Jasmine James - Soccer in Ghana
Around March of this year I started to think of what to do for my summer holiday. As a first year university student I had over 3 months of holiday to fill, and although I had a job for some of that time, I really wanted to do some travelling. I had heard of Projects Abroad when I was at school, and although at the time I was interested, I had other things I was doing. When I decided to volunteer they sprung to mind, and speaking to a friend who did a project with them before, I was sold.
Choosing my destination was easy – I had never been to Africa before and wanted to experience a country that was passionate about football. I choose Ghana, booked a one month trip and then the preparations began!
Arriving to Ghana
I arrived in Ghana on a Saturday evening in July and was greeted by one of the friendliest Ghanaians around, Nyame, a member of the Projects Abroad staff. His warm attitude made me immediately feel at ease, and any previous anxieties I had about my trip vanished!
I was taken to my host family’s house in Labadi and was greeted at the door by Mrs Odamtten. One of the highlights of my trip has to be living with a host family. It was a great way to really understand and get involved in the Ghanaian culture, and my host parents made me feel at home and helped me with any difficulties I had during my stay. Within days I was calling them Auntie and Uncle!
As I arrived on a Saturday my induction to Accra wasn’t until Monday morning. This meant I had Sunday to get to know the area a bit myself. The other volunteers in the house were extremely welcoming and took me out to Oxford Street (a great place for shopping, but very different to the one in London). Although we managed to get on the wrong tro-tro (public transport) home and ended up at the beach, I would strongly recommend getting involved with your local area straight away. Not only did I make friends with the local people, but I also felt extremely comfortable and safe in the area.
On Monday I had my induction and it was really helpful in understanding the city more. I was shown the main landmarks, got used to the tros, was told what to do if I ever needed help and tasted some local food. Despite some obvious culture differences and seeing things I had never experienced before, it really helped me settle down and get excited for the month ahead.
My Sports Placement
When it came to starting my placement I had no idea what to expect. I arrived at Cantonments FC and was introduced to the coaches and other volunteers. I immediately felt welcome and all the coaches were happy to answer any questions or queries I had.
Despite being a football coach and keen fan, my playing ability is limited. However, the coaches and players encouraged me to get involved with the reserve team training. I found this a great way to get to know the players and get a real understanding of the Ghanaian coaching style.
As I was there at the same time as a few other volunteers, we were able to create ‘ObroniFC’, a volunteer football team that played against the youth teams of Cantonments once a week. We were the most successful Obroni FC they have ever had!
In terms of coaching I mainly worked with the U10s, and I was fortunate enough to be there for their first ever match, a 2-1 victory! From the off I was given a lot of freedom and responsibility with my coaching, and although at times it was daunting, particularly when numbers ranged from 8 – 20 on different days, I really felt that I developed as a coach during my stay, and hope that I was able to have some influence on the boys football.
Despite this freedom, when I did encounter problems, the coaches were always there to help. Although I mainly worked with the U10s I got involved with all the weekend matches and was able to help coach all age groups.
I would strongly recommend getting really stuck in with your placement. Although at times life in Ghana can be frustrating, if you go with an open mind and adaptability, you will enjoy your experience! Make the most out of your free time socialising with other volunteers and visiting other parts of the country.
I was able to visit Cape Coast and the Volta region with 10 other volunteers, and these make up some of my fondest memories. I was also able to explore Accra in the mornings as my placement was in the afternoons.
Although I have been home from Ghana for two months now, I often think about the great times I had and all the amazing people I met. I’ve made some lifelong friends from all over the world and have just booked to meet up with three of the girls I lived with in Brussels next year.
It was genuinely one of the best months of my life, and my advice to anyone thinking about going on a project in a new country is just go for it! Get involved with the people, the culture and everything in between, as the time will fly by.