Michelle Di Rocco - General Care Projects in Ghana
I had wanted to volunteer at an orphanage in Africa since I was a child. Televised images of kids my age suffering, through no fault of their own, really had an impact on me. Not only did these images make me thankful for my good fortune, they compelled me to try to help in some way. Volunteering my time with these little ones seemed like an obvious gesture.
On reviewing all the options, I was able to make this a reality through Projects Abroad’s Care programme in Ghana. There are many organisations out there offering similar experiences, but Projects Abroad emerged at the top of my list for many of reasons.
Not only do they guarantee that you’ll volunteer in the capacity of your choosing, but accommodation are arranged with a local host family and placement dates are entirely flexible. With that said, I chose Ghana because I feel that there is a great need for help of this kind in Africa and I sought a rural experience well off the beaten path.
Arriving in Ghana
In the weeks leading up to my placement I learnt I would be living with a pastor and his family and volunteering at the Kumasi Children’s Centre; a few hundred kilometres north of Accra. Leading up to my departure, my volunteer advisor was infinitely helpful, answering endless questions as I prepared for the experience.
Though I‘d been to Africa and had travelled extensively throughout the developing world, I had never been to an orphanage. I wondered how I would handle the emotional demands of the volunteer placement, and how I would fit in with my host family. My concerns quickly dissipated as I was warmly welcomed by Projects Abroad staff and my new family.
My Care project
Since I volunteered in the summer, school was not in session and there was little structure to days at the orphanage. Time was spent playing with the children, helping with lunch, feeding babies, changing diapers and showing much needed affection.
At home I was quickly enamoured by the family’s three young boys who took any occasion to break into song and dance. I was “shown off” to neighbourhood friends and was encouraged to take more photos of them than I can count.
I was invited to accompany my host mother to a traditional Ghanaian wedding – a truly special experience. I participated in household activities and marvelled at the laborious nature of daily chores that take a fraction of the effort because of modern conveniences back home.
My final thoughts
Though this was my first volunteer experience volunteering at an orphanage, it certainly won’t be my last. I can vouch for the fact that volunteers are absolutely critical to the development and wellbeing of the children no matter what length of time you are able to devote. To be a small part of their development was an absolute privilege and I can’t wait until the next opportunity arises.
Michelle Di Rocco
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.