Volunteer Review: Harris M., Care & Community in Ghana
My name is Harris M. from the United States of America. My trip last summer was the most influential experience of my entire life. Wanting to do something that was out of the ordinary for a 17-year-old, I decided to travel to Ghana for a month. This trip to Ghana was definitely very unorthodox, as I knew nobody beforehand. I was nervous about the whole trip being a month and going alone, but knew it would all work out just fine.
Arriving in Ghana
I arrived in Ghana immediately experiencing the culture shock of being in a third world country and I knew this was going to be an eye opening experience for me. As soon as I left the doors of the airport I felt completely out of place.
Quickly I was directed to a minibus, as we would drive to Cape Coast, where my first placement was located. I remember being silent, just taking it all in. I gazed out the window in curiosity of what Ghana was going to be like. I didn’t know what it would be like, but I kept an open mind.
My Care & Community placement
For the first two weeks of my trip, I taught lower school kids rudimentary maths and English in the mornings, and spent the afternoons painting the school’s buildings. I will never forget the first day. Picture a swarm of kids all dressed in matching yellow and blue uniforms screaming and shouting, trying to give you a hug. All at the same time yelling “Obruni, Obruni.” Later I learned this was a nickname for a white person.
These kids came from poor backgrounds containing little or no money, but they were never once angry about being poor or unfortunate. They always had the biggest smile on their face and thankful for every day. Every time I walked passed the classrooms I heard the kids screaming, “Harris, Harris, Harris!” It immediately brought a smile to my face.
I would play football in the schoolyard, carry kids on my shoulders and even try to learn the local language. These kids made my time at the school better each day. On our last day at the school, kids were crying, not wanting us to leave, but all good things come to an end. I embarked to Accra for the second part of my month long journey.
My Sports project
During the second part of my trip I traveled to the capital city, Accra. There, I had the opportunity to not only coach, but also play football with other locals. Although they lacked some proper necessities such as cleats and shin guards, they still enjoyed every chance they had to play.
Playing football all my life I was accustomed to a grass field, but in Ghana most soccer fields were just dirt. These kids were ecstatic everyday no matter the condition the field was in or their clothes. They would beg to play a game every day. One kid would say, “Sir, please can we play?” It was too hard to say no.
The most memorable part of the trip was our tournament at the end of week. I wanted to do something special for my team, since we had made it into the finals. One of the boys in my group coached with me and we decided to buy our team all matching jerseys. The smiles on the kid’s faces were indescribable when we handed them their neon green shirt and jersey. They looked and felt like a true team. Even though we lost the game, the kids were just happy to be playing.
My favorite overall moments of trip came during my time spent in Cape Coast. Since it was a smaller city than Accra, Cape Coast had a more of a feeling like a true community. The most memorable part of my trip was walking in downtown Cape Coast from little shops and stands during one afternoon town day. Accompanied by my counselor Enoch, who I still keep in touch with today, we aimlessly walked all through downtown. This gave me a better understanding of daily life of the people in Ghana.
The other memorable moment of my trip was at the placement in Cape Coast. Over those two weeks I became very close friends with the older kids. We played soccer, talked about school, or even rapped to one another. While painting they would look at me or wave while the teacher wasn’t looking.
These all added to my fond memories of the trip, but one thing stuck with me. Each day we walked passed the classrooms of the older kids on our way to the other building and each time I waved the kids would scream, “Harris!” Instantly a smile came across my face, as I knew it would be another fun day.
Overall my month in Ghana was an experience I will truly never forget. Sitting on the plane at the end of my trip, I knew that this was best experience I had ever had. I went to Ghana to teach and help underprivileged kids, but reflecting on the trip I may have been taught more by the kids than I taught them.
Each and every day I felt unrestricted on who I had to be. The kids made me feel free of all prior concerns in my life. The smiles I received every day will be forever engrained in my mind as a remembrance of the difference this trip made on my life as well as the difference it made on the lives of the kids I helped.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.