09 June 2006

The basics

What are you doing?
At the end of June, I'm travelling to the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana, which is currently home to roughly 40,000 Liberian refugees, plus some others from Cote d'Ivoire and Togo. I'll be volunteering with a refugee-run NGO called the Population Caring Organization (PCO), which has a multi-faceted mission of promoting community reconciliation, providing basic education with a special emphasis on peace and conflict resolution, and various other public health and training initiatives. I was placed with PCO by the Global Volunteer Network, which operates out of New Zealand. It's a little fuzzy what my exact responsibilities will be at this point, but I'm hoping to work most closely with the community peace cells project.

Where are you going, exactly?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has a map that shows the camp's exact location, and I promise you that you won't find it on any other map. The camp is situated near a major road between Accra and Cape Coast, and is about 30 miles west of Accra. I'm told that the camp is also near some pretty nice beaches.

Who talked you into this, and who are you going with?
The answer to both those questions is me, myself, and I. After searching the internet long and hard for something to do in Africa this summer, this is what I came up with, and it's right up my alley. There will be about 10 international volunteers working with PCO while I'm there, but as far as I know, I'm travelling on my own. Once I arrive, I'll be living in a small house just off the camp with some other PCO volunteers.

Why are you doing this?
I have long been interested in West African conflicts, ever since I debated peacekeeping in Sierra Leone during a high school Model United Nations conference. My fascination has only grown since that time, and I recently decided that my master's specialization will be in "peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa." Unfortunately though, I've never been able to travel to Africa before now. Thus this trip will 1) be an introductory experience, 2) complement my studies and 3) hopefully prepare me for my post-grad school career.

When will you be there?
I leave DC on 29 June, and will travel for about a day and a half before landing in Accra. There I'll be picked up by some PCO staff and taken to the camp by cab. I will fly back from Accra on 1 August, stopping for a brief vacation in London, before returning to DC on 5 August.

How exactly can you update a blog from a refugee camp?
The camp has been around since 1990, and consists mostly of concrete buildings with tin roofs. While there is no running water, there is electricity, which is somewhat to mostly reliable. The camp has many entrepreneurial ventures, including an internet cafe known as the Eagles Nest, which serves the emailing/blogging needs of the whole settlement.

I hope I've provided a decent overview of things here. Check my links page if you want to find out more. Look for another update closer to travel time, and feel free to either email me or leave a comment with questions. My email is jason dot terry at american dot edu.


MTSUBlueRaider said...

good luck man! Can't wait to read about all the updates. Will you be able to upload any sort of pictures?


jterry said...

I don't know if I'll be able to upload any pictures while I'm there, but if I can't, there will definitely be a flickr page or something when I get back. :)