Beth Nash - Care & Community in Ghana
I would describe myself as shy, not good with new experiences or meeting new people, so I would seem like the most unlikely person to ever decide to travel across the world to volunteer on my own. Which is why, when my family and friends heard what I would be doing, nobody believed that I would end up going, I even doubted myself at times.
However the decision I made to volunteer would turn out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made as it allowed me to have the most life changing experience I have ever had.
I was browsing on the internet when I came across Projects Abroad. I have always wanted to volunteer in another country but always found myself too scared to embark on such a journey. I found that they had a 2 Week Special project for 16-19 year olds. I thought this would be perfect for me; I would not be gone for too long, as I had not been away from home for long before, and I would not be alone on the project.
All that was left was to choose my destination. I read some of the stories on the Projects Abroad website from past volunteers, researched the destinations on the internet and, in the end, chose Ghana as my destination.
Arriving in Ghana
After a flight of 6 and ½ hours I had landed in Accra. It was night when I got there but the heat that hit me was stifling. I collected my suitcase and was greeted with a smile and a handshake from a Projects Abroad staff member. There were already many other volunteers there who would be on the same project as me and other projects.
We were all led outside to get into a tro-tro, which is like a mini bus but with a lot more people squashed into it. We were taken to a hotel where we would stay the night as it was late and we would begin our journey to Cape Coast, where I would be spending the next 2 weeks, early the next morning.
The next day after a three hour journey in a tro-tro, in boiling heat, were taken to the first drop off, Alexandra Mensah’s house, which was my host family. Staying with me would be eight other volunteers. We dropped off our bags and got straight back into the tro-tro to travel to the other host family where thirteen other volunteers on the project would be staying.
We were then all taken to the Cape Coast Office to be given all the information about our two weeks and to meet the staff who we would be spending our time with. We were introduced to the supervisors Enoch and Charlie who would be in charge of the two groups of volunteers. Enoch was in charge of the group I was in. I also had my first experience of drinking water from a bag, which I never thought I would come to miss. For the rest of the first day we were taken around Cape Coast and then to have food.
The work then started the next morning; we were picked up by Enoch and our driver and taken to Saint Michaels Catholic School where we would be painting part of the school. As we pulled up we were greeted by lots of children smiling and waving at us. We met up with the other volunteers and were all introduced to the “General” who would be helping with the painting.
We travelled to St Michaels School every day, except the weekend, to paint the building and we also had the chance to talk to and play with the children at the school. Every day they were excited to see us, just as we were them. The children I met were always so nice to me and happy, even though they had so little compared to where I come from.
Every day I got to know the children better. They showed me that to be happy you just have to be able to have fun, which I did every day of the trip, and to appreciate things more. The children also taught us the games they played, and I often find myself, in my Ghana trousers (everyone should own a pair), singing “shaky shaky shake that body”. The children became my friends and I miss them every day.
We also got to visit the Children’s Home of Hope to help out with their chores and play with them, carrying a bucket of water on your head is much harder than they all make it look. Once a week all of the volunteers went to the sports field to play basketball and football against the children; all of who were very good.
Free time in Ghana
We got home every day at about 5.30 and after this was free time, which we usually spent just getting to know each other, and a game of UNO was never turned down. Some nights we also played hopscotch or skipping with Sandra, our host mother’s granddaughter, and her friends.
On a Tuesday all of the volunteers would go to the office to participate in a quiz and we were treated to a show of dancers and drummers. We even got the chance to learn some of the dance moves; it was embarrassing but a great experience, and one that I won’t forget.
Food was always cooked for us by our host family every day. I am usually a fussy eater but I enjoyed everything that was cooked. You could guarantee that chicken would be on the menu at least once a day; I never thought I would return home and miss eating chicken and rice every day. They even treated us to chips a few times, which we were always grateful for.
There is so much more I could write about that happened in the two weeks that I spent in Cape Coast, Ghana. Before I went to Ghana I knew that Ghanaian people were seen as some of the friendliest people, and they were just that. They were the nicest people I have ever met and I will never forget any of them. Ghana was everything I expected and so much more.
I went on this trip to help other people but they also helped me; I am now not so shy, I find it easier to meet new people and I appreciate and am grateful of the things that I have so much more. I also found that I am quite good at bartering! This trip allowed me to meet so many different people from different backgrounds and different countries who I would never have met otherwise and experiences I could never have had anywhere else.
I advise anybody who is thinking about volunteering, to just go for it because you will not regret it. They only regret I have is that I didn’t stay longer.
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.