Archive for May, 2015

Autoimmune Diseases: Lupus Awareness

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2015 by kola

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When we talk of social media as being a very essential tool for communication and disseminating information, some cynics tend to doubt its importance. This article is wholly culled from a discussion on my friend Kobby Blay’s Facebook wall when he made a simple post about his own immune system attacking itself and wondered if that was even possible.

Dr Dzifa Kuwornu, a health advocate for communicable diseases stepped in to educate his readers about such diseases. Truth be told, yours truly had no idea this condition existed and that is why I’m sharing this.

 

The dialogue will be between Kobby and Dr Dzifa with several people chipping in but I assure you it’s worth the read.

So Kobby (KB) asks “this is scary, but why should my own immune system be attacking itself?”

Dr Dzifa Kuwornu (DK): we are talking about autoimmune diseases.

KB: oh, so doc your body’s immune system could fight itself? How is that?

DK: yes in autoimmune diseases the bodies disease fighting cells start attacking each other, the cells they are programmed to protect.

KB: how come?

DK: well, the exact cause is not known but we believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with autoimmune conditions have the genes that make it susceptible to having the immune system go awry and it usually starts when an environmental trigger sets it off for example an infection, extreme stress, etc

Once triggered it starts overworking and when previously it would have done the its job and gone to ‘sleep’, now it does not get the signal to stop and continues to destroy itself.

KB: meaning your immune system under this situation wil be overworking right?

DK: your immune system is what helps you to fight foreign substances that enter the body. It is programmed in such a way that once it recognizes something as foreign it would attack it until it destroys it.

So if it identifies itself as foreign by some miscommunication it would attack that part of the body until it destroys it.

(This part sounded pretty grave to me)

Anna Abaitey (AA) interjects here with further explanation:

Exactly, whereas a normal person wakes up every morning feeling refreshed, people with autoimmune disorders wake up in the morning feeling tired and exhausted.

Every day comes with problems but people with autoimmune disorders wake up every morning with boxing gloves on, ready to kick this disease.

KB: wow Anna you don’t say. That should be very painful.

So is there a particular group of people that this affects and is it relative to age?

DK: true Anna, fatigue is one of the most troublesome problems people with autoimmune conditions face.

Kobby it can affect anyone though a lot tend to be women depending on the disease type.

KB: what are some of these autoimmune diseases?

DK: age; again that depends on the disease type. Lupus tends to affect young women or men in their reproductive ages. Rheumatoid arthritis may affect slightly older group though young people may be affected too.

Some examples: rheumatoid arthritis, systematic lupus erythematosus or lupus, multiple sclerosis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders, there are a lot. (now that’s scary)

AA: the common ones are Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, moisitis, fibromyalgia, etc.

KB: so how do I know if it’s an autoimmune disease?

DK: well it depends on the type and where it affects. We have those that are localized and then those that are systematic.

Localized one affect only one cell type eg the pancreas causing diabetes.

Systematic ones can affect any organ of the body. Thus depending on the part of the body affected, that would determine the tests to be done.

There is a screening test called the ANA that can be used to start the process but these tests cannot be done by just anyone. You need to see a specialist in that field or physician specialist.

Dorcas: there are 2 types of Lupus, discoid – affects skin and systemic affects organs.

Akua Ofosu chips in that one will have to see a specialist for an investigation and not a drug store attendant.

KB: Dzifa, can I prevent it?

DK: that’s a difficult question to answer because we are not yet sure exactly what is causing it, especially in our part of the world where it was thought not to be common. We need more research to tell us why the increase.

We advocate living healthy, avoiding processed food as much as possible, more fruits and vegetables, diets rich in the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

If we knew the cause then we will know how to prevent it.

Suzie Quartey asks a question: what are the chances of a sufferer going into remission?

Nii Otoo Ankrah: Suzie used remission which means it’s something that you get to live with the rest of your life. How difficult is it to manage financially?

AA: there is no cure for autoimmune disorders but the disease can be managed. If well managed, one can go on remission (a state when the disease gets less active)

DK: some people have had the condition starting after a stressful life event, some after certain procedures or medications.

