Imani Evans - General Care Projects in Ghana
Sitting on the plane in May, I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! Travelling across the world on my own for the first time at the age of nineteen - what had I been thinking? Although I had been planning, fundraising, and doing lots of reading and research since November, I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of nervousness, excitement, and anticipation.
However, having just finished my 2nd year at college and on summer holiday, there was no better time than now. I flew a straight flight from New York and arrived in Ghana in the middle of the day, anxious for what was to come in the month ahead.
My Arrival in Ghana
All of my worries were put aside when I was greeted by Nyame, the Projects Abroad representative, at the airport. A lot of people say the first thing they notice when they arrive in Ghana is the heat. I think my senses were so consumed with all of the new sights, sounds, and smells that I didn’t even pay any attention to the weather.
I went straight away to my accommodation in the Hills. I stayed in the town of Mamfe with Naomi and her daughter. She became a second mother to me! My host family and the other volunteers living me with would often spend our nights together watching movies in front of the television or receiving lessons in Twi.I would definitely say it became a home away from home!
My Care Placement
My work placement was at the Demonstration School for the Deaf in Mampong. It was only about a ten-minute taxi ride from my stay. Since I was studying Speech Therapy in school, I knew I wanted to do some type of a special needs placement in Ghana. I just finished taking a sign language course at school, so I decided this would be the best placement for me.
I quickly fell in love with the children there! There were about 200 students at the school, ranging from all ages. All of the students must board in the dormitories at the school. I worked in the “Kindergarten” class. In their first year at the Deaf school, children are placed in this class. I can’t imagine having to live away from home at just five or six years old.
All of the children just yearned for attention, and someone to help them learn to sign. I spent most of my time helping to teach basic things, such as colours, objects, numbers, shapes, etc. However, my favourite thing to do with the children was arts and crafts! They absolutely loved it! Because the children often cannot communicate with anyone before their parents bring them to the Deaf school, they often lack knowledge about the world around them. Yet, they are so eager to learn.
The school also lacks resources so the teachers are very open to new ideas from volunteers. Each morning I would be greeted by children running towards me with hugs, and fights to hold my hand as we walk to their class. I really got to know a lot of the students personally, and it was very difficult to say goodbye! They really touched me, and put in perspective the value of having the opportunity to be educated, which many take for granted.
I also had the chance to volunteer at Adom Day Care in Akropong on a few days when the school for the Deaf wasn’t open. I quickly fell in love with the children there! They would scream, “Auntie, Auntie!” from beginning to end each day. It was fun to sing songs, play games, and just simply give your love to the kids. The woman in charge, Auntie Tina, was awesome! On my last day I went back to say goodbye, and she dressed me in African wear and wrapped a baby to my back Ghanaian style.
On the weekends we had the chance to see much more of Ghana than just the town where we lived. Whether it was day trips or long weekend journeys, we always had something to do. Actually, there wasn’t enough time for me to do everything! There is so much to see, from the bead and wood markets to the bike tour through the Botanical Gardens in Aburi and the waterfalls, from the slave castle and beautiful beaches in Cape Coast to the Canopy Walk in Kakum National Park, from the relaxing boat rides to Ada-Foah and to the city of Accra, you will find a hard time fitting it all in. This was also a great opportunity to connect with the other volunteers. Not only did I meet new people from Ghana, but I now know people from all around the world.
The Projects Abroad staff in the Hills were amazing! Never was there a time when I felt as though my needs were not met. Each Wednesday afternoon all of the volunteers in the Hills, along with the staff gathered at the residence for a Quiz Night. Even though the competition sometimes got fierce, it was always fun and full of laughter. I really credit the staff for going out of their way to not just make sure they did their job well, but also to be a friend. They too, became like family to me, and were some of the most difficult people to say goodbye to.
If anyone is on the edge about deciding whether or not to volunteer in Ghana, I would without a doubt say go for it! You definitely won’t regret it, and it will probably change your life forever. I first wondered if I would ever become used to the culture, but by the time I left it all became a routine.
The various animals running every which way, the bucket showers, the crowded tro-tros and taxis, the constant honking and crazy driving, the new rhythms in the music and dancing, the constant attention because you’re a foreigner: you learn to embrace every moment. I would walk down the street to catch a taxi from my house and hears shouts, “Good morning Imani!” just to say hello, as though I had lived there forever. Soon you will start to see someone you have met before everywhere you go, and Ghana will feel like home.
In so little time, I really became a part of their community. The Ghanaian people are so welcoming and so full of joy despite it all. I had so many wonderful experiences in Ghana, in just a month, that even now back home I often find myself smiling from sudden memories. I have grown so much from my month in Ghana, not just by becoming more independent, but in my thinking. You will certainly return home more conscious of the world around you, and question the things we hold so much value on in “first-world” countries. It will definitely make you a better person for it!
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.