Volunteer’s Trip 2022: Day 6 (7th October 2022)
The Embassy visit.
An 8:30 meeting in Conakry the region’s capital with Guy Harrison the recently appointed British Ambassador meant another early start. Perched on the shoreline, the embassy was located deep into the capital meaning a 6:00 am start from Dubreka was required to stand a chance against the capital’s peak congestion between 7:30-8:30 am. Even at this early hour there were signs of the thriving market and informal sector with long ques for the local markets near to the border regions.
Conakry offered more chaos than the roads of Dubreka, with chickens riding on top of school busses, and Ford Transit vans with small breathing holes cut out of the panels. Streams of cars and motorcycles weaved in and out of the team’s convoy with a system that always seems to work regardless of the ever increasing amounts of grey hair it induced. After a bumpy 2 and half hour journey the cars turned into the gates that lead to the embassy. Sat on embassy row, next to the Egyptian embassy, the welcome view of the stamp of Great Britain came into view. Security took their turn going through the volunteers’ bags and once the checkpoint was passed, it was time to walk through the gardens overlooking the sea. The ambassador, and ambassador in chief Alishba, gave the team a very warm welcome and offered everyone a seat for their weary legs.
The new ambassadorial team have just completed a 6 month transitional period and URBOND are keen to build on the very successful relationship built with the British Embassy in 2019. One by one the volunteers shared their stories of inspiration and drive to get involved with the URBOND, the Child Education Programme and volunteers trip. Alishba a Birmingham native originally from Pakistan described her particular ambition to advance the quality of education in underprivileged countries. What the introductions emphasised was URBOND’s global reach. In attendance were residents from Great Britain, Poland, Ghana, Cameroon, Guinea, India, Pakistan and Portugal, so it was great to see such a multi-national presence in the embassy.
The conversation progressed to the embassy’s key missions in the Republic of Guinea. As a diplomatic organisation, they look to preserve the Great Britain’s economic interests in the region, alongside providing aid work and opportunities for improved living conditions for the local population. University scholarships are also offered by British businesses in Guinea which look to provide opportunities to students who excel in areas such as computing and engineering. Agriculture is also a key focus and has been identified as an important area of future development in the nation’s journey to prosperity. The ambassador explained how a team from Kew Gardens operate in rural areas to carry out testing on the fertility of soils for future agricultural development.
A photocall with the embassy staff on the premises followed the end of breakfast during which die hard Liverpool supporter Kingsley was delighted to see a familiar name in the form of Naby Keita who’s signed jersey adorned one of the walls – a fitting addition given Keita’s Guinean heritage. and a tour of the premises. The informal conversation revealed the Ambassador’s previous postings in Korea, Nepal and Belgium cementing his credentials as a seasoned diplomat and indispensable partner for URBOND. A pre-lunch finish provided the opportunity for the volunteers to test out their recently obtained negotiation (haggling) in the shops of Conakry on the agenda – finely crafted Guinean shirts and dresses.
The team walked in to the same shop that was visited last year, with shirts, dresses, and accessories lining the walls and ceilings. It looked like an explosion of colours and patterns, so the team went about digging out the clothing that caught their eye. Whilst the team shopped, a large military convoy charged through the street, that carried the president of Guinea, Colonel Mamady Dombouya, to the Friday service at Conakry’s central mosque. The jury is still out as to which of the volunteers was top haggler!!!
With the shopping finished, a trip to Les Cascades de la Soumba, the local waterfall was on the cards. The rural track to the waterfalls meandered through small communities which were new to the volunteers. The sound of the waterfalls urged on the volunteers who had to complete the last leg of the journey on foot. Upon reaching the waterfall, the spectacular view and the cool mist from the falling waters were the volunteers rewards offering very refreshing respite from the heat of the day. POOW media’s Alec, the team’s resident videographer, leapt into his element taking the opportunity to capture breath-taking drone footage of the beautiful Guinean landscape.