Volunteer Review: Victoria P., Veterinary Medicine in Ghana
At the age of 16, I traveled to Ghana. Not only was it my first time abroad alone, it was also the first time I traveled without my parents.
My first impressions of Ghana
I collected my bags and went to the ‘arrival lounge’ where I met Nyame, the Projects Abroad taxi driver. In Ghana, it gets dark by about 7pm so on my way to my host family, I couldn’t see much of Accra. After about 30 minutes, the taxi pulled up outside a big brown gate. Nyame took my bag out and led me into the mansion-like house where I was met by Aunt Esi who showed me to my room. The next morning I met another French vet student who arrived a day before me and was on the same project. This was great source of comfort as we traveled to work every day together and it was not as daunting making your way from Teshie-Nungua (the region where our host family lived) to LA/La Badi (the region where La Veterinary Hospital) was situated.
On my fist day, I was given my introduction around Accra by Fyn who is hands down the best volunteer coordinator as he is really friendly and has a passion for what he does. He told me how much my transport to and from work cost, which ‘Tro-Tro’ to catch (local transport consisting of a minibus with extra isle seats) and everything I needed to know during my stay.
In the late afternoon, I returned home and met the other volunteers. There was 6 of us and I was the only one with the privilege of having my own room and a double bed! By that evening, I was feeling at home and enjoying Aunt Esi’s home cooked dinner whilst chatting to other volunteers.
Staying with a host family in Ghana
As I lived with Mrs Afrifa, the house was very big and was able to hold up to about 9 volunteers as well as the large family. The family keeps about 5 guard dogs who protect the property by night but they are really nice dogs. They also have 2 cats which I really enjoyed as I was doing a vet project. The curfew was 12am and after that, someone would lock the door. If you happened to come back after that, you would either have to call one of the volunteers to let you in or wake up one of the family members but I never had to luckily. Aunt Esi always asks where you are going but she’s always very understands and relaxed about volunteers going out at nights or traveling at the weekend.
She is the one you see most of as the men are either cleaning the house or coaching at the gym (yes, they have a private gym outside in the garden!) We were also given a choice what to have for dinner most nights (as long as we told her in advance) as Aunt Esi wanted everyone to be happy. One thing you learn very quickly is how to live without power and electricity. Ghana saves power by inducing long lasting power cuts meaning power is only available for a few hours a day if you’re lucky. I was very glad I had a torch with me as many nights I showered by torch light.
My fist day at La Veterinary hospital consisted of everything possible one case after another. I thought I’d see maybe 2 or 3 cases a day but I was wrong. I arrived and the first thing I seen was a deceased dog who passed away in quarantine that night. That was my first time seeing a dead animal. After that, all of the vet students arrived and the director and the other vets who work there.
There were 2 vets and one ‘vet technician’ (nurse) as well as Ronda the receptionist. About noon, we were taken to the operating table outside in the kennels to watch a post mortem. I was so excited but its good practice to get use to these kinds of things before seeing them so in depth as I felt light headed and on the verge of fainting. However, it was so fascinating and interesting that I will surely never forget it. The director gave me assignments (one being the digestive system of a bird, something I had no idea about before seeing the post mortem). We were then in consults seeing dogs with parvo virus and potential rabies and then we were allowed to have lunch.
In the afternoon, we were sent to the laboratory to watch autopsies of dogs, cats and birds. I was a bit worried about not feeling fit to watch but again, I was so fascinated by it that it became second nature to see those things every day and I was used to animal corpse and the lectures by the end of my stay.
The most rewarding thing about veterinary medicine is seeing animals recover from the depths of diseases. 'Survivor ' had witnessed the death of her siblings and is the only survivor of parvovirus, 2 weeks before, she'd not come near any humans or other animals, by the end of my stay she was my little pet and I was very sad to leave her behind but thrilled for her to go home healthy and happy. There was also a case of a dog who had been hit by a car. As the hospital didn’t have x-ray machines or scans, it was a guessing game but the vets saved him. It was one of those ‘moments to live for’ As well as admitted animals, the hospital housed Jerry the monkey, Suzuki the 3 legged giant tortoise and a pregnant sheep. It was great being around animals every day and being able to learn so much about vet medicine in Ghana as well as their culture from all of our student friends.
Traveling around Ghana
I traveled to Big Mama’s in Kokrobite one Saturday evening. It’s essentially a beach bungalow hotel which hosts reggae nights with great music and lots of locals dancing and chatting to you. We stayed in a private bungalow which was quite cheap per person and we also had our own private shower. One minute you’re volunteering with animals and the next you are dancing on the beach under the bare sky to the sound of reggae music.
On my last weekend we took a trip to Volta, the region of mountains and waterfalls. We were able to but ‘tro food’ out of the minibus windows from locals which kept us going. We stayed at Wli Water Heights Hotel in the middle of a Ghanaian jungle and the next day, we set of. Our tour guide Wisdom, took us through the depths of the Ghanaian jungle to Wli, West Africa’s highest waterfall. The views from the jungle and the waterfall were breath taking. It is wise to carry your mosquito spray and net with you when traveling as some places don’t provide them, although I was lucky as all my hotels had them.
On some Saturday’s, Projects Abroad also organize volunteers to do school paintings which are something you want to do while in Ghana as it is like a cherry on top of the experience. They also do language lessons, cooking demonstrations and African dance lessons in the evenings!
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.