Tracy Maryan - General Care Projects in Ghana
It began in Africa…well Ghana actually!
Getting on the plane from Heathrow I felt like a character in a chick flick book I may have read but a very nervous, apprehensive, one at that but above all strangely calm. Going out to Ghana for 12 weeks of my life seemed like so the right thing to be doing. Leaving behind a house, car, family, running water and electricity, oh and the cold, going to using tro-tros, (I’d been told about them but knew nothing), an orphanage dormitory, (didn’t have a clue what to expect), buckets for showers (so I discovered) and, electricity, (well some of the time!)
After a delayed flight I landed in Accra at just past mid-night and yep the heat hit me along with worries of no-one to meet me, but through the doors into the waiting area there were smiling back what seemed to be 500 smiling faces!
Here I met my welcome party and boy did the party begin, I didn’t get much chance to look at the scenery as we travelled to the guest house, it was dark and the notion of ripping open ‘bagged’ water with my teeth threw me completely but I settled in my bed and sleep didn’t take long to arrive.
The next day I was taken to my placement, I’d been told that Good Shepherd was like walking into a different world and those people were not far wrong. It’s magic!
Living, sleeping and breathing Good Shepherd and its 66 children for 12 weeks seemed scary to start with but before long I felt like I’d always been a part of the extended family. The following 12 weeks were to be filled with teaching, no I’m no teacher but hey you adapt, and now a class of 50 children speak English like me…I chuckle at the thought!
I became a painter, the Ghanaian love people getting involved, and an Obruni (white person) carrying water on her head is very well received! I became fondly known, I like to think, as big buttocks, if you’ve got it shake it as the Ghanaians do!
Mostly though I became an excuse for a cuddle, the children just adore being loved and given attention, and who could resist! For the whole 12 weeks there was not a moment went by without a child by my side, wanting to help me, wash, clean, write, even brush your teeth, watch out for your toothpaste! It’s not until I left that I realised how much the children, mothers, owners of the orphanage and fellow volunteers had become my friends and family.Ghana has taught me the real value of happiness and how easy it is for wanting material things to override the true meaning of life and happiness.
So the tro-tro, think over crowded mini bus and your about there but add the odd basket of fruit, chicken or goat and your really there!
The dormitory, well it had a roof and a bed, what more can a girl need, oh and a pet gecko called Jesus!
The water, yep a bucket a day keeps the smells away, carried on your head of course!And electricity, well it was as and when really but nights by candle light just add to the fun. It makes it tricky to see the children unless they smile but fun all the same, it still fascinates me how they know who each other are in the dark, I never mastered that talent!
People said Ghana would be a trip never to be forgotten and they were right, it is never to be forgotten, never to be replaced but definitely to be done again and to be talked about forever!Anyone planning on a trip to Ghana should be prepared to be blown away with happiness and love and return with the want to tell everyone about the journey they have made. I still am even if people don’t want to hear about it! Prepare to be hot and sticky, forget about looking nice, make-up and heat don’t go together and nice clothes and climbing children equal ruined clothes! But most of all prepare to be loved, the Ghanaians have a whole lot of that to give. One key phrase for you all ‘I don’t have a mobile’ take it with you forever to prevent ending up with numerous husbands by the end of you trip, when a Ghanaian says they’ll call…. they will!
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.