They are expensive diseases to have. The tests for diagnosis can be expensive and so are the treatments and these are as said conditions that can be lifelong.

Unfortunately if not well managed, people can lose their jobs, etc

KB: Anna you seem to have some experience too, what can you share with me?

AA: financially, lemme take a deep breath, it’s not easy. It is very costly.

I was diagnosed with sensory motor neuropathy 11years ago and it’s been a long and interesting journey. I have learnt so much sometimes I even sound like a doctor.

It hasn’t been easy though but you learn to smile through the pain and be happy.

Suzie: autoimmune diseases are invisible to see making sufferers difficult to explain when they have a flare.

AA: it is very difficult to explain how you feel to others. People always think you are exaggerating or overreacting.

Nii Otoo: how many doctors do we have who have specialized in treating this type of condition and how much do people really know about these autoimmune diseases?

DK: true. There is very little awareness about autoimmune diseases, though they are more common than HIV/AIDS, sickle cell disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and cystic fibrosis all put together.

In terms of rheumatologists we have only 2 in the whole of Ghana. For the autoimmune diseases that affect other parts of the body like multiple sclerosis, the neurologists deal with that.

KB: Doc, now to home management. How can anyone with any of these autoimmune diseases manage him or herself well at home?

DK: for people with lupus, proper treatment can minimize symptoms, reduce inflammation and pain, and stop the development of serious organ damage.

With the current methods of therapy, 80 to 90% of people with non-organ threatening lupus can look forward to a normal lifespan.

These are not conditions to leave untreated.

DIET

It is hard to prove any connection between specific foods and disease activity. Obviously if you have food allergies you should avoid such foods. Otherwise a well balanced diet is generally best.

Diets in high fish and fish oil are relatively immunosuppressive and can help reduce inflammation.

To keep inflammation down the best studied are diets high in fatty fishes – salmon, mackerel, tuna and menhaden. They are known to reduce inflammation and so can fish containing omega3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA, as well as evening primrose oil.

Also green tea and green tea extracts can help reduce oxidative stress caused by inflammation and maybe tissue damage.

LIFESTYLE

Life with autoimmune diseases can be difficult and it’s natural for the physical effects of the disease and the prescribed medications to get patients down. You have to bolster self esteem and combat negative thoughts and really focus on the positive.

As many as 80% of people will experience fatigue and it’s unclear whey extreme fatigue occurs in so many people with autoimmune condition.

With your doctor’s approval, exercise can be a great tool for dealing with symptoms. Sometimes however, traditional exercises – such as aerobics class or weight training can be difficult whilst dealing with swollen joints and fatigue.

Yoga, Tai chi, Pilates, swimming on the other hand can be very useful for those with these conditions.

I can’t overemphasize the need to take your medications, though we know it can be challenging and comes with its own attendant problems.

AA: medications are very important. For people with these disorders, you cant possibly live a normal and pain free life without medications.

Nii Otoo: are these medications that are so important for patient’s survival covered by health insurance since they are very expensive?

If not, why?

Are there any efforts to get the drugs on health insurance?

DK: unfortunately no, they are not covered by health insurance. We used to get prednisolone which is not the definitive treatment but even that sometimes is hard to get.

Why? I guess because they are so expensive and the health system also is not aware about the increasing prevalence of these conditions.

We also hope that with the new standard treatment guidelines and the NHIS being involved in the drugs listed, we hope that it would mean drugs also get on the scheme.

We have to lobby the authorities by making our voices heard that these conditions exist and are causing a major challenge.

KB: hold on Doc, are autoimmune diseases inherited?

DK: the disease seems to have a hereditary component but it may not be directly inherited like say sickle cell disease. You may find different autoimmune conditions in one family, not direct mother to child usually.

People are more susceptible to developing an autoimmune condition if they have immediate relatives with the disease, but that doesn’t mean they will. In fact, most wont.

Even if a person with lupus has an identical twin, there’s only a 50% chance the undiagnosed twin will develop it.

(whew! That’s a relief to hear)

KB: what does every person diagnosed with an autoimmune disease like lupus need from friends and family, and the society?

DK: what do they need? Support and understanding.

That they are not pretending, they are not lazy.

