Ashleigh Walton - General Care Projects in Ghana
So, I’m back. After 9 months of planning, fundraising and working, I left England on the 7th May 2008 prepared for what has been the most hard, yet most amazing and memorable experience of my life. At times it seemed longer than 2 months, but looking back it was just the smallest fraction of my life that meant so much.
When you think of Africa, you immediately think of a country stricken by poverty and illness, but what you do not realise is, the country that is so poor in living, is so rich in history and culture.
From stepping off the plane in the early evening, the humidity and heat hit me. I was finally in Ghana! I was so excited yet felt scared and unaware of what to expect. You can read all about the country and its way of life but nothing can compare to how it feels actually being there and living alongside African culture.
Travelling with my friend Angela, we arrived at the house in Accra around 10pm. We were so tired and thought we should get some sleep as we had to leave for Kumasi at 4am the next morning, travelling on the unforgettable STC bus.
Working with children has always been of interest of mine and this is why I chose to do Projects Abroad’s Care placement during my stay. I worked in Kumasi Children’s Home. This was a home for many boys and girls who were orphans. There were four main buildings, one for the boys, one for the girls, a baby unit and a pre-school. I was placed in the boys unit due to this area being so busy, yet so under-staffed. I worked alongside children with disabilities and different needs. Work started between 8.30 and 9am. Lots of the children in the boys unit attended school in the morning meaning there was a lot less to deal with at this time. There were 7 main children who I had a lot of hands on and one-to-one work with. My everyday tasks included buying and preparing food for the staff and children, washing clothes, feeding and providing the children with personal hygiene, playing with them and generally giving them the love and attention they need.
Another project I took part in every Thursday was Medical Outreach. To attend this you do not have to be a Medical volunteer or have any experience of work in this field at all. Our supervisors Michael and Gabby took the volunteers to a different school every week where we washed, sterilised and bandaged the children’s cuts, grazes and open wounds. For me this was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever taken part in. The work was so hands-on and fulfilling. In one day we met and helped so many amazing children and I will never forget how happy they were to see us.
Whilst in Ghana I had some amazing weekends travelling with other volunteers who have remained fantastic friends of mine. From relaxing on the beach in Cape Coast, walking the amazing canopy at Kakum National Park, visiting the Cultural Centre, eating spring rolls and drinking mango lassy at Vic Babboo’s Café, splashing in Kintampo Falls, walking through smelly markets in Tamale to sitting on the unforgettable tro-tro to Mole National Park with no space to move, no sleep and no food for what seemed like forever. We travelled along the bumpiest road towards Larabanga, covered from head to toe in sweat and orange dust, to find once we had arrived there was no taxi to get us there.
T.I.A, in other words - This is Africa! Our options were, to walk, ride or take a motorbike. I think I took the best option available and took the best mode of transport - the motorbike. It was the best 5 cedi I have ever spent. We arrived at Mole National Park around 10am, and after 15 hours of travelling it was time to take the Safari to see the elephants. After all this time…not an elephant in sight. Lots of baboons, deer and warthogs, but no elephants. Despite the disappointment, this has to be the best weekend and most memorable trip I have been on.
There is no better way to live the Ghanaian experience than to live with a host family. Although the thought was scary and intimidating at first I could not have felt more welcome and more at home than I did with my host family. Osei and Koby were my host brothers who I watched football with and sang many a song. I will never ever forget them. Mama Gifty is an amazing woman who became like a parent to me and treated me so well throughout my stay. We shared so many happy times talking and laughing; usually laughing at me hand washing clothes or trying to fit in with the Ghanaian lifestyle, and generally giving me so much love and support when I was ill. She helped me with any problems or queries I had and I am so thankful for everything she did for me.
I went to Ghana with no expectations, an open mind and much idea about what I was going to do. I had the most amazing time in my life and met some fantastic friends. I have experienced more in 2 months than I ever have in my life. I will never forget the first day eating Fufu and thinking "oh my god what have I let myself into”, to feeling part of something so special and something that nobody could ever understand unless they were in the situation and experiencing what I was experiencing for themselves. I loved the culture, the word "obruni", the people, the whole way of life, it’s just unforgettable. The children from Kumasi children's home have touched my heart more than anyone has ever done so in my life, there isn’t a day goes by I don’t think about them. They have inspired me to get the most out of life and now I look at everything in a different light. They are incredible children and I will never ever forget them.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.