Laura Beagley - General Care Projects in Ghana
I arrived in Ghana late at night and feeling a whole flood of emotions – thoughts of “how will I do this” nestled alongside “I’m so glad I’m here”! My first night at the Projects Abroad office and house in Pig Farm wasn’t a great one; I was disorientated and felt alone and apprehensive about what the next day would bring. At 4.30 I was woken up, given some breakfast, and sent on my way to The Hills.
The drive, which soon became familiar, seemed to last an eternity. We passed shop after shop with increasingly bizarre names – “God is Great Furniture” and “Jesus is my Provider Home Designs”. As we began our climb into The Hills I was awestruck by the views and the scenery, it was beautiful and I was amazed by how green it all seemed.
At the office I met Emmanuel and Henry who took me to my host family. As we bumped our way down the dirt track to my home for the next three months I was feeling sick with nerves and fear! How was I going to cope without running water, electricity, normal food? But before I had too long to dwell on all this Henry whisked me away for a whistle stop tour of all the places I would need to know – this induction included my first experience on a tro tro! A word of advice, on long journeys, avoid a seat next to the driver; the engine is under this seat and within 20 minutes your bum will be on fire, not to mention the fact that you can see the sometimes terrifying decisions of your driver!
After the induction I had some time to get to know my family and settle in, this also gave me time to experience the bucket shower! The first couple weren’t great but by the second week I had it mastered and looked forward to it at the end of a sweltering day. And then, at about half past six, it was dark and before long time for bed! My first night under a mosquito net wasn’t a great success. It fell down halfway through the night and so the next day I got Kwame, my brother, to put it up properly – don’t be afraid to ask for help, they’re more than happy to do things for you.
My placement began the next day and Henry took me along to meet the staff and another volunteer. I was placed with Diana and I immediately like her and before long I completely fell in love with the children. I soon settled into the routine – changing clothes in the morning, a bit of teaching, some playing, paperwork, supporting the staff, and, on occasion, doing a bit of painting! When I started I planned to take my two weeks holiday at the end of my time but when it came to it I couldn’t! I was so attached and so pleased with the things I was doing that in the end I just gave myself a couple of days to get everything ready for home.I usually got home from work at about half past two. For lunch I preferred something light such as fruit or plantain chips but if I wanted, ‘mum’ would prepare a full meal. Sometimes I would spend the afternoon in Koforidua or at the wood market, sometimes helping local children with their work or going to the internet cafe, and sometimes I would just relax with friends, both volunteers and locals.
The weekends were always different and I spent quite a lot of mine travelling. I would recommend Kakum National Park and Wli Falls if you fancy exerting yourself or Ada Foah and Green Turtle Lodge for total relaxation in paradise. I equally enjoyed the weekends I spent at home. On these weekends I would take in local sights, spend time with my family who I quickly came to love, and catch up with washing! On Saturday and Sunday nights we would sometimes splash out on petrol for the generator and live in relative luxury whilst it buzzed away for a couple of hours. And then once a month most volunteers make the journey to the Pig Farm office and house for the Accra party, a great chance to meet other volunteers and eat lots of good food!My last day in Ghana was very much like my first – a complete spectrum of emotions! So many things had touched me and changed me during my 3 month stay and I was sad to leave my friends my family. After my final meal (my absolute favourite of rice balls and groundnut soup) it was time to say goodbye. It was strange thinking that in a couple of days someone else would be in my bed, with my family, at my placement, and experiencing all the wonderful things I will hold with me forever.
On coming back to England I found a job at a nursery. Working at Adom Day Care made me realise that working with children is what I want to do, something I had never really considered before. I also set my mind to raising money for a new orphanage, Mount Zion. This has now been open for 6 months and I am due to send out money raised by myself and another former volunteer.
For anyone who is unsure about whether they can do this, the answer is, you can! Yes, you will have low points but these will be far outnumbered by the highs. And for those already booked up, good luck! You’re going to an amazing country, you will meet wonderful people and do so much good. You will be changed forever by this experience and people will be eternally grateful.
Laura ‘Adwoa’ Beagley
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.