Just the chance to live a normal life, have a family, an employer who understands the challenges.

AA: support and understanding. We feel a lot better when we know we’ve got people who understand us and will always be there for us. Makes life a whole lot easier. We don’t need sympathy. Not at all.

KB: is there a platform to know more? What does the organization do?

DK: please like the page on Facebook The Rheumatology Initiative, TRI Ghana, to learn more and support people with autoimmune conditions.

The Rheumatology Initiative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education, advocacy and research into autoimmune conditions in Ghana and Africa.  https://www.facebook.com/autoimmune.trighana?fref=nf

Come join us the first Sunday of every month as we share experiences and also learn how to manage our conditions at the Christ the King Church hall near the flagstaff house @2pm.

Watch out for our autoimmune awareness raising event in August.

KB: it may have to end here doc and thank you. Your years of practice and support for people with autoimmune diseases are worth unending praise.

 

For yours truly, I didn’t even know such a condition existed and now that I know, I am sharing. Hope it was an interesting read for you as it was interesting and educative for me reporting and sharing it with you.

Support people with autoimmune diseases, they are not lazy. Make it a point to find out what is wrong with people before you judge or brand them.

Like I always say it begins with YOU!!

 

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Kenkey Rejoinder

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 18, 2015 by kola

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

It has come to my notice that albeit the complaints of fante Kenkey patrons that the balls of Kenkey at Yamoransa and it’s environs wear layers of  coat due to the cold weather, the sellers still turn a deaf ear and placate the balls of Kenkey by making them as very  comfortable as they can be.

It is such a delight to get a ball of fante Kenkey and with anticipation take off the peels only to realize with trepidation that the leaves form over sixty percent of the whole mass of the delicacy.

This prompted my good friend and fellow creative arts writer Nii Bavard http:// A Letter To The Fante Dokono Wura http://niibavard.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-letter-to-fante-dokono-wura.html to write a scathing letter to the producers but Kpakpo is it really their fault?

Nii Kpakpo, it was until I relocated to the savanna that I realized in how much of a “paradise” we were living in the capital. We had become so used to the livelihood of hardship and we assumed it was like that everywhere.

Food is universal everywhere and even though the coastal fantes make the best of the delicacy, some people in the savanna have also picked up on it and make the same thing.

Kpakpo, here is a sample.

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Anyɛmi! Because of the heat in the savanna this particular version only wears a thin layer of coat and so the coat is less that two percent of the gross weight of the delicacy. Recently me and my boys boys numbering 8 had 2 for brunch after a game of soccer.

I don’t think it will be possible for even three persons to eat a whole one whilst it’s the opposite on the coast where the Last time in my low appetite state I had three balls from the yamoransa junction with pussna and sɛsɛw (octopus & shrimp)and of course black pepper.

So what accounts for the difference in the number of jackets?

Nii Bavard attributes it to the economy and thus profit but are we not all in Ghana? I have inadvertently attributed it to the weather but what is it really?

Kpakpo I have always said that if the correct policies were in place we won’t have a food situation in this country and food will be uniform everywhere so the people won’t mind where they live but can live anywhere and contribute their quota to national development.

But Hey! What do I know?

The jacket on the fante Kenkey in Ghana just serves as a metaphor for what our economic condition is and until we find a single jacket in national colors for this delicacy to wear, whilst some consumers are disappointed in one part of the country, others will be delighted and having a field day probably  with more than they can consume.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson! There needs to be a balance at least.

Well I’ve said my piece. It’s up to the rest of us. 

Till I write to you again, keep enjoying the fante Kenkey delicacy with enough fish and whatever additives will spice it up to meet your palate.

Like I always say, it begins with YOU!

Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy

The BlogCamp2015 (2)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 15, 2015 by kola

blogcamp

so yes the blogcamp was on.

when we were on the blogwalk there was one interesting thing that caught my attention pretty much. it is that kumasi is a very neat town especially in adum where the #adumGang chose to traipse around. the irony is that at the waste management department compound, the waste was rather mismanaged and the yard proper was in disarray with weeds and unkempt dumpsters. well! why am i surprised. ghana for you!

after taking so many pictures the gang headed out to vodafone cafe, also in adum to upload the pictures since there was a time deadline of midday and OMG! that day of all days the internet was very very slow or not functional at all. bloggers had to rush out and get credits for other networks and load so they could upload pictures for the competition. it was a pretty shame but the most important lesson learnt was that in every situation have a contingency.

hey! it was so much fun mingling with other bloggers on the quest to who got the most profound pictures and interesting to know the perspectives with which some people took some photos.

all in all it was fun.

then came the having to rush back to the venue of the blogcamp itself on the knust campus and at first it was how we all got into one trotro with only one guy not part of us and when we had convinced the driver to take us directly to the venue, he had to open his mouth to complain that we were taking him off his route. oh! how i had wished then that it was a social media page. but everybody kept their thoughts in their heads even when the security said that they will not allow the troski to go beyond the barriers so we had to get down.

and then the whole group got lost!

yes we went to the wrong venue and had to retrace our steps but not before yours truly had gone mango hunting with a guy seling flash disks and micro chips.

upon all that we got to the hall and the #AsafoGang had not even arrived yet but the workshop was going on.

lunch time and folk made light of the meal in quick gulps showing how tired they were and deservedly too after all that walking for almost 2hours.

they say you can tell a lot from a person by how they eat and from what i observed i dare not delve into that.

in this era of dumsor, it was a welcome relief to get into the hall and find that electrictiy was intact and there was a standby generator. kudos to the organizers for that foresight although we didnt need it. being social media freaks it was time to see how gadgets had to be charged and yours truly had to charge my 2 phones, a tablet, a laptop and a power bank. plugs

oh! that is just me. and i am even not too tech savvy. lol

let me leave the rest to your imagination so you can figure out why upon all the extension boards placed in the hall even sockets outside the hall saw some action.

the panel discussion was educative on how to use social media in various aspects whether you were an individual or an organization and the moderator, Ato Ulzen did a good job asking the questions that were on the mind of blogcamp participants although there was a chance for the audience to ask questions which were very few.

then we went into the breakout session and Kajsa was ‘in her zone’ with Blogging 101. i have always loved how she breaks down her teaching to the very basic requrirements so that anybody could understand it and she was just the right person to take that ‘class’ introducing blogging to neophytes and even people who were already blogging but wanted to still get some basics.kajsa

Edward Tagoe in the other breakout session was also in his elements brimming with confidence in taking bloggers through using social media to achieve goals and to what extent social media could help influence society. from the discussions that ensued, it was obvious that even those who didn’t really understand how social media could be used to campaign to influence society realized that they have been missing out on the excitement involved.

the last action of the day was the final presentations of the various gangs from the blog walk. wow! Kumasi had really been documented and it was time for the gang leaders to let their pictures tell a story. there were so many photos and i’m sure members spent a pretty long time selecting photos and even on an angle to present a story.

in the end the #suameGang had the best story and presentation according to the judges but then it had all been a fun event. suame

oh yes! yours truly went on a photo bombing spree after the event and i laughed so hard i ended on the floor so literally rolling on the floor laughting (rotfl) when Nehemiah tried to hold his tummy in. i know i have saved the photo of the Tummy Gang as i call them and those guys are some of the smartest and most affable guys i know. just keep being you Tummy Gang especially Selikem.tummy

time to leave and another bus ride and this time it was unlike the morning ride. this time if you didnt partake in the fun then you did not come to blog camp2015. it was pretty sad that very soon we had to get off the bus and head home as the rest of the participants headed back to accra.

to everybody who was at the blogcamp2015, thank you for coming and i hope in all that fun you learnt a thing or two about blogging. we had a chance to put the faces to the twitter handles, to the facebook posts we saw the owners of the profiles we didnt know and i’m still trying to sift through it all.

if you missed blogcamp2015 and you are reading this, please don’t miss the next one.

kudos to the organizers and thank you to all the sponsors. we appreciate what you do for blogging ghana.

thank you kobby blay for the photos, they are amazing photos.

let’s go ahead and document ghana for the rest of the world.

like i always say, it begins with YOU!

all

Matters Arising

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2015 by kola

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

It has become very imperative that I write to you constantly especially with the several issues going on in the country. Chale! A lot of things are happening and we as a nation need to sit up and do our part as the citizenry to make this country work. Honestly, if we say we are going to wait for government then we are doomed because this government appears seemingly clueless as to what is going on.

