Rachel Shinnick - Sports in Ghana
My name is Rachel Shinnick and I am from North Carolina in the United States. Over the summer of 2014, I traveled to Ghana for two weeks with Projects Abroad. I took part in the Sports high school special program where I worked with youth in the Accra region, and focused specifically on soccer.
I have played soccer my whole life and in the fall of my junior year, I decided that I really wanted to go on a volunteer trip. I began researching different organizations and the programs they offered. When I found Projects Abroad, and saw that they had a program that focused on soccer, I was thrilled!
Ghana was the perfect destination for me as I had never been to Africa before. I was really excited about this opportunity and immediately began the application process. When I found out that I had been selected and that this dream trip would become a reality, I was overjoyed.
Over the next few months I devoted myself to learning as much about Ghana as I could so that I would not experience “culture shock” upon arrival. When July 12th finally came around, I was both nervous (because I was going alone and would not know anyone there) and excited for this totally new experience. I could not have been more satisfied upon my arrival.
Arriving in Ghana
Kotoka International Airport in Accra is very small, but also very busy! I had absolutely no trouble in finding Projects Abroad staff right away. My project supervisor, Fynn, found me as soon as I arrived at the transportation waiting area. He even gave me his cell phone to call home and let my parents know that I had landed safely.
I was then taken to my host family by taxi, and then to the soccer field to meet the other volunteers. Once I got to know the other volunteers I felt much more relaxed and at ease. It is definitely hard to go to a new country all alone, but it didn’t take long for me to make lasting friendships with the others. Even after we are back home we still keep in touch!
My host family
My host mother, Mary Martha, was such a wonderful lady. She was extremely friendly and helpful when we had trouble adjusting to our Ghanaian accommodation. Mary provided us with three excellent meals a day. She would often have us try some traditional Ghanaian dishes (which were all delicious), but she also made meals like spaghetti or sausage with fries, so it wouldn’t have been too much of a change from what we would normally eat back home.
Mary’s home had great features; a big sitting room and a terrace where all volunteers could hang out together. One of the things I was worried about was adjusting to not having running water, or no showers, but Mary’s home came with all of these amenities. She was also very generous in that she would do our laundry for a very small fee, or she would show us how to do our own laundry with buckets of water. I chose to do my own laundry so I could engage in a new cultural experience, and it turned out to be really fun!
At the Sports project in Ghana
Every morning we would get up early to train with the senior team, and then we would coach the kids in the afternoons. I really enjoyed training in the morning because we were able to learn new skills from the Ghanaian players, as well as meet new people. It was fun to have scrimmages of all the volunteers against the whole senior team because it would get very competitive and we would end up playing a really great match.
During the afternoon we would go back to the field (which was about 20 minutes away from Mary Martha’s home) to coach our teams. We would run through about an hour of training with drills where we would focus on specific skills sets to improve. After an hour we would play friendly matches against the other teams. Each team was coached by two or three volunteers. I loved being able to teach these kids new skills as well as communicate positively with them about things like good sportsmanship, staying positive, encouraging each other and having fun.
Safety and supervision in Accra
During my stay, we had a Projects Abroad staff member with us at all times; besides when we were asleep at our home. Michael was our volunteer coordinator who came with us to all of our activities, including the weekend trip to Cape Coast. Fynn would also accompany us to major activities like the weekend trip, or when we would go to Accra mall, or cultural displays. I never once felt unsafe on this trip. We were accompanied at all times, our things were safe on the bus and at our host home, and the house was surrounded by a tall cement wall.
Projects Abroad definitely made sure that we would experience some cultural things in Ghana as well, besides just our assignment of playing and coaching soccer. We went to the coast on the weekend and visited Cape Coast castle, saw a drumming/dancing display and visited Kakum National Rainforest where we got to go on the canopy tour. During the week we also had a lesson in “Twi” the local language in Ghana, as well as a cooking lesson from Mary and a local drumming lesson.
Overall I had an amazing experience in Ghana, and with Projects Abroad. I definitely recommend that anyone who is looking to broaden their worldly experiences, or just volunteer, go with Projects Abroad! I would love to go back to Ghana one day and I encourage others who can’t decide where to go, to consider Ghana. It is a beautiful country, with some of the friendliest people I have ever met! I guarantee that anyone who goes there will have a wonderful time.
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