Jillian Casey - Care & Community in Ghana
I have been thinking about writing this since I got home but wanted to make sure that I was writing what the trip meant to me which I wasn't totally sure about as soon as I got home. I went to Ghana in the summer of 2012 with five other girls and one teacher from my school as a trip for the club called “Be the Change”, a social justice and human rights club offered at our high school in Canton, Connecticut.
We planned and fund-raised for over a year before finally embarking on our trip. For most of us, our parents were not simply going to write out a cheque, we had to work at it. For me, I wrote about twenty letters asking my close family and friends for donations. I received anywhere from $5 to $200 from each person. Some of that money came from people I had never met before which was awesome! We also did group fund-raising which included a hypnotist coming to our school for a night and a silent auction/basket raffle. Just raising the funds to go on the trip was an adventure. We learnt that asking for money from strangers is never easy. However, it's a life skill we now have, along with many more. We all managed to raise enough money to buy the plane tickets and pay for the trip. Both of which became huge steps in our journey to Ghana.
Arriving in Ghana
After much planning, prep work, fund-raising, and stress, we all made it to JFK airport in New York City. I could not believe that we were all really standing there with lots of bags in tow and getting ready to board. When we finally stepped onto the plane, it was the greatest and worse feeling ever. I was excited to finally be going, overjoyed that I had raised enough money, thrilled that my parents would actually let me go to a third world country and nervous because I had no idea what to expect on the other side. I knew my life would never be the same and I knew I would experience new things but I was nowhere near prepared for what happened when we landed in Ghana.
A few things got lost on the way including anti-malaria medication and luggage but we all had made it to Accra safe and sound. We were placed in the Akuapem Hills about 2 hours outside of Accra. I loved the taxi rides all around because they were filled with information from our awesome drivers and the things we saw and heard - Ghanaian pop music, will be forever stuck in my head!
My Care Project
We worked at a school in the morning every day from 8am - 12pm sanding, scraping, and painting the inside and outside of the school which was clearly in need of some love and attention. In the afternoons, we worked at the Adom Daycare Centre playing with the children and giving them lessons. I really liked both of the places we worked at. In both the children really seemed to like us which was awesome and at the school we got to practice speaking Twi which was entertaining to say the least for the Ghanaians. In our placement, Nathaniel was our supervisor and he was amazing - we all loved him and cried when we had to leave. Joe was the painter that helped us at the school, he was also amazing. I miss them both.
Once I got on the plane to go back home I was again filled with mixed emotions. I was pretty happy to know that a shower with real running water was waiting for me but at the same time, I didn't want to leave. I had learned so much about myself, my life and what I have that others are perfectly contented without. I learned not to sweat about the small stuff, nearly every day in Ghana something went wrong and we just dealt with it and moved on. This was a main lesson I learned while there. I also learned to just be more appreciative of what I have that others don't. Now that doesn't mean I don't use water because in Ghana they don't always have running water, but I'm more aware of how much water I'm using and I try to ensure I'm not wasting it.
I still think about my trip everyday even though it's been about three months since I got home. I would recommend for anyone else doing the two week trip that they keep a journal of the day’s events. Even though you will be really tired at night time and just want to sleep, take 10 minutes and write down funny, sad, interesting, or just random things that occurred during the day. It made it much easier to keep the days straight when I came home and I look at what I wrote occasionally and remember key moments from the trip. I still think about the trip a lot and I cannot wait to do another thing like this again in my life. I recommend it to anyone as long as you have an open mind and are willing to try and do everything - trust me, it's totally worth 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.