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Volunteer AbroadVolunteer Overseas

Rebecca Cooke - General Journalism Projects in Ghana

Enjoying the view

After enduring months of pent up anticipation, anxiety and excitement I finally arrived in Ghana to start my two week journalism placement in Cape Coast. My flight from Heathrow arrived in Accra at 10pm so the sun had slipped away behind Ghana’s coastline but the stifling heat lingered through the night-time air. Stepping off the plane I thought I must be stood next to the engine blowing out heat before realising that it was just the sweltering humidity.

I was greeted by Projects Abroad staff member Nyame, who, with a huge smile and a friendly handshake, introduced himself to me with true Ghanaian hospitality which I would see much more of over the next couple of weeks. Nyame took me to the Projects Abroad guest house in Accra where I would stay overnight before my four hour journey to Cape Coast in the morning.

My host family

Climbing to the falls

The next day, when I arrived in Cape Coast and was taken to my host family, I was once again filled with questions about where I would be staying and what it would be like. However all my anxieties were put to rest when I was greeted by my host mother, Agnes, and two host sisters, Bella and Sophia.

They all hugged me and gave me high-fives as we met on the porch of my new home, something which instantly made me feel welcome and at ease. As a special treat to welcome me into her home Agnes made FuFu for dinner; a traditional West African dish of a dough ball made from boiled yams and served in goat soup. As I’m vegetarian Agnes kindly made mine with vegetable soup.

With the other volunteers

Whilst I don’t think I’ll be making FuFu for myself anytime soon I thought it was a fantastic experience to sample some authentic West African food, which I continued to do, eating mostly plantain, refried beans and rice.

My Journalism placement in Ghana

The first day of my placement at The Central Press Newspaper was surreal. I knew that a lot of the placement would be spent going out and getting stories, interviewing people and going to meetings. I didn’t know that I would be doing this before I even set foot in the office!

Armed with my laptop and a pen and paper I was given directions to Cape Tech Junction where I was picked up by my editor, Kwamina, and driven to my first story, a HIV conference in a meeting room by the coast where I reported on the prevalence of HIV in Cape Coast and the Central Region. Over the course of my time spent with Central Press I got to know Kwamina and the other volunteers very well and still keep in touch with them now.

Experiencing the wildlife

More than this, I got to see and experience a plethora of new things whilst volunteering. The media is very well respected in Africa and so I got front row seats to the Cape Coast Festival boat race, the re-opening of the Cape Coast Town Hall, and I even got to see the President of Ghana, John Atta Mills, as he visited Cape Coast for the annual festival. This was invaluable journalistic experience and has given me treasured life-long memories.

Travelling in Ghana

After meeting the rest of the Cape Coast volunteers at the quiz night at the Projects Abroad house I was invited on a weekend away to the Volta Region. I was picked up from outside my host family house at 3am and began the ten hour drive to the Volta Region.

At Wli waterfall

Our itinerary for the weekend consisted of climbing the misty and beautiful waterfalls of Wli and visiting the Accra Market and a Monkey Sanctuary. However our plans soon took an unexpected twist when, three hours into our seven hour trek up to the waterfall, torrential rain ensued. This meant that our only option was to turn back and attempt the trek again the next day and hope for better weather.

Luckily the next day the weather held out long enough for us to reach the top, drenched only in sweat this time. When we emerged triumphantly at the peak of the waterfall we raced into the pool to see how close we could get to the falls – only to discover that the spray from the thundering water was so strong we could hardly get close to it.

Even though our plan for the weekend went awry I still look back with pride when I think how few people can claim they climbed the falls twice in two days.

Bidding a fond farewell to my host family and Eric, the Projects Abroad Regional Manager for Cape Coast, I couldn’t help but think how soon it would be before I would be returning again. After my experience in Ghana I’ve been left craving plantain, the Ghanaian heat, the cheap taxi fares and the friendliness of a beautiful country which I will no doubt be returning to in the near future.

Rebecca Cooke

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