It is in July 2020. The middle of an extraordinary year in the 14 years of WACSI’s existence. Extraordinary because the Institute, like every other civil society organisations (CSOs) in the world, is grappling with the challenges posed by the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Declared a global pandemic on 11 March 2020, COVID-19 came to everyone as a surprise, including WACSI. In Ghana, efforts to curb the spread of the virus urged the government to take stringent measures to keep Ghanaians safe.
On Sunday 15 March 2020, President Nana Akuffo Addo laid down several measures taken by the government to curb the spread of the virus in the country, after the first case was recorded in Ghana on 12 March 2020.
One of these measures included the ban on public gatherings in Ghana.
“All public gatherings, including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, sporting events and religious activities, such as services in churches and mosques, have been suspended for the next four (4) weeks…” the President said.
This had a dire impact on WACSI and its programmes planned for 2020.
This announcement was made on the eve of two pieces of training WACSI had scheduled for CSOs in Northern Ghana from 16 March to 27 March 2020 with the induction meeting held on the 12 March 2020. The training, supported by Wilde Ganzen Foundation, was on Local Fundraising and Mobilising Support. These were to benefit some sixteen CSOs from the northern regions of Ghana.
The training was therefore annulled during the opening ceremony on Monday 16 March because WACSI had to abide by the presidential directive. This has never happened in WACSI’s programmes! Our team that was present in Tamale, Northern Ghana for the training had to return to Accra.
The reps from organisations that had travelled from far and wide were disappointed. Kadi Sunday, the intern who worked in the Capacity Development unit at WACSI was equally very disappointed.
This was Sunday’s first official assignment in WACSI since he joined as an intern in January 2020. Sunday who hails from the Republic of Benin was hopeful to gain new skills in organising such programmes, coordinate with participants and facilitators, facilitate logistical preparations, documenting the proceedings during the training and producing the report among others.
Sunday’s excitement to deliver was shattered because of the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
This was a unique experience for Sunday, who, like his colleagues Nancy Kankam of the Knowledge Management unit and Hadi Alhassan of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit, both Ghanaians, had to work both in situ at WACSI and remotely as the Institute practised an Institute-wide remote working approach to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, graduating successfully from the internship programme, a flagship programme run by the Institute, the interns did not regret their participation in the programme.
“Thank you to WACSI for hosting us. It has been an exciting experience,” said Alhassan on behalf of his pals during a 7 – man closed graduation ceremony to mark their participation in the programme.
“We believe that we will be good ambassadors for WACSI and WACSI has become a family for us. We shall always call on you and you can always call on us at any time,” he added.
The Executive Director, Nana Afadzinu, commended the three unique heroes for their laudable contributions to WACSI that enabled the Institute to continue to deliver its programmes to CSOs in West Africa, albeit online.
“It’s been wonderful having you,” she said.
She mentioned that the interns’ supervisors were full of praise for the exceptional qualities demonstrated by Kankam, Alhassan and Sunday during their six months internship journey at the Institute. She recognised that COVID-19 gave the interns a unique experience, one that has never been encountered by any of the 53 previous interns the Institute has graduated since the programme was instituted in 2008.
“It’s been a challenging time. In fact, no other intern can talk about your experience. You were here when everything was okay [between January and February 2020] and having to adapt [to the mode of remote work caused by COVID-19],” she said.
With her usual optimism, the Executive Director appealed to the young civil society professionals to do exploits with the skills they gained from their participation in the internship programme – a core raison d’etre of the programme. She thanked them for the key role they played to contribute to the work of WACSI during an unprecedented period and acknowledged that the interns have been resourceful to the Institute during their stay at WACSI.
“We definitely have learnt a lot from you, so, thank you very much,” she concluded.