Volunteer Review: Shanelle N., General Journalism Projects in Ghana
Ghana truly did me well, the culture, the food, the atmosphere and most of all the warmth I felt from many Ghanaians. It's no surprise that I've had the time of my life, from encountering new daily experiences to the many life-changing ones that have inspired me to continue challenging myself.
Why not? After all it is the gateway to Africa. Having Nigerian blood running through me I have always had an interest to visit another country in West Africa, so I followed my heart, took a leap of faith and embarked on a well anticipated trip to the gold coast. Initially, I had planned to travel to Ghana for one month but because I was doing all what I had dreamt of I extended one month into two! Using my visa to its full entitlement and becoming a regular face in the news room.
Being a journalism graduate with minimal university-based work experience I decided to merge two of my 'things to do'- traveling and interning abroad into one. Prior to arriving in Ghana I was interning in China - whole-heartedly involving myself in a new culture and new surroundings was something I was really looking forward to.
My Journalism Placement
I was placed at Radio XYZ, in Osu, Accra, which was about a 15 minute walk from my place of residence and a 3 cedi taxis fare when I felt too lazy to walk. Radio XYZ to me, was a cross between London's LBC and Capital FM. Whilst touching on everything from current affairs, entertainment, sports and business it focused heavily on Ghanaian politics and foreign news too.
My role was profoundly everything I dreamed my career would be. No two days were ever the same. I was involved in all aspects of news production and was an integral part of the online department. As a journalist does, I did. One day I'd be in the news room writing and uploading news stories and the other saw me out retrieving media coverage at events such as the Amnesty International 2013 launch report and the Water and Sanitation exhibition of West Africa. I was also asked to make a documentary about the Rastafarian community and their lust and desire for white women who visit the Art Centre in Accra.
This 15 minute documentary was played on air as part of an 'Around Town' documentary segment. By applying commitment and dedication I was able to delve into the style of reporting so well that I was offered the role to report the 9pm African news each evening. This was an exceptional opportunity for me and I was super thankful that I was able to actively contribute my skills and abilities.
Undertaking this role had its challenges as I was not fluent with the native African names. This amounted to quite a bit of pressure being added onto the job. Thankfully, my well experienced colleagues were able to coach me accordingly and I was soon able to latch onto the pronunciation of the local African names.
The Ghanaian Lifestyle
Ghanaians are generally very laid back and this was evident throughout daily life and various entities I actively involved myself in. Time was never an issue with Ghanaians, they always took their time no matter the occasion. There were quite a few instances where I turned up for an event on time only to be left waiting for the event to start at the 'Ghanaian time'. This one occasion saw me wait a whole 4 hours before anything kicked off. And can you believe this was a debate taking place at parliament? You would think that at such places the program would commence on time, but no, not in Ghana! It was a thing that I had to get used to simply because Ghanaians went according to their own kind of time!
My Host Family
I was placed with quite a large family with many children and grandchildren constantly bringing life to the home. There was the host mother Veronika, her twin daughters Jennifer and Jane and younger children Joseph, Joshua and Emanuella. The home was a very traditional Ghanaian home in terms of the music that was played, food that was cooked and the church services that were attended. Traditional Ghanaian meals were frequently served while the house was always flooded with visitors and relatives.
The host family involved me whole-heartedly with their lifestyle and culture. I often went to church with the older sisters and even dined with their family members at a 7* hotel. Living with a host family in Ghana gave me a clear insight into the Ghanaian way of life as it allowed me to learn and delve into a new culture, which I easily adapted to. Hand-washing clothes, bathing in cold water and drinking water out of a packet all became second nature to me as I easily adjusted to my new surroundings and embraced the culture in all its aspects.
Visiting Ghanaian churches was an experience that I was most looking forward to. One thing that I noticed about Ghanaians is that they are very religious. With that said I was extremely overwhelmed at how prevalent religion was in Ghana. Every business, car and public domain acknowledges Jesus Christ and Christianity in the name, logo and brand - every business I saw recognized some form of Christianity.
Ghana is home to great cuisine and the choice of foods is certainly appetizing, from rice and tilapia to beans and plantain. I approached every dish with an opened mind and was quite willing to try most things. Street food was something that I was always quite cautious about, not just in Ghana but usually in any foreign country I visited, simply because of the conditions and the uncleanliness that the food had been exposed to. My ultimate Ghanaian dish I would have to say was Red Red and Plantain, simply because it was filling and I just loved the combination.
Traveling in and around Ghana was quite hectic unless you owned a car but fortunately I made genuine friendships with Ghanaians who were more than willing to show me around town. I visited many of the 10 regions of the country.
A memorable experience for me was the hike up mount Afadjato. I had done no preparation and I just wanted to get to the waterfalls. In total we had hiked over 3000km up hill. Through the sweaty, rocky and muddy hike sweat flies began to hover around my ear drums so I had to stick leafs in my ear to deter them. What really fascinated me however was how safe this method of hiking to the waterfalls was. The excursion is not a popular one when visiting Ghana, however it was very well guided. Eventually I reached the peak of the mountain and managed to thoroughly enjoy the refreshing waterfalls!
Ghana will always resonate in my heart. I hold such great memories of my time spent there. Even though I have returned to the UK with mosquito-bite-bruised-legs every time I look at them I'm reminded of the awesome time I spent out there. The network of people from church associates to the people that work in the journalism field have each helped me in the self-development process I have been on since interning at Radio XYZ.
I would certainly visit Ghana again and I feel truly blessed to have had this opportunity, to have met all the amazing people I can call friends and ultimately to have been exposed to this part of the world again but with a totally different mind-set and attitude.
For those indecisive about travelling to Ghana, I'm going to be biased and say GO FOR IT, you'll have no regrets!
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.