Charlotte Fults - Care & Community with French in Togo
I had never been on a plane without my parents before. I hadn’t even been to Africa before and I had never been on a Projects Abroad trip or known someone that had been. But I signed up for the High School Special Care & Community with French in Togo after doing a lot of research. I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made and one of the best trips I have ever been on. My confidence in French grew, I got to travel by myself, and I met new people from all over the world.
Evenings and French lessons in Togo
For the High School Special, there were 15 of us and we were divided up into groups with each group living with different host families and volunteering at different care centres. Even though we worked and lived separately, we all loved being together during nights out. We had a pizza night, a drumming and dancing lesson, we sorted our donations, and painted a care centre. It was fun learning about each other’s cultures and just getting to hang out with each other. It was awesome having events in the evening so that we had something to do after volunteering and French lessons.
During our French lessons, we only spoke French, reviewed words that we were confused with and played games. The schedule was amazing because I never felt overworked and there was a good balance of always having something to do and just hanging out at the house in the late evenings.
My host family
Our host family had a roof terrace where we could play cards or talk. We often didn’t have an internet connection which was so nice. This allowed us to disconnect and really experience Togo. Our host mom was amazing and always had delicious dinners for us to eat and would always tell us to eat more. One night we got to make dinner for her and it was fun getting to share somewhat normal foods for us with her.
Every morning we were picked up to start our day and it was always fun to endure the bumpy roads. I thought I had experienced bumpy roads before but I was wrong, that was nothing compared to Togo. It was awesome seeing a chicken run across the road or little kids outside. We would always smile and wave at the kids and they would always smile back. In Togo, I never felt uncomfortable like I have felt in other countries. I felt like I could walk up to anyone and we would instantly become friends.
My Care Project
I loved that there were only five of us volunteering at the care centre because it allowed us to get to know the kids better. Most of them are around the age of 8-12 and already knew how to read but were still quite slow so we would read French magazines with them to help them learn. We also practiced Basic English phrases. When we brought UNO cards to teach them about colours and numbers, the kids knew exactly what the game was and were super excited to play. They are serious about playing UNO and marbles and they loved all games including Jenga and the Olympics day they participated in.
The kids would help us with words if we didn’t know how to say something in French. We had all had a few years of French so it was awesome to get to practice with the kids and ask them words that we didn’t know. We would also stand around in a circle and sing songs and play games and the kids especially liked the games involving dancing or running around. The staff from Projects Abroad would also get involved and help us with teaching and playing games and even though they could speak English (which is rare in Togo) they spoke to us in French so we could practice our own language skills. It was great having them with us through all our activities during the day and they were always willing to help us out.
Weekend trips in Togo
Our weekend trip to Kpalime was amazing. We got to hike up the mountain and see cocoa trees, growing pineapples, a giant centipede, and an abandoned castle. We also got to hike downhill to the waterfall and swam in the water. It was a fun excursion.
It was so hard to say goodbye and I really want to go back. I miss Togo and I am so thankful that Projects Abroad has these projects for young people so that we can make a difference even as a high schooler.
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.