Rebecca McKeown - General Care Projects in Ghana
After spending an incredible two months with Projects Abroad in Romania, I decided to get a taste of Africa. What better place to spend my time than Ghana - in my opinion the most friendly, safe and vibrant African destination. The streets of Accra bustle with humanity - people are everywhere and to be in the midst of all this organised chaos is an exhilarating experience indeed.
I spent my five weeks at ‘New Life’ orphanage - a small home for around 20 children in a village near Teshie - just outside of Accra. I lived on the other side of town in Kotobabi - very close to the Projects Abroad office in Pig Farm. My host family were the loveliest people - and truly a highlight of my stay in Ghana. Beatrice, Alex and their three children in their 20s were kind and welcoming as soon as I walked through the door in the early hours of my first morning. I grew so fond of them - and on my last day as I was packing my bag, I sobbed my heart out to Beatrice saying - “I don’t want to leave!”
That was the end of a very emotional day all round. I was surprised at myself - after having been in the country only 5 weeks, I had grown so attached to everything and everyone. My kids at the orphanage teased me when they saw me crying - but how could I help it? They had grouped together to sing a farewell song for me as I walked out the gates. It was just too much!
They really were the most fantastic children I have ever met. Those kids are tough, rough and ready, and strong willed - but so keen for attention and love. They won the hearts of every volunteer who spent time with them. I was given the task of teaching the two youngest ones English every morning - as they had not yet been enrolled in school. I set out to achieve great things - but soon realised it was not all that easy. Teaching Ghanaian kids is a whole different ball game to western children, and you have to understand before you start that things are going to be different. You have to learn to adapt. In the end - I found games and visual activities worked the most effectively for my kids. But use your own initiative, have patience - and the results really will make you proud.
One of my favourite things about Ghana is the transport. There are taxis which, if you bargain right are a cheap, convenient and quick way of getting where you want to go. However the award for best way to travel Ghana goes hands down to the humble tro-tro. These dilapidated mini buses are everywhere, and inevitably they are going where you want to go. You flag one down, squash in, and away you go.
Every day I would take four tro-tros to ‘New Life’ - riding along the coast, Ghanaian Hi-Life music blasting from the speakers, a delicious tropical breeze in my face. Everyone in Ghana seems happy, whatever their situation in life - and by the end of my stay I couldn’t keep the smile from my face either.
There are so many things I loved about Ghana, and now - when I think back to my time there, there are so many things I miss: Drinking water from little sachets - how convenient and refreshing! Buying food from street stalls - icecreams, frozen yoghurts, pineapples and coconuts - all welcome snacks on a hot day.
Random conversations with random people - Get used to hearing “Hello my friend” and “Obruni How are you?!” as well as the obligatory and harmless marriage proposals from strangers on the street.
Haggling - if done with respect and humour can be such a fun way to pass time and get a bargain, and colour: everything is a kaleidoscope, from the clothes to the fruit, the tro-tros and the shop fronts - Ghana is such a visual feast.
To anyone considering going to Ghana with Projects Abroad: My advice? Just do it. You won’t regret it. I felt so at home and independent by the time I left - but it was nice in those first few days to have the great staff members at Projects Abroad on hand to help me acclimatise.
My second piece of advice is to make the most of your time there. Ghana is not at all like your country - and you shouldn’t expect it to be. Go there with an open mind, and a willingness to embrace the culture and you will have the time of your life.
My third and final piece of advice: Travel. See everything that this amazing country has to offer. I had an amazing time at Cape Coast and Kakum national park, as well as several beaches in the area - but, if you have the time - go up to the north. Perhaps my only regret is that I didn’t get to see more of this amazing country.
Life in Ghana is an adventure everyday - what are you waiting for?!