March 16, 2022, by Leah Sharpe
International Work Experience Grant – Junelle’s Story
By Junelle Ayettey, philosophy student
Environment360 is a non-profit organisation that helps communities create inclusive integrated waste systems that help residents harness the full value of their waste stream. The organisation created the first successful plastic recycling scheme in Ghana for communities and has since gone on to collect more than 200 tonnes of plastic and 300 tonnes of paper. Due to its proven record of accomplishment in the creation of indigenous collection and education schemes, the organisation has been tapped by a variety of multinational and donor organisations to help co-design projects that have both environmental and economic impact on the communities they serve.
This two week placement took place in Accra, Ghana where I was able to work alongside two community projects in Jamestown (coastal community) and Adenta (residential community) called ‘Pick-It Project’. My role included tasks such as updating financial information and assessing whether the existing projects are sustainable. I also experienced translating the local language to English in order to write a report about the female waste pickers in Jamestown, Accra. This meeting in Jamestown consisted of a presentation to reiterate the key points of the PET (polyethylene terephthalate or plastic bottles) collection and to emphasise the importance of collaborative work. I was heavily involved in the creative capacity building seminar for the waste pickers in Adenta to allow them to actively find solutions to the problems they are having, be able to voice their concerns about the project and meet new people who are in the waste picking business. I also researched the impact of marine litter across the coastal area of Ghana.
My proudest achievement was being able to translate the language of Ga which is predominately spoken in the area of Accra, to write a report. Also being able to understand this language enabled me to communicate well with the women who were involved in the waste collection business. Even though I can’t speak the language, being able to understand the language when spoken to reply in English broke the barrier of a ‘newcomer’ to the meeting. So the women were able to open up about the issues they face such as storage of the plastics. Secondly, I met a man who was in search of a job but because he only completed some parts of primary school it was difficult for him to find a long term job. I recommended him to the manager of the project and through this he was able to go through training to weigh the PET bottles and put them into the sacks for transportation. I learnt that communication and finding a common ground helps people to feel at ease, especially when you are new to a team.
My biggest challenge was being able to communicate to the waste pickers who did not understand English fluently. Even though the official language in Ghana is English, many people prefer to speak the local language of Twi. This is a language that I do not understand, however I did not let that stop me from communicating with the people involved with the NGO. I found ways to communicate with the people who spoke Twi by breaking down my English and writing down words that were hard to use gestures for.
It was really eye-opening to see how the circular economy is taking off in Ghana and how people are engaged in sustainability and learning about the long lasting effects of plastics in their community.
My advice to other students
Take the chance! I would definitely recommend all students to consider doing an overseas work experience or volunteering. It promotes personal development through adapting to a new culture and is so different from any experience you could get in the UK. Not only does it create an interesting conversation point in interviews but the memories are invaluable! The University of Nottingham’s willingness to fund something you are passionate about reflects its commitment to being truly international.
Find out more about the International Work Experience Grant, check your eligibility and apply now.
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