Either that or the government is intentionally ‘punishing’ the people for the greater good of staying in power in the next elections. Well, such Machiavellian principles have always been proven to work and I’m sure this is no exception.

I was just thinking out aloud the other day and I was wondering what kinda human being will want to change a government that allows a grown man to play oware the whole day with his friends and then at the end of the day the member of parliament of the area sends his representative to over to the group to give each person gh5 and at the end of the month they are on government schemes that ensure that they are paid about 150gh monthly?

Kpakpo, there are people in Ghana breaking their backs to make a living and to make ends meet. These are the people feeling the pinch of the tightening economy. But whilst they patiently wait for Election 2016 to attempt to get this government off the seat of power, the government is also dealing with making promises and showing signs of letting these promises work in the hinterland where the people matter and where the real votes are. These grassroots folk are simple minded folk and very easily convinced.

So let them rave and rant in Accra and do all the demonstrations that they want, but where it matters most, the government is sealing the trust of the people. After all nobody forced anybody to live in the capital which is congested and already choked with pressure on social amenities.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson! Now to lighter issues. The other day I happened to be walking by the cluster of public toilets and I noticed that the attendant was not available. It set me really thinking about some issues. Mind you this was around one am in the morning whilst I was trying to find your sister some food she was craving for. You know that happens once in a while and if she doesn’t get what she craves then it means nobody in the house sleeps cos she can’t sleep either.

I was thinking really hard that around that time since it was a public toilet then it meant that anybody who wanted to use the facility actually used it for free. Since the attendant cannot be present all 24hours of the day but the facility was there all the time it meant that somebody could actually just use it every day for free if they knew the attendant’s schedule. Is it not the same thing that happens with the Telcos and then they say they are running promos of cheaper rates that these odd hours as if they were doing us a favor?
Well that was what I was thinking. But you should see the dressing of some people when they are going to the public toilet in the morning. You would think they were going for an event. Well, it is an event too isn’t it?

Kpakpo, the rains have started but whenever it rains the relief only lasts just a few hours. Imagine that it rains for 3hours the previous day and the very next day the sun is out and the morning is quite cool but by noon sun is high overhead at heats unbearable. Well, we are gradually getting used to it so not worried much. I hear visitors to Tamale complaining that the place is hot and I wonder what they expected when they were coming here.

The #iBelieveInReading project is going very well and I have been getting interesting and very touching letters from parents and teachers who want books for their children and pupils so they can personally supervise their children to read. This has been very encouraging for me so I can get more books to give out freely so we can inculcate a habit of reading into Ghanaian children. Moreover I have been encouraging them to use the public library more since there are more books in there that will broaden the children’s minds.

This has become imperative following the recent listing of Ghana as last in the list of countries with the best education systems. As for that one I don’t even want to talk about it because if I started I won’t finish now. Suffice it to say the politicians have their own twist to that and it is such a shame. Let’s not forget that they even want to make education free in this country.

Nii Kpakpo, furthermore I have joined a team of ‘Volunteers with Swag’ who are a support team for any voluntary outreach program that will happen in the north. The group aims at being available to support both materially and physically in all philanthropic activities up north. Recently we have come to a decision to form such volunteer groups in every region so that volunteers are available for every program and these organizations will be under the umbrella Ghana Volunteer Program put together by the GhanaThink Foundation.
The savannah is growing very fast and with it attendant problems of being a metropolis. There are migrant workers from the other parts of the other regions seeing Tamale as an oasis and also a stopover on their way to the capital. Well, I wish them luck in their endeavors.

I haven’t stayed put much this few months but I intend to this time and let’s see how it goes.
Kpakpo, lemme end this letter here and leave you to the petty bickering that is happening between your celebrity friends on the #DumsorMustStop demonstration. They are so frivolous and I won’t even want to get into that one too. I’m sure it’s a humor point for you since one of the proponents is supposed to be a humorist and the other is a movie icon.

