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Short-term Specials, Care and Community in Ghana by Ginny Watsham

Painting work

Volunteering had always been something I wanted to do and so when I heard about the Projects Abroad 2 Week Specials I decided to take the opportunity - and I am so glad I did.

At first I felt a bit apprehensive as I didn't know anyone else going and I had no idea what to expect. As soon as we landed in Ghana, however, I was put at ease. Everyone was so friendly and the trip was very well organised: us volunteers were never left alone wondering where to go.

Arriving in Ghana

Games at care centre

We had a late flight, so stopped in Accra for the first night. The following morning we piled into a tro (a small minibus that is the most common method of transport in Ghana) and began the journey to the Akuapem Hills. We started experiencing life in Ghana right away, from the bumpy roads to the local's methods of selling food and water through the windows of the tro.

We met with our host family, all of whom were very welcoming and helpful, and it immediately became clear that we were going to have fun in the evenings playing with all the children who lived there. We visited the town of Koforidua for some lunch and a chance to get to know our surroundings. In the afternoon we got a first look at our work placements. My group was refurbishing a kindergarten, which desperately needed re-painting and brightening up. It was currently the school holidays for all the children, so it would hopefully be a nice surprise for their new school year.

That night I had my first bucket shower experience, one which I will never forget. I actually really enjoyed the showers and if we had the climate for them in England I would definitely build one in my garden! After dinner every evening we played with the kids. It was so impressive to see how they could create a game from nothing. Most of our time was spent playing clapping games or carrying the kids around the village. I was taken to church several times by one of the little girls and I would definitely recommend taking that opportunity if it was presented to you.

The project in Ghana

Canopy walkway on weekend trip

The following day we began work. On arriving at our placement we got straight into re-painting the indoor classrooms. There was a summer school nearby and every breaktime the kids would run over to us and watch us work. They called us "Obruni", meaning 'white person' and we quickly learnt to just smile and wave in response. We had two locals who helped us at our placement, Joe and Sam, and they played us the hot new tunes in Ghana - we all learnt the words pretty quickly. We spent every weekday morning at the Kindergarten.

By the end we had re-painted the entire inside and outside of the building, added some artwork inside and decorated the surrounding walls of the Kindergarten. Whilst we were working some passers-by would often shout words of encouragement and support and thank us for our work. It was so rewarding seeing that we were actually making a difference to people's lives, and it was very humbling seeing how grateful they were.

The afternoons were spent doing different activities. We often visited the Adom Day Care Centre, where we would spend a few hours playing with the children. The women in charge of the centre often arranged for games, such as 'Hokey-Cokey', 'Egg and Spoon Race' or 'Sack Race'. Sometimes we did artwork with kids and sometimes we just ran around after them. We also spent one afternoon at Mount Zion Orphanage, where a game of football was played. This was great fun and the children at the orphanage were clearly enjoyed themselves just as much as the volunteers.

Free time after work

School where we worked

We also visited a bead market in Koforidua and a wood market in Aburi. These provided opportunities to haggle over prices with the stall owners, who were all very friendly and keen to make friends with us. Every Wednesday was quiz night, which was spent with all the volunteers in the Hills. We first took part in an informal quiz, written by last week's losing team, and then went out for a meal.

5 of these volunteers were staying at the same host family as me, and it really great spending time with them as well as the other 2 weekers. They showed us the ropes from day one and constantly gave us helpful advice, for example which flavour of Fan Ice to choose - vanilla of course!

The weekend trip

Over the weekend we made the 5 hour journey to Cape Coast, where we met with the volunteers working there. We visited the Slave Fort and the Kakum National Park as well as having a cultural display of dancing and drumming. The weekend was a nice break and we even stayed overnight in hotel - which meant running water and electricity! We all took the opportunity to have a proper shower and then spent the night chatting, when we probably should have been catching up on sleep following our very early start.

The time flew by and suddenly we had to say goodbye. We had been told on arrival that no one ever wanted to leave Ghana and it was certainly true. I felt very sad to be leaving behind such an amazing country and wonderful people. It was so inspiring seeing the children and adults appreciating each and every moment of their lives, regardless of the circumstances.

To quote one of the songs we learnt - they certainly did "love their lives". I made friends for life during my 2 weeks and plan to return next summer. I think England could learn a lot from Ghana, and I have definitely changed since returning. I cannot express how glad I am I took the opportunity to go, and I will never forget those 2 weeks of my life.

Ginny Watsham

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