Christine Mai - Care & Community in Ghana High School Special
My name is Christine Mai and I live in New York City. While being bombarded with school work, I started to question the purpose of all the mindless work I was constantly being assigned. I was always busy and lost time that I used for the things that I genuinely enjoyed doing. So, I gave myself a personal mission: I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and do something, not just for myself, but for others as well. My search led me to stumble across Projects Abroad and in a matter of weeks I had signed up for a trip to Ghana.
Arriving in Ghana
Getting off the plane in Ghana was surreal to say the least. I began to feel anxious as the heat reminded me I was thousands of miles away from home. Thankfully, my friend Antonella and I were quickly greeted by Projects Abroad staff that was anticipating our arrival. They gave us water and made sure that our flight had gone according to plan. They taught us handshakes and I immediately felt relieved that we were in good and friendly hands.
We took a three hour car ride from the airport to Cape Coast, Ghana, where I had been assigned. We arrived extremely late at night but our host mother, Cecelia, did not hesitate to welcome us and help us get settled in. I had been told that Ghanaians were extremely friendly and Cecelia’s hospitality had only further proved it. Throughout my two weeks in Ghana, she constantly checked up on my roommates and I to make sure we were comfortable and feeling well. Sometimes she would have dinner with us and the whole table would be full of laughter as we cracked jokes. No words can describe how thankful I am for having such a welcoming and friendly host mother to help me adjust to Ghana so smoothly.
My Care project
The first time my roommates arrived to the school we were assigned to, it was overwhelming to say the least. We stepped out of the van to have hundreds of kids run up to us screaming and climbing on us. We were greeted with hundreds of smiles, laughs, screams and arms grabbing us to look at this or go here. The kids bombarded us but there was never a second where we didn’t feel welcome. As grateful as we were to be able to be there, the kids and teachers were just as grateful to have us.
For two weeks, my housemates and I worked at the Good Anglican Shepherd School. During the day, we worked with kids aged five to nine, teaching them the alphabet or about conservation and the environment. One of my favourite parts was when we got to read story books to the kids. The mesmerized eyes and captivation I received as I read them books I grew up with was one of the most memorable moments that I have from my trip.
We spent everyday teaching the kids different nursery rhymes that we grew up with, like the wheels on the bus and the itsy bitsy spider. The teachers and the kids also taught us nursery rhymes and hand games. I still remember my roommates and me struggling to catch up with the kids singing the nursery rhymes and watching the kids bend over laughing at the “obronis” who couldn’t manage to sing their songs. It was like an exchange. My roommates and I weren’t the only teachers. The kids taught us more than we could have ever imagined. Beyond the nursery rhymes and silly phrases, they taught me to be grateful for the little things. Watching their eyes light up at a simple story book or juice brought joy to me and helped me realise how much of my life I overlook.
Volunteering in Ghana
In the afternoons following lunch, we re-painted the outside of the school building. It was a long process; the walls needed dusting and sanding before they could actually be painted. Projects Abroad made sure that there was never a dull moment in my trip. Although some of my favourite nights were spent in with my roommates, we were constantly taking in the Ghanaian culture. We spent nights learning a dance called Azonto, eating out, or watching dance ceremonies. We visited Cape Coast Castle, one of the most famous slave castles in Ghana. It was beautiful to engulf in Ghanaian culture and experience something I had never tried before.
I cannot talk about my amazing time without mentioning Sylvester. He was assigned to my group and I and could not have been more helpful (not to mention patient) throughout our entire time in Ghana. He checked up on us constantly, making sure we were hydrated, healthy and having fun. He answered our endless questions about himself and life in Ghana. I remember when I came down with a fever one day and didn’t report to work one day.
Sylvester went out of his way during lunch to visit me and made sure that I had taken medicine and eaten before going back to the school. It was little gestures that Sylvester and everyone else in Ghana had shown me that made me truly grateful for the people that I had met throughout my journey.
I know that my time in Ghana was an extremely unique experience, one that neither I nor anyone else could surely relive. It’s something that I know I will be able to talk about years from today. Given the chance, I would go back and revisit everyone in a heartbeat. My experience there was priceless and I don’t know if words could explain how grateful I am for everyone that made this possible for me. All I have to say is Medasi, Ghana!
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.