Oh shit! I said I won’t get into it.

Till I come your way again, let us keep hope alive and well, I’m not sure we got any tunnels in Ghana but only pipelines where all our plans are in so I cannot say there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Shalom!

Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy.

BlogCamp2015

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by kola

blogMe It’s another year and Blogging Ghana, the umbrella organization for all bloggers in Ghana organized their annual BlogCamp,  a forum for bloggers to learn the rudiments of blogging and also other aspects and everything more or less related to blogging.

This year’s theme was Social Media for Good.

Hitherto blog camps had been held in Accra but constant reminders and persistent poking by some members especially yours truly have made the organizers aware that even though the capital might shelter the biggest number of bloggers, the other regions also counted.

To this effect, gratefully, this year’s blog camp was held in Kumasi and to ensure that it didn’t pose any problem for any bloggers who wanted to attend, buses were provided to take participants to and from the venue.

Furthermore there were several changes to the conducting of blog camps. This year the awards ceremony was separated from the main event and held earlier apart from the seminars and workshops held in Kumasi whilst the former was held in Accra a fortnight before.

In addition to this, participant bloggers were divided into teams to organize a blog walk to partly document parts of the host city in pictures.

To effect 3 gangs were formed with gang leaders to select different areas of Kumasi in a photo walk competition.

The Suame Gang, the Adum Gang and the Asafo Gangs went head to head in a photo walk for Which there was a final presentation to determine who won the photo walk with prizes given out to the winners.

This, albeit being hectic was pretty exciting and documented kumasi like never before within the spate of the four or five hours the competition went on.

For updates follow the hashtags with the gang names or blogcamp2015 on twitter or Facebook.

However comparatively there was a low turn out due to several factors I can only speculate but I won’t get into. I can only wonder what kind of reports the organizers are going to write for the records.
For yours truly, the build up to the blog camp was exciting. Several days earlier I’d already planned not to miss it even though I’ve been travelling quite a bit and needed to rest for a while. When I heard buses will be provided tried to assemble bloggers in Tamale for the event. In the end the region was aptly represented by three bloggers including the most prolific blogger I know, Cecelia Amoafowaahttp://amoafowa.com

With the blog comp to start in the morning it was imperative to get into town early so did so with my twin http://gracelarbi.wordpress.com on Thursday to the Saturday when the event will be held to relax, having the blog walk slated for Saturday morning in mind too.

Friday night preceding the morning of the blog camp the excitement had mounted so much that I couldn’t sleep.  I was sleeping in spurts and bursts in anticipation of the event and since there was nothing much to do it was a night to break my twitter hiatus.

For a Long time I hadn’t tweeted anything and I was tweeting late Friday night into early Saturday morning so much so that it was like I was even monitoring the buses via twitter and using whatsapp to direct friends on how to get on the buses since I had a tweet on the pulse of the event, literally.

Then the light bulb moment popped up at the crack of dawn. This was going to be a bus full of social media people and bloggers, a good opportunity for networking and loads of fun, why not start the fun even before the main event.

Why not get on the bus and get driven with the others to the venue?

Cecelia wondered if I could pull it off and truly we did. We hopped on the bus right in front of our host residence and after hugging the amazing Kajsa and saying a few hellos, headed for the back of the bus where I knew I’d find the usual suspects.

And Boy! Didn’t I find them.

The mood in the bus was sombre and I was almost disappointed because I knew there were some fun folk on the bus and just maybe they had left too early and were still groggy with Sleep.

Alas they were all awake but pissed at the choice of music the driver had chosen to play in the bus.  The playlist was akin to what a deejay would play on the morning of a burial. That’s how one blogger described it and I thought to myself Thank God this bus is not a social media page else the driver will drive into a ditch(of course killing all the passengers) after reading all the comments and criticisms regarding his choice of music and driving.

However for the next half hour till the bloggers were dropped off to go participate in the blog walk it was fun just picking on each other and other people to tease even though it always ended back to the driver.

Gang members gathered together to pick trotros to their chosen locations and almost immediately the pictures started flowing in on twitter and instagram especially.

Blogcamp 2015 was on!