Ruth Bowling - General Teaching Projects in Ghana
"I feel so lucky to be here in West Africa and so happy I decided to take the plunge and do a gap year- I can't believe what so many people are missing out on." - Extract from my diary. If you are reading this wondering whether to embark on a trip to Ghana, I promise that it won't disappoint! It was undoubtedly the best three months of my life- I made great friends, saw breathtaking places, had the most random experiences and developed as a person in a variety of ways.
Ghana was such a vibrant and atmospheric country. Arriving was a culture shock but settling into life was easy, mostly because it was so far removed from my life in the UK. It's the smells and sounds that have stayed with me most- the cockerels, the bleating goats and the cries of 'pure water' and 'meat pie' that became so familiar.
I lived in a rural village called Abrafo, near Cape Coast. The village lay on the edge of a rainforest and was absolutely stunning. It was so nice living in a close community- everyone wants to get to know you. I was known as 'Madame Ruth' and would get cries of it every time I walked up the street!
I taught in a nursery, which was exhausting work and very challenging, but rewarding and so much fun. The kids were adorable, really excited to have me there and so eager to please. I walked into class on my first day to see about 30 children smiling at me, who didn't understand much English and to my sheer terror the leader of the nursery plunged me right in at the deep end! Nevertheless I managed to throw something together and it was so character building. The first playtime was amazing- I had a football with me, threw it outside and watched as all the kids ran outside to follow it.
It was such a sight- the kids from the school next door ran out too and about 100 kids were chasing one football around a field. The rest of the kids sat me down and touched my skin and my hair, pulling at it as if would come off! Many of them had probably seen very few 'obrunis' before.
My best memories of teaching were the days that we made huge breakthroughs. The children were so bright and picked up ideas quickly. I was only there for a short time, but I felt we made a lot of progress- the kids couldn't hold a pencil properly when I arrived and could write the alphabet when I left! It's the feeling that gives you which makes it worth volunteering, however frustrating some days may be.
I made fantastic friends in Ghana and that was partly due to Projects Abroad placing volunteers close together. There was always people to talk to and people to go travelling with for the weekend- I never felt lonely the whole time I was away. Travelling with other volunteers really was a highlight of my time in Ghana. The trip began with a two day ferry up Lake Volta - what an experience! We slept on tables, didn't wash, and a storm broke out on the first night soaking us through. We saw elephants and baboons at Mole National Park, hippos in the wild at Weichau Hippo Sanctuary, Kintampo waterfall, Nzulezo stilt village and a variety of beautiful beaches.
My favourite memories, however, are bargaining and joking with taxi drivers and street sellers for a fair price, being taught how to dance by the Ghanaian women, the first rainstorm, and a drumming and dancing show put on for us by a village in the north of Ghana. The villagers dressed us up, danced for us then of course we joined in. It was a magical evening.
Since returning back to England, I think about my time in Ghana everyday. I already can't wait to return. Within a week of being home I missed the heat, the other volunteers, the cries of 'Madame Ruth' and my children from the nursery. I can't wait to return. My best advice is go for it; I can't imagine anyone regretting it!