Last year, Talia Kensit, a Law student at Brunel University, travelled to Ghana to volunteer with a women’s collective in the rural village of Sirigu. To support her in the three-month long volunteer placement, the Jack Petchey Foundation awarded her with a £300 Individual Grant for Volunteering.
Talia volunteered as a consultant for a local non-governmental organization (NGO) called SWOPA (Sirigu Women’s Organisation for Pottery and Arts). SWOPA gives free training to women to create traditional arts and crafts, providing them with new skills and an income. By offering village tours and accommodation, it also brings a tourist trade to Sirigu.
SWOPA was struggling as an organisation in many areas, including their production line, general marketing and customer service skills. Talia and her team worked alongside the staff to tackle issues in these areas, as well as learning valuable business and personal development skills for themselves.
She helped to establish a stable online presence for SWOPA through Instagram, Facebook, TripAdvisor and an updated website with all necessary contact and facility details. This was an excellent means for the organisation to branch out on a global scale. They also created manuals of these platforms so the staff could continue to maintain activity on the sites after the volunteers left. In addition, Tali and the team built links with other tourist destinations around the region, and created leaflets and posters about SWOPA for these businesses to offer to their customers. Talia also managed staff training sessions; working on SWOPA’s customer service skills and introducing a new welcome procedure that benefitted the guests.
As SWOPA is the main tourist attraction in Sirigu, by generating an increased flow of tourism through regional networking and marketing, Talia and her team helped to contribute to the local economy.
Talia herself gained a lot from the trip. She said, “I gained many personal skills, even ones I thought I already had, such as patience. As the project was 12 weeks in a foreign country around people I barely knew, it was challenging at times to remind yourself of why you’re there. I had to learn to be patient, especially with my team, as it was hot, confined and slow-paced, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
I feel more confident with new people and new environments. In the past I wouldn’t go out of my way to try something I was unsure about, but I learnt how important it is to venture out of my comfort zone.”
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