project review

Ghana Has Changed Our Lives

Review submitted by Adam Nicholls
Review date 24 May 2016

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It feels longer than four weeks since our feet first tripped on Ghanaian soil. We have come a long way since then both individually and as a group, but with less than 24 hours until we depart, it is impossible not to reflect on our experiences.  Between us, we have volunteers at many different placements, and each day has brought new challenges to overcome, hands to shake and names to learn.

The Ghanaian culture has been, unsurprisingly, the polar opposite to our own - but in a wonderful way.  Morning, noon and night, whether leaving for work or arriving home, a wave to the ‘obruni’s’ (white people) sweeps the village, and despite our best tanning efforts, we have not quite achieved the ‘obibini’ (black people) status our host family have encouraged us to try and reach. The village children are welcoming and friendly, and just as curious as the children at home. Our multi-cultured UK means that children see different races on a daily basis. However, Ghana’s small villages remain to see such diversity, causing chaos at the sight of extraordinary beings - us!

Our first week of work saw us split between the nursery and primary school. Building relationships was simple with an open mind, and any nerves had to be controlled as soon as we realised we were the teachers upon arrival. While the children at the school learnt stories and songs such as ‘The Rainbow Fish’ and ‘I’ve been eaten by a boa constrictor’, the toddlers at the nursery were taught greetings and thoroughly enjoyed traversing their new obruni climbing frames - me and Matt.

Week two gave the school a second dose of obruni education as they embraced a joyful session teaching the Nativity, some hopscotch maths and their first field trip.  The local health clinics received some much needed assistance as family planning and antenatal had two new nurses (Mel and Sarah) helping to weigh babies and complete registration forms about the ladies visiting. This week also saw Mel’s 22nd birthday. A roaring bonfire, Ghanaian beats and fresh banana bread made a unique evening adding to our already varied trip.

Our final week had us visit the deaf school and local hospital. Although English is the language in which children are taught, a language barrier has always been present but take away all spoken language and replace it with sign language, and the barriers multiply. We found it heartbreaking to not even be able to tell a child we couldn’t understand everything they were saying.  That said, throughout our trip, every effort to communicate be it in sign language or Twi (the local language) has been met with a smile and a laugh, very much appreciated. The hospital received a slice of English customer service as one of the volunteers was asked to compose an Observation and Suggestion report - an effort on the hospital’s part to improve their service. Whilst that was being written, other volunteers worked in the hospital pharmacy and physiotherapy departments and were privileged enough to work with a severely physically and mentally handicapped man who visits the hospital everyday to complete pages of his Sesame Street colouring book.

We didn’t roam around much of Ghana to see the typical sights like waterfalls or wild animals, preferring instead to visit local attractions - sights we wouldn’t get to see anywhere else in the world. The bead market at Koforidua (the regional capital) and the wide array of wood creations near Aburi (a local town) are individual to Ghana and were well worth a couple of trips. Never before have I been offered the chance to name my price, a very good starting point to barter. All future volunteers need to demand obibini price!

It’s nice to know that the placements in Ghana will never be the same because we’ve all helped contribute just a little. The school saw their first wall display, and ‘Oh When the Saints’ can now be heard ringing through the nursery. But this trip has been a two-way street. Less contact with home and fewer materialistic things have allowed us to the bigger picture - the joy of just saying "Good morning", or knowing you can actually shower in less water than it takes to flush a toilet are the kinds of things that make you think!

Both in reality and metaphorically the road has been bumpy and occasionally rough, but steady feet willing to walk into the unknown with a completely open mind, ensure success. This team of volunteers aren’t the same quintet they were when they arrived a month ago. Stronger, bolder, with an extended family (bickering and all) we have been immersed in a lifestyle completely different to our own. Embrace it and enjoy it because this kind of adventure doesn’t happen every day.

 

Read more about the Ghana Orphanage, Teaching and Community Health project.