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Volunteer Review: Madeleine F., General Care Projects in Ghana

Child at school

All my life I have danced comfortably across the familiar landscape in which I was raised. Now, inhaling, I smell the unfamiliar: the heavy scent of rain building in the clouds, the musty smell of dust that coats my arms with red powder, and the sharp odor of burning rubbish.

My host family in Ghana

I am standing in front of my new home for the first time. Expected to walk right in and meet my new life. The rusted red gate in front of me marks the passage into the place I will be living for the next four months. As I step slowly forward my eyes travel to the faded white writing at the top of the gate. It reads: “Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the lord, forever” Psalm 23.

This comforts my uneasy stomach and with that message I enter my home in Hohoe, Ghana. “You are welcome” says my host Father as he emerges from the house. He looks weathered and kind. At first I am surprised by the way he has greeted me. It may just sound like a collection of words, an expression which is thrown about meaninglessly, but somehow I know that it is more; that I will truly be welcome in this home, in this town and in this life.

Getting to know Ghanaian culture

Food with new friends

At the end of my first whirlwind day of teaching a boy from my class taps me on the shoulder. He proceeds to tell me that I didn’t teach correctly. I feel my heart dropping. In this moment it doesn’t matter how proud my friends and family back home are of me for travelling to Ghana to give to the children there. It only matters what this nine year old boy thinks of me.
“What do you mean?” I ask him.
“I mean, all we did was play. You’re not supposed to have fun in school.”

I continue teaching every day for the next four months. My relationships develop with my little students and I find myself relaxing in front of them, comfortable with my new role. There is nothing for me to criticize about these nine children. Their education so far has failed them, but they have not given up.

The sun is blinding on the day I say goodbye to the orphanage. I write 60 letters. I buy candy and snacks for every child. There is no opportune moment to say goodbye. My kids hang onto me all day; orbiting around me as if I am the sun. But to them, the sun is a constant, the one thing they can always rely on, because in Ghana the sun will always shine down on them.

Madeleine F.

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.

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