Alice Llelliott - Rugby in Ghana
As a 17 year old female from England, I had a stereotypical view which many others of my generation have of Africa but after spending a month in Cape Coast, Ghana, my perception of the country had completely changed.
My journey started when I boarded my flight from London Heathrow airport on July 25th, 2011. I arrived at Accra airport at 5am and was struck by the heat and humidity. Stepping outside the airport was a huge culture shock for me, being presented with open sewers, partly demolished buildings and an environment that was completely different to that of my bustling town life back in England.
My first Ghanaian experience was travelling for 3 and half hours across Ghana in what is known as a tro-tro (slightly different to the Arriva bus services). This was a minibus that travelled between major towns and carried more than the maximum number of passengers. In addition they were very old, with the risk of breaking down but it was something that you soon get used to, and it was an easy way of travelling around Ghana.
I arrived at my host family’s house in Cape Coast mid-afternoon on July 26th. There was also an American girl staying in the house with me and it was nice to talk to someone who had already experienced Cape Coast. My host family consisted of Jemima, my host mother, who was a very loving and caring lady, always giving me warnings about where to go and what not to do. I found that the Ghanaians were very protective people and would look out for you and were always there to chat, about home life or about the life that they lead in Ghana.
I also had my host father, Thomas, who was also a very lovely man who always took the time to get to know me and we had long chats on the terrace about how different our lives were. It was so lovely to know that they cared and wanted to know about how life is in England. I had two host sisters, Darcus and Irene. They were very kind and caring people who were fully domesticated as school was not an option.
On my first morning I was woken by the chickens that the neighbours kept; my host family and their neighbours all woke very early. The Ghanaians routine starts very early and ends early too- something I would have to quickly adjust to.
I was picked up from my house by Eric, a local Ghanaian man who works for Projects Abroad. He showed me how to get to town and then showed me around; we then had lunch at the Castle Restaurant that had beautiful views over the white beach and tumbling sea. Another thing that I had to quickly learn was that when a local person (normally a child) shouted ‘obrini’ at you it meant that they wanted your attention. ‘Obrini’ is a local word meaning ‘white person’ and it is often used to grab your attention, as well as them hissing at you!
My Sports project
I was participating in a rugby placement and was very shocked when many of the players turned up bare footed and many were as young as 6. This was something I had not seen before, even after playing rugby for 8 years. George, my boss, was relaxed with me on my first session with the team and even made me join in the match that they played, despite the fact that I was here to coach them!
By the end I was exhausted; the heat and change of environment had completely drained me. As time went on, I could see vast improvements in the team as a whole and I could see that they were taking on board what I was saying. I saw many of them improve as players and I knew that if they kept playing that they could become very talented rugby players. Rugby is still an unpopular sport in Ghana; football is the predominate sport.
The boys would turn up every day for a two hour training session. All were very dedicated to the game and keen to do new drills and learn new skills.
As well as teaching rugby, I helped out at a local library that was used as a holiday club for the local children. Many of them lived in poverty and had little money, but this club was a place for them to make new friends and improve their reading skills. I also had the chance to teach them many new English games and we had hours of fun playing. I found that I made a close connection with the children and would love to go back and see how they have all progressed.
Travelling in Ghana
As well as being involved in an amazing project that taught me so many valuable experiences, I also travelled around Ghana and saw some of its most beautiful sites, as well as experiencing the poverty that some of the Ghanaians face. On the weekends many of the other volunteers and I would travel to a different destination together. We travelled for about 9 hours across Ghana to the Wli Waterfalls and I have to say it was one of the toughest treks up but the reward was spectacular. From the top you could see miles across Africa’s beautiful landscapes – a breath taking view.
We also travelled to Kumasi; we visited the largest market in West Africa and it was the most surreal environment. It mixed Ghana’s rich culture with the poverty of the country. The market stalls varied from fabric and jewellery to cow’s heads – it was another big culture shock.
In the evening the volunteers would also go out and experience the Ghanaian night life – with many of the locals wanting to talk, at first a frightening concept but I soon learnt that they were really lovely people.
Travelling in Ghana
I said goodbye to my host family on August 23rd and headed for Accra Airport for my flight back to London Heathrow. Being in Ghana made me appreciate all the small things that we take for granted in England – things like a hot shower (we had a cold running tap in the bathroom) and being able to have constant electricity (there were many power cuts during my stay).
My Ghanaian experience was one of the most amazing things I have ever done; it taught me so many valuable lessons and helped me to realise that we should appreciate everything we have as there are many people a lot less fortunate than us. I also made many new friends from several different countries and we all had one thing in common – we all wanted to make a difference to at least one person’s life and I really believe that we all succeeded in that.
I wouldn’t be missing my 5am wakeup call from the chickens or the food though! There is only so much fufu and rice I can eat before I want my English food back.
I am thinking about participating in another project with Projects Abroad and I would definitely recommend anyone who was thinking about going to just go for it. It truly was an incredible experience and I would do anything to go back to Ghana – even just for a day.