Building in Ghana by Thomas Sharp
Since my only experience of Africa had been through the television screen, I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into the project. I had just come off the plane from a relaxing stint in Fiji, and now found myself jetting off to the vibrant and raw country that is Ghana.
I had decided to take part in the Building project and had chosen the Akuapuem Hills as the destination for the upcoming month. It’s a picturesque area in the eastern region of Ghana comprising of a series of small villages, set amongst a tropical backdrop.
First impressions of Ghana
When we touched down in Accra, we were warmly welcomed into the country by a Projects Abroad member of staff and were directed to the transport for our chosen destination. We took a taxi to the head office in Accra, where we quickly stopped for breakfast before heading out to the tiny village of Kwamoso, where we would be staying for the next month.
Driving in Ghana is an experience in itself as you are met by a barrage of locals selling various items through car windows, but you soon grow accustomed to it. We were very eager to meet our host family and fellow volunteers so when we arrived at the village, we dropped our bags and said our hellos.
My host family
The host family looked after us so well in the time we were there and Gifty, our host mother, treated us to some fine Ghanaian delicacies such as kenkey and my personal favourite red red. We shared a house with a few other volunteers and there were quite a few other houses containing volunteers dotted around the immediate area, so you settle in almost instantly.
Also, being surrounded by the locals and their children makes you feel part of the community very quickly and you find yourself taking part in football matches within minutes. You soon get used to the lack of electricity and running water and the bucket shower actually turns out to be quite enjoyable after a day of building. Also I feel if the accommodation had been any different I would have felt cheated, as a major part of the experience is to try and live life as a local.
My Community Building placement
We had two Building projects by the time I had arrived, one of them being the construction of a toilet block and the other being the construction of a set of classrooms. Both were challenging but certainly fulfilling and provided us with the opportunity to try our hands at many different skills under the watchful eyes of the building experts.
To see the creation of a building from scratch to completion, knowing that you played a decent part in its construction is extremely rewarding. Throughout our time I built mud bricks and concrete blocks, plastered the walls, made cement, dug foundations, the list goes on. The locals seemed very grateful and during water breaks it was great to just hang out with the other volunteers as well as play with the kids.
Most nights following building we would congregate to chill out after a hard day’s work, have a laugh with each other and meet people from various other houses and projects.
Travelling in my free time
Every weekend we travelled around Ghana exploring the culture of the various different regions of the country. We did everything ranging from swimming in waterfalls, to sitting on top of a jeep watching elephants graze. We also got the opportunity to travel to the famous bustling coastal town of Cape Coast where we toured the castle and visited Kakum National Park.
Meeting the locals and living the life of the locals is all part of the experience and to travel around using the same transport and eating the street food is what it’s all about.
Having always wanted to participate in some sort of volunteering work in Africa, my time in Ghana greatly surpassed all my expectations. My time with Projects Abroad has certainly given me a fresh perspective on life as a whole. It has allowed me to explore parts of the world untouched by western society, to see things most people wouldn’t ever get to see and to do something for the good of a community.
Many things will stick with me, but the main one is the fantastic people, volunteers and host family alike. Ghanaians seem to have a natural friendliness which is apparent from the off. People would walk across the street to come and shake your hand and express their gratitude for the work you’re doing. It’s such a great experience I would certainly recommend anyone who is even contemplating this project to do so.