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Volunteer overseas on worthwhile and sustainable programmesVolunteer Overseas

Susanna Mullard - General Care Projects in Ghana

As I first stepped off the plane in Ghana I was met by a wave of hot, humid tropical air. I'd been working to raise money for five months since leaving school, and to have finally arrived in Africa felt incredible - I had to pinch myself to realise the dream had become a reality. There was an indefinable buzz in the air, and as I was swept along by the hustles of people at the airport, I couldn't help but smile.


After an extremely bumpy forty-minute drive through the Ghanaian streets, lined with lantern-lit stalls trading fruit and spices, the Teaching and Projects Abroad representative dropped me off at my host's house in Teshie Nungua, a small residential area outside the capital, Accra. I spent the next few hours with my new Ghanaian `mother' Oba Yaa, being shown the ropes and explaining how life was like in Ghana. From that moment I felt completely at home, and knew it was going to be an amazing experience I had hoped for.

I hardly slept that night, partly because I couldn't work out how to operate the ceiling fan, but also because I was filled with anticipation and excitement for what was to come.

In the following five months I progressively fell in love with Ghana, as it continued to exceed my expectations and challenge the way I thought. I was teaching at Adu Memorial School, one of the poorest in the neighbourhood, but undoubtedly the friendliest. Teaching came as quite a challenge; you never fully appreciate how hard the job is until you do it yourself - especially when your classroom consists of four walls of scrap wood nailed together, and forty children squeezed inside, too poor to afford paper, let alone shoes.

Susanna and Diana

However, despite the surrounding poverty, the children have such spirit and soul to them, and everywhere I walked I was surrounded by children tugging on my arms, crying "Auntie Susie, Auntie Susie!", trying to rub off the white from my alien Caucasian skin, convinced I would be black underneath. I later found out that many of them were orphans, and slept on the classroom floor at night, and would have to be thrown out of the school if they couldn't pay their fees.

So, after receiving a donation from a family friend who had read one of my emails back home, I managed to pay for twelve students' fees for a whole year.

My final month in Ghana was spent working in the local SOS orphanage in Tema, the next city along the coastline to the east of Accra. I was allocated to help Mother Gertie in `House Grandma Alice', and my special responsibility was to care for two 3 month old twin babies who had been abandoned by their parents. They were more than a handful, and I found myself going home on the tro-tro (an ancient bus that should have failed its MOT 20 years ago!) every day cover d in baby sick and food. The experience as a whole was extremely moving though, to how the mothers sacrificed their lives to care for the orphans, and what an exceptional `Start in life the children were given.

I spent my weekends and school holidays travelling around Ghana with the other volunteers, trekking through the rainforest, swimming under waterfalls, and climbing (admittedly small) mountains. The highlight though has to be sleeping under the stars on safari in Mole National Park, covered only by a mosquito net, after spending three hours following a herd of elephants with our guide. Tourism in Ghana is still quite under¬developed, so every experience felt very unique and unobtrusive, which made it even more special.

My time in Ghana really was the mind-opening and challenging experience I had hoped for. Sitting in my Geography A Level class at school, being taught about Ghana, I never imagined that in two years time I would be living there. But I feel overwhelmingly lucky to have had the opportunity, and after returning once already last Christmas, I know I will do so again at every chance I get.

Susanna Mullard

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.

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