Helen Baines - Care, General Care Projects in Ghana
I don't know quite what I expected from 3 months in Ghana doing community work and teaching, but it wasn't what I got.
I arrived at Accra's International airport 2 hours late on January 5th and was met by a wall of heat (which I tried to resist at first - it doesn't work) and a very excited Nyame. We then waited a few minutes for a couple of other volunteers to arrive, one of which was Sophie - the girl who I would be living and working with for the next 3 months.
The next 36 hours were a complete blur as we were taken straight to the Projects Abroad office to have our photos taken (looking lovely at 11pm after a 7 hour flight!) and then on to our house to meet our host family, who had stayed up especially to welcome us. The next morning, after working out how to use the bucket shower, and still looking around in wonder and amazement that we could see palm trees from our bedroom window, we were met by the volunteers' coordinator for Accra. We were taken on tro-tro's (a sort of dilapidated mini-bus) for the first time, tried Ghanaian cuisine, and given a whirlwind tour of all the places we would need to know in Accra. We were then left back at the house (after proving we remembered how to get there) to unpack and investigate the internet café at the end of the road. That evening we met one of the other volunteers living close by and she showed us how to get a taxi to the sports bar for the weekly quiz.
This was followed the next morning by being met by the assistant country director, who showed us how to get to our placement and introduced us to everybody. We would be working at a local charity called Glona, which has been set up to help educate those children who can't afford to attend the schools run by the government. They currently have 3 schools which they use in the afternoons with approximately 250 registered pupils.
The charity also organises projects to make the area surrounding the schools safer and more hygienic and educates the local communities about health issues such as HIV/AIDS. As it was a Friday, after we had heard all about the history of the charity, we were left to our own devices and spent the rest of the weekend exploring the beaches and markets of Accra.
The next 2 months were spent planning a sanitation project in the mornings, teaching small groups of 15-18year olds English in the afternoons and meeting up with other volunteers in the evenings. At first the teaching was hard but we soon worked out what we needed to do and it was encouraging watching them learn. At the end of the placement, we had to set the students end of term tests and because of the different ability levels in our group; we ended up writing several papers so that everyone got a reasonable mark. All the morning meetings eventually led to us helping to clean up and paint a toilet block - which was very rewarding, (apart from the 5am start!).
I also had the opportunity to travel at weekends and for a week and a half after my placement had ended. This enabled me to see the diverse range of culture and environments that Ghana has to offer. Slave forts in Cape Coast, the Rainforest in Kakum, the huge, man-made Lake Volta, the magnificent waterfalls at Wli, the Elephants in Mole National Park and the biggest market in West Africa in Kumasi.
All this and much, much more (including several hair-raising tro rides, embarrassing drumming lessons, thousands of goats and the enormous warmth and friendliness of the Ghanaian people) led to an amazing trip that I will never, ever forget.