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Volunteer overseas on worthwhile and sustainable programmesVolunteer Overseas

Charlotte Stephens - Veterinary Medicine in Ghana

Charlotte with one of her patients

I always wanted to be a vet and I liked the idea of being able to expand my knowledge of the profession by observing it in another country.

Why I decided to volunteer in Ghana

I knew that I wanted to experience a veterinary clinic in a different country and 2017 was the year I’d do it. Having already had work experience in many different vet practices in the UK, I knew very well how a practice is run in my own country. I had already been to Kenya and I loved it so I knew Africa was a destination that I wanted to visit again.

My host family in Accra

Veterinary Medicine volunteer talking her patient for a walk

I stayed with my host mother and her family at her home in Teshie-Nungua. The house was large and comfortable and felt very safe. I was sharing my room with another volunteer, who was also from London. In the room, we had comfortable beds, a ceiling fan, a wardrobe and a wooden box that we could lock our valuables in. We were given lots of tasty food while we stayed here! Breakfast most days consisted of tea or coffee with strawberry jam on bread. I took a packed lunch to my placement and this varied every day. For example, one day I had an omelette with noodles and another day I had egg and jollof rice. For dinner, it also varied greatly, but it mainly consisted of rice, chicken and vegetables. A very common and traditional dish, also my favourite, is one that must be tried – Red Red. This is fried plantain and beans; the fried plantain was the best bit!

My Veterinary placement

Volunteers enjoying a canopy tour at a nature reserve in Ghana

I spent two weeks volunteering at a veterinary hospital in Accra. Although my placement was much shorter than that of other volunteers I still saw and learned a lot. Having observed a lot back home, I was able to actively get hands on in some situations, such as drawing up injections, taking temperatures and giving injections. All the vets were so helpful and were really keen for you to learn. I got asked quite a few questions to make sure that I understood what was going on.

While I was there I saw a couple of minor surgeries including an ear hematoma and the removal of a large abscess on the neck of a dog. My favourite part of my placement was getting to see patients going home healthy again. Having been there two weeks I was able to follow the cases and watch over the animals as they recovered. I got quite attached to some of the inpatients.

Free time in Ghana

Before I came to Ghana I didn’t think that I would have much time to visit the area but I was very wrong! Transport is really easy and cheap. There are Tro-tros and taxis everywhere meaning that it isn’t too difficult to get anywhere. In my first week, I took part in an African night where I got to learn, alongside some of the other volunteers, how to do African drumming and dancing. Another evening I enjoyed was a cooking evening at another host family’s house. Here we learned to cook red red, jollof rice and fried chicken. I also went to a reggae night at Labadi beach where there was lots of music to listen to and things to buy. It was so good I went back with loads more volunteers the following week.

Only having one weekend in Ghana meant that I needed to fit a lot into that weekend. A trip not to be missed is a trip to Cape Coast. I booked a room with my roommate on the Friday and we left for Cape Coast on Saturday morning. It takes about 3 hours to get there from Accra, but time goes so quickly because there is always a lot to look at out of the window. It’s nice to get to see some of the countryside as well. While we were there we first visited Kakum National Park where we did a canopy walk in the trees and ate another traditional dish, Fu Fu. We also visited a couple of the local castles and markets.

Leaving Ghana – back to reality!

I had very mixed emotions when I was on my way to the airport. I was upset that I wasn’t going to be going to the vet practice the next week or seeing more of the country. However, I was missing my family, friends and pets back home! I couldn’t wait to get back and share my experience with everyone as well.

Charlotte Stephens

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