Ollie Skailes - Soccer in Ghana
I decided to volunteer with Projects Abroad in Ghana as it was a perfect opportunity to combine my love and passion for sport with a desire I have had for some time to explore Africa.
Arriving in Ghana
I arrived in Ghana on the 3rd of August 2013, with a great sense of anticipation and excitement for the two weeks that lay ahead.
My angst about travelling to a new country was eased as soon as I saw Nyame, the Projects Abroad staff member, who had been waiting to greet me. His slightly limited English was counter-acted by his huge welcoming smile! Once my questions had been answered about what was to come we set off on our journey away from the airport to my host family.
My Ghanaian Host Family
My host mother for my stay was Mary, who conformed to the Ghanaian stereotype of being proud and welcoming; she made me feel at ease from the minute I entered her house. My host family was really friendly, which certainly helped me adapt to the new culture and way of life which had presented itself to me.
Living with a host family made the experience even more memorable as it meant that you truly had to immerse yourself into the Ghanaian way of life, from the food at meal times to fumbling around with the mosquito nets come bed time.
Being on a 2 Week Special project meant I was to be joined by seven other volunteers all of a similar age. They turned up a few days after me, but in the time I was waiting for them I was not left wondering what to do with myself. In fact it was quite the opposite, as I had the chance to be shown around the city of Accra. One of the main streets in the city centre was called ‘Oxford Street’, but do not be fooled into thinking it may resemble the London equivalent in any way!
My Sports Project
My sports placement was split into morning and afternoon sessions, playing with the adult team of Manchester Madina football club in the mornings and leading training sessions with the youngsters in the afternoons. This combination was an ideal way to mix and socialise with the adults of the local area (despite the early start!) along with being able to spend the afternoons with the children.
The independence given during the afternoon coaching was very rewarding. However, if any help or assistance was required ‘Coach Eni’, who was a qualified football coach from England liaising with the project, was always on site to pass on his knowledge and help diffuse any potential difficult situations which arose.
On the middle weekend of my two week stay, we went on a trip to the Cape Coast. The lengthy and crammed bus journey up the coast was well worth it and the views of endless sun kissed beaches were a welcome break from the busy city of Accra.
On the coast we spent our time relaxing and exploring and also visiting local historic monuments such as the Cape Coast Castle, used in times of the slave trade. I felt this trip was definitely worthwhile as it gave us more chances to understand the history and culture of the country we were staying in. We also had other excursions such as going to a drum and dance workshop, which was an amazing opportunity to see local music performed so intimately.
For anyone considering a volunteering project like mine, I would strongly recommend it. I have learnt a lot and made many friends from the experience. I am already looking forward to returning to Ghana and other African countries, as the people and places of Ghana made such a wonderful and lasting impression on me.