projects like the LIFE project in Ghana with additional support to make a difference.  Now we all have jobs so we can’t do it literally (maybe next year!) but we are going to log enough miles to do it virtually!

I personally aim to run a minimum of 200 KM this July, starting with a 5k run on 6th July and finishing with a 10k run in York on 3rd August.  This is my opportunity to continue to support the project I had to leave so suddenly, and support those living with disability in Ghana and around the world.

We need you to help us reach this goal and raise some money!  Here’s how you can help:

1. Go to www.justgiving.com/Small-Grants-Fund-Alumni   and donate £2 to register.

2. Include #GoTheDistance and your name when you donate, or email alumni@internationalservice.org.uk with #GoTheDistance in the subject line to say you have donated. This automatically enters you into a raffle with some great prizes up for grabs!

3. Register at www.mapmyrun.com   join the group International Service Alumni #GoTheDistance available at:www.mapmyrun.com/people/groups/135414    

4. Every time you go for a run, walk, cycle or a swim log it on www.mapmyrun.com .  Your miles will automatically be added to the group tally!

If you don’t want to join mapmyrun then you can keep your own tally and just email it in at the end of each week.

5. Set yourself a target for the month of July.  How many miles can you do? Get your friends and family to sponsor you and donate to www.justgiving.com/Small-Grants-Fund-Alumni 

If you aren’t able to participate then please go to www.justgiving.com/Small-Grants-Fund-Alumni and support your Alumni Board to #GoTheDistance this July.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences Tracey. An interesting and thought provoking piece!
    I am joining you to #GoTheDistance - starting tomorrow!!!
    Come on everyone - join us to make it to 17,000km !!

    Jo Baker
    CEO,International Service