Visiting Fantsuam

Hi Vijay

I'm delighted you are interested in visiting Africa. Somehow I had assumed that (as you live in India and you are interested in development) your main interest would be development in India.

It is much easier for me to support you as a Dadamac Learner and have discussions with you, and send you items to read etc, if I only need to think of relevance to Africa, or world-wide (rather than wondering if there is any relevance to India).

The easiest place for me to help you (or anyone else) arrange to visit is of course Fantsuam. I think you have probably already come across this short video where John introduces  Fantsuam Foundation - but I'll add it here in case it is new to you. I have visited it repeatedly on working holidays, at John's invitation (first in 2004 for Teachers Talking). Last year I was able to arrange for Marcus Simmons to visit on what might also be described as a "working holiday", to build an ecodome,  and he has just returned from another trip this year.

As you probably know  Fantsuam Foundation was set up to serve the needs of the local community. This means it is important that visitors make sure their visit is not in  any way a financial burden to the Foundation - and hence a drain on the local community.

  • If the visitors are staying in a local hotel then who is paying for the food and accomodation?
  • If (s)he is staying onsite - what are the costs to the host?
  • If the visitor is being collected from the airport, or being ferried back and forth between his/her accomodation and the places where (s)he is visiting or working who is paying for the fuel, and the wear and tear on the vehicle?
  • What ahout the driver, and other guides, interpreters, and helpers, - what work would they have been able to get on with if they were not looking after the visitor? 
  • What about people who are sent off to do some photocopying, or buy something from the shpps and need to take a moto-cycle taxi?
  • What if there is some special need for electricity and the generator is used?

All these things need to be considered. Little things do add up - as people suddenly realise when they leave home and suddenly need to pay for every boring essential item, from tea bags to light builbs.

An appropriate gift should be given to the Foundation to make sure that it is not being exploited. It is best to get some idea from John first, but be ready to add to it later, because things never go quite as expected and often there are all kinds of additional expenses along the way - Fantsuam Founation is not like some big company where the stationary cupboard is always full, and all kinds of things are "covered by expenses".  Everything you use but do not pay for must will have been paid for by Fantsuam Foundation or will have come out of somemone's pocket. 

People in Africa are very hospitable, but hospitality is usually a two way process - and between people who have equivalent resources. As visitors from far away we are  unlikely to be able to return the hospitality we are shown so I think it is very importatnt that we do not exploit this natural hospitality when we visit - even when the visit is for a working holiday.

If you are serious about wanting to plan a trip sometime then it really is a considerable expense. As well as cost duing your trip of course you will also need to think about travel costs to Nigeria and you may need a visa (that is another considerable cost if you are travelling from UK).

Travel insurance is another important item. If anything happens and you are injured or ill then, in my experience,  you will be looked after "as if you are family" with great care and loving concern - but medical costs have to be covered by someone, and if you need to be flown home early or soemthing...   all these things are your responisbility not the responsibilty of Fantsuam Foundation. And of course before hand there are lots of vaccinations, and things like anti-malarials to buy and mosquitos repellant and so many things we woud not normally need. One of those torches to wear on your head for example is a great benefit - much easier than a kersoene lamp.

So - if all those practicalites would not put you aff - and I hope they woudn't - what kind of working holiday might you do? What do you need to learn? What could you usefully give in return for what you were learning?

In your case I imagine it would be something to do with communication. We need to tell the story of the work at Fantsuam, Attachab etc - and the role of Dadamac - more effectively. If you look at Cecily's Christmas blog you see the power of good words and pictures - perhaps you can assist with the flow of good words and multi-media from Fantsuam.Perhasp you could do a mixture fo shareing your skills and also collecting up information which we could put online once you were back home in the city and bandwidth rich again.

If you did a trip to Fantsuam it would be like the field trip of someone on a normal higer degree. You are doing your studies of development online - but you can still build in some face-to-face work as well. Fortunately, although Fantsuam Foundation serves a rural community it is only about two hours by road from the federal capital, Abuja (once you are out of the city traffic) - and for most of the journey you are on a good tarred road.

Shall we consider this seriously?

Pam

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If you saw my blog, I was expressing a wish about visiting Africa. But for the wish to come true, I need to have the funds to afford the trip. I don't see that happening soon.

I would like to cover quite a few places in Africa whenever I go there. I will tell you when I am ready. Right now, I would be happier learning more about Africa through FF and Dadamac.

Thanks,

Vijay

A trip to Africa, of the kind you have in mind, is a trip of a lifetime. I don't expect I will ever be able to do that.

I know a little about Kenya, because of doing Teacher Talking there. That trip also gave me the chance to have my first face to face meetings with Samwel Kongere and Ken Owino, who I knew through Minciu Sodas.

I am not sure if you have met Samwel yet, when you have been online with us at First Thursdays. He is in Kenya, near Lake Victoria, He has plans for community development there, including community based tourism. (I am not sure what he calls it - but his plans seem to be more small scale "home based" accommodation for visitors rather than in an isoloted tourist hotel.)

Some of his plans (such as fish-farming) overlap the plans for Attachab Eco-Village. I am wondering if we should try to find ways to help people at both locations to share their learning journeys with each other.

We have contacts from other African countries too, and from other locations in Nigeria. You might like to get into discussion with more of these people.

Pam