Volunteer Review: Katherine R., Care & Community in Ghana
Service has been a huge interest to me while in junior high and high school. I have completed a lot of service locally to help people in need with my community and school, however, it had been a recent dream of mine to travel to a third world country to help people that need and deserve so much.
After almost four months of intensive research, I finally picked Projects Abroad as the program I wanted to travel with. They had a great price, the right location, and an amazing and helpful staff. I picked Ghana because I wanted to be able to experience two different parts of the country (We went to both central and southern Ghana) and also because I wanted a longer program.
Arriving in Ghana
Fast-forward three more months and I was stepping off my plane into the Accra airport with about fifty other volunteers. At the airport we were split up into different groups; some people were working in medical clinics, some in sports programs, and the rest of us in care and community projects. In my group there were seventeen people total, coming from the U.S., Canada, France, Holland, England, Denmark, Belgium, and China. They were all amazing and had such unique and interesting backgrounds.
I enjoyed getting to know each of them and hearing about their families, schools, and diverse lifestyles. From the airport we were driven about an hour to the Akuapem Hills in central Ghana, where we were given an orientation and introduced to our host family. My group was placed at Reverend Fianko-Bekoe’s home where about 40 people lived.
All seventeen of us lived in one building, however we were all split up into rooms which had one to four beds each and they all had electricity. Our host family was so welcoming and they always wanted to talk and get to know us.
My Building project
The next day we woke up at seven to get ready for our first day of work. For the first two weeks of our trip we would be working at Baware Primary School (about a 20 minute bus drive away from our accommodation). From 8:30 am to 11:30 am we manually mixed cement and plastered two full classrooms inside a brick school building. It was definitely hard work but very worthwhile.
After about a week of plastering we began to paint both the interior and exterior of the building to match the children’s school uniforms. By the time we were done the school looked amazing and it was so cool to see that after just ten days of hard work we were able to completely transform the environment of this school. Also, during these two weeks we were never alone; the children at Baware School were always singing, dancing, and playing with us to keep us company.
After our mornings of painting and plastering we went back to our accommodation to eat lunch and have a little bit of time to relax before we drove to Ebenezer (a different local school) to teach and play with the kids. From 1:30 to 3:30 pm we played outside, did arts and crafts, and basically gave as much attention to these kids as we could! They looked forward to seeing us every day and it was amazing how attached we got to these kids in just two short weeks.
Evening activities and weekend trips
This probably sounds like a ton of work, but we also had cultural activities almost every night including cooking lessons, quiz nights, and drumming lessons. Also, on the weekends we were able to visit local markets, go to Shai Hills animal reserve, eat dinner at a local grill, and relax all day at a beach club.
Leaving our first placement
Eventually our two weeks at Akuapem hills came to a close and we had to say hard goodbyes to the friendliest and most welcoming people we had ever met. I will always hold my host family close to my heart; they are responsible for showing me the amazing Ghanaian culture. I felt so blessed and special to have been in this region of Ghana, but I was excited as we were to travel down to Cape Coast (Southern Ghana).
Arriving at our final placement
After a five hour van ride, we ended up in Cape Coast. We were introduced to our new host mother, Veronica Adams, and her family. The environment at our new house was really different because there were only five people living there. When we first arrived we were confused as to where all of the kids and people were because we were so used to that in The Hills.
Our host home was in a more urbanised place and we were very close to a busy street that included markets and little shops. Upon arriving at our new home, we were split into groups for rooms, but luckily our whole group of seventeen was still able to stay together in one house. It was so different from the Hills, but amazing at the same time. I am so grateful we were able to experience two completely different homes and ways of life.
Every evening, though, after dinner, we ended with a few rounds of cards at the table and then all 13 of us would pile into one bedroom to sit up talking. These are some of my favorite memories from the entire trip; when Josien and Eline let us try a traditional dessert from the Netherlands, when Jamie told us about the crazy dreams he’d had, or when we listened to everybody’s favorite songs.
Our placement during these two weeks was a local orphanage, called New Life International. Just like the Hills, we left our house at eight every morning and drove about 20 minutes to get to the orphanage. In the mornings, we painted the interior and exterior of a school building that is right next to the orphanage. After a quick lunch break, we taught lessons and played with the children from 1 – 4pm. Most days we would do an organised craft, a sport outside, and either a lesson or reading time.
Also, during our stay at Cape Coast we were able to get out and see a lot of new cultures and environments. After work some days we went to various markets, dancing lessons, restaurants, and even the Cape Coast slave fort. On our weekend between our two weeks of volunteering we were able to drive three hours to a beautiful, remote beach. It was called Safari Beach Lodge and we stayed there for one night with all of the other groups.
My final thoughts
Although four weeks seems like a long time, if I had the chance I would of stayed in Ghana for four months in a heartbeat. This trip was so life-changing and completely changed my perspective on culture, lifestyle, poverty, simplicity, etc. I am so happy to have picked Ghana, because I think it is truly one of the most amazing countries in the world. The Ghanaian people are so happy and they were always able to bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Overall, I am so grateful for this opportunity and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone wanting to have a great time while making a huge difference in the world!
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.