I have always been fascinated with different cultures and societies, and after completing my A Levels, hope to study Sociology at University. However, before returning to education, I was keen to volunteer on a Human Rights project, and after much research decided to visit Ghana.
My experience cannot be summed up in one word, it was indescribable! I could spend hours trying to find the right words to sum up the charms and fascinations of this beautiful country, however you’ll never quite understand its pure, traditionalistic allure until you experience it yourself!
Arriving in Ghana
I think most people can relate to the immediate wall of heat that hits you when leaving the perfectly air-conditioned aeroplane, upon arriving in a warm country. Well, I landed in Accra, Ghana at about 11pm, and nothing could have prepared me for the heat! The first piece of knowledge I want to share - you will sweat! Everyone does and it is OK! After the initial shock of heat, I was taken to my host family in Accra and met my roommate, before experiencing a very sleepless night, full of excitement! Both my host family and my roommate were very kind and welcoming - I felt settled in right away. My showering routine was certainly different to home – due to water shortages, this would normally involve a couple of small buckets! These are just a couple small things that made the experience real and I would LOVE to go back someday.
My Human Rights Project
I chose to do the human rights project primarily because of my choice of course at University and there seemed to be similarities between the two. After reading about the Ghana project itself and speaking to other previous volunteers, I understood it was primarily focused on the youth and introducing education about human rights topics within communities where perhaps knowledge was lacking. I have always been very passionate about making a change and standing up for what is right and how better than to educate on human rights topics in a developing country?
As most first days are, as I walked from my host family’s house to the projects abroad office I was full of nerves for what my day may bring. I was welcomed with open arms by the Projects Abroad team and spent my first day being shown around Accra. My supervisor showed me how to use the tro tro (the local minibus transport system) and where the nearest supermarket was etc. I must admit, it was a lot of take in and it took me a few days before gaining the confidence to go to the shops by myself, but improving my self-confidence and independence was all part of the reason I went.
For the next two weeks I was working with another human rights volunteer, along with our supervisor, contributing to various activities in different communities. However, I spent most of my time working with young girls in the slum of Maamobi, Accra. I gave presentations, had discussions and conducted activities with a large group of girls with a ranging age of 13-19 years. The topics covered included domestic violence and sexual abuse. I spent a lot of time at an after-school club called the ‘Achievers’, and the hardest thing about leaving Ghana was saying goodbye to the group. All the girls I met were really bright and had such a thirst for knowledge - one of the girls even showed me how to use coding to turn the lights off in the area, and it worked! I will never forget the stories they shared with me and even more so, the kindness they showed me. Working with them was incredibly rewarding and I hope I gave them as much as they gave me.
Free Time in Ghana
Although I spent most evenings at the ‘Achievers’ club, I spend my weekends exploring! I enjoyed my first weekend as it was Farmers Day (a National Holiday) on the Friday, therefore there were huge celebrations throughout the city all weekend. I spent the days visiting the Art Centre (large market), Independence Square, and Labadi beach in the evenings. I spent my main weekend travelling from Accra, the capital of Ghana, east about 4 hours to Cape Coast. We left on the Friday afternoon and returned on the Sunday evening, after staying in the Oasis Beach Resort. Most volunteers use weekends to travel and experience more of Ghana because although the projects are incredible, the independent experiences are also eye opening. While I stayed in Cape Coast I did all the things a travelling tourist would do including visiting Cape Coast Castle which has a huge amount of history behind it, and also exploring Kakum National Park. I would definitely advise getting out and seeing more of Ghana on your trip. I was fortunate to have done as much travelling as I did in my short stay, however there are so many more places to see and things to do.
What an experience! I could not recommend volunteer work with Projects Abroad more. It has taught me so much about a culture so diverse from my own, and about myself. I flew home from Accra carrying an overwhelming sense of gratitude, a heart full of kindness, and stories and friends I’ll never forget.
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