Dorothy Appleyard - General Care Projects in Ghana
Obruni, be my friend!
Ghanaians are renowned for being some of the friendliest people in the world, and it is most definitely true. From the moment I got on the plane to Accra everyone spoke to me and was interested to find out more about me, and this friendliness didn’t stop once I arrived.
As I stepped off the plane and was greeted by the heat and mosquitoes, I don’t think I really had many preconceptions about Ghana, and strangely enough, I didn’t really experience “culture shock” until about two weeks into my stay. People were so happy and welcoming that I didn’t feel homesick and I enjoyed being thrown in at the deep end and doing completely new things in a new place!
After waiting over two hours for the mother of the Children’s Home to come and meet me (my first experience of the Ghanaians’ relaxed time-keeping skills!), I was placed in the babies unit where the children ranged from new born to around 3 or 4 years old. At the time I thought I’d never remember all of their names but after spending every day playing with them I soon remembered them.
Working in the Children’s Home was one of the best but also the hardest things about my time in Ghana. I became very attached to a little boy called Herbert who I still think about all the time. At the beginning of my 3 months placement I felt like I had all the time in the world to spend with him, but as I grew closer to going home, the thought of leaving him there broke my heart! I can’t wait to go back and see the children again and am hoping to be able to sponsor little Herbert!
It was so rewarding making the children laugh and smile, it didn’t take much. I took lots of bubbles and balloons with me which they loved. You really felt like you were helping out, and there always seemed to be volunteers there which was good because you know the kids are always getting love and cuddles. Cleaning up and changing towel nappies every day might seem like a chore but it made me happy to do anything that made their lives a little bit better.
I never thought I’d fall in love with a country and its people so much, but I had such an amazing experience there that I hope it can continue being part of my life. Everyday is an experience in Ghana, be it from two little girls being mesmerised by touching my hair on a tro tro, to little children following you down the street and walking with you and holding your hands to wherever you might be going, to everyone saying good morning and asking how you are on the way to the tro tro stop and the countless calls of “Obruni, be my friend”, “Obruni, how are you?”.
Even though I went travelling almost every weekend over my 3 months and saw lots of amazing places, it was these little everyday encounters that made my time in Ghana so good. I saw elephants, paradise beaches, waterfalls, rainforests, monkeys, slave forts, a stilt village, gorgeous lakes, hills and landscapes, even Barack Obama (on his first visit to Ghana!), but it was the people along the way that made these trips so good. There is always someone who wants to help you. I really miss my short morning walk to the tro tro stop on the main road, talking to Georgina the fruit lady and my friend Felix and countless other people who wanted to talk to me, the Obruni.
It’s amazing how quickly you get used to a new way of life when you are made to feel comfortable there. The public toilets, mosquitoes, wearing DEET, potholes, lack of running water, bucket washes etc all fall into insignificance when you compare it with the places you will go and the people you will meet. I got so used to all of these things that I almost forgot they were different to how I used to do them!
One aspect in particular that I loved about Ghana was the slogans on tro tros and taxis and shop names. Lots are religious, lots are funny, some are confusing and some make you think but they definitely make travelling around more interesting! Some of my favourites were, “The road to success is full of potholes”, “Heaven’s gate – no bribes”, “No food for lazy man”, “Lover boy”, “God is wonderful furniture works” and many, many more….
The Projects Abroad staff in Accra were brilliant - only a text or phone call away and, Fynn, the Accra Coordinator, in particular, was always willing to help you with anything. You don’t need to worry about being ill or losing money because the team are always there to help.
To sum it all up, it was the best experience I’ve had so far. Ghana is an amazing country, despite its problems; it is a happy and vibrant place. On one hand it seems like a fast-paced place, with cars, tro tros and taxis speeding about everywhere and people getting on and off buses quickly, beeping horns and dodging potholes, but on the other hand it has a nice slow pace which I think we’ve lost in Britain – the taking time to talk to people and find out more about them, not rushing anywhere, not worrying about being at places for set times. It was this contrast that added to the excitement and atmosphere.
I can’t wait to go back!
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.