Jonathan Williams - Care & Community in Ghana
Although it has been over one year since I decided to volunteer in Ghana, I remember the day I decided to do so as if it was yesterday. Luckily, my College was aware of Projects Abroad as an organisation, and a senior member of staff invited us to a meeting if we were interested in volunteering in a foreign country sometime in the following year for two weeks. I remember seeing the pictures from past volunteers, and instantly wanting to make the same difference those people had.
Eventually we formed a group of twenty or so College students and began fundraising for the event. Unfortunately, reality kicked in for most and our numbers shrank down to nine. Still, we were a resilient group who were all dedicated to going on this life-changing experience. The prospect of fundraising for all of us was daunting, but we rose to the challenge and did all we could throughout the year to earn the money to go. Many of us got jobs, we did weekly cake sales, raffles, car washes, and anything remotely interesting that may have earned us the money we needed! I have to credit our local supermarket, which gave us several opportunities to bag pack, and helped us to raise the majority of the money we got.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the day arrived for our departure. Armed with an array of essentials, from clothes and toiletries to toys for the children, we left our College as a group and headed to Manchester airport, where we got a flight to Amsterdam and then on to Accra, Ghana. The journey to our final destination was not over yet, though, as we were met at the airport by staff that informed us that we were spending the night at a hostel, and then onto the Kumasi region in the morning. The revelation that we were in a different country, immersed in a different culture, hit us like a wave and the adjustment took a while to get used to.
Our host for the trip, Gifty (with her two helpers, Deborah and Theresa) helped to make the adjustment a lot easier. Their constant tea provisions and uplifting attitudes helped to make the transition from English to Ghanaian life a whole lot easier!
While we were in Kumasi, we were assigned to two placements: the first was refurbishing Hope Academy, a newly built school twenty minutes from our location; the second was caring for children in Kumasi Children’s Home, close to where we were staying.
In words, it is hard to describe what these experiences were like. When you see advertisements on the television, showing you the depreciation of a society, it moves you; when you see it with your eyes and witness it happening in front of you, it is hard to even contemplate just how lucky you are. This realisation hit every one of us when we went to the orphanage in particular.
These children make it through tribulation every day, and emerge happy and delightful. Their happiness is a testament to the employees of Projects Abroad, who constantly arm the orphanage with volunteers to enrich the lives of the orphans forced to live there for whatever reasons.
Our work at Hope Academy made us proud of the ambition we had to enrich other people’s lives. Between the nine of us, and the two teachers that accompanied us, we had managed to repaint the entirety of the outside of the school, and the inside of most classes. To view the appreciation on every child’s face as they waved us goodbye after our assembly truly made us feel glad that we had gone to them, and that we had done as much as we could.
The trip was not just hard work though! Thanks to the wondrous organisational skills of the Projects Abroad workers we were with, we were able to visit the cultural Cape Coast, three hours from where we were staying. Spending the weekend there, visiting Cape Coast Castle, the bustling markets, and the beaches of Ghana, honestly gave us a massive appreciation for Ghanaian culture. We even got the opportunity to go on a canopy walk that was absolutely breathtaking. For me, it was a pleasure to see the country relish their history as an opportunity to teach the rest of the world. The Castle in particular was an undoubtedly eye-opening experience.
Our departure was not without upset; to our relief, we had the time to thank everyone that worked with us for making our endeavor not only successful, but also enjoyable. While we were looking forward to the comforts of our home, none of us can forget how privileged we are to live in a first world country, and how lucky we were to help others who aren’t as fortunate as ourselves. Although I only volunteered in Ghana for two weeks, for as long as I live I will never forget the work we did there, the people we met, and the difference we made. I thank everyone at Projects Abroad for being amazing at their job, and encourage everyone who is contemplating volunteering abroad to do so: it will change your life forever.