A few months ago, I took a blind leap, not knowing what to expect, and signed up to volunteer in Ghana for 2 months. I had never volunteered overseas and had never been to Africa. I was placed by the Lv local team in Ghana to work with children at Cherubs Orphanage. To say that this experience had a profound effect on my life would be insufficient. I learned so much about myself and my world.
First and foremost are the people of Ghana. Their genuine friendliness and kindness are overwhelming! I travelled alone but I never, ever felt alone or scared. If I got lost, I just needed to ask the first person I saw and they would stop whatever they were doing and walk me to my destination! My host family, my new friends, the local community and the orphanage accepted me with open arms and I dove right in! I felt so comfortable and loved!
Volunteering at Cherubs Orphanage was a challenge. Admittedly, there were times when I doubted my effectiveness but then I would look the other direction and become overjoyed by what I saw. The children showed such resilience against such extreme odds. A simple game of patty-cake gave them so much joy! It was inspiring! It was so satisfying and much-needed! The children and their amazing teachers were so grateful! I love them so much for being who they are and for giving me much more than I gave them.
Now a word about culture shock. Ghanaian culture is very different than my culture. There is an abundance of what I initially felt as chaos but after a few days of adjusting, I found their culture to be one of simplicity. It was so refreshing and enlightening. We Americans are so spoiled and take so much for granted. I always knew this to be true but now I know how that is true. I also know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Ghanaians are happy people; Americans, not so much! The food is fantastic! It is locally grown and cooked to order (no fast food here!) It is very, very spicy and delicious! Lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
On weekends, I was free to travel and I took full advantage. I went to a monkey sanctuary, rain forest (with an awesome canopy walk!!), bead factory, Kente cloth weaver’s shop, museums, cultural centres, castles, beaches, lakes, waterfalls, palaces, and marketplaces. I learned so much about Ghana – past and present.
Ghana is a relatively poor country so their needs are great. If you are able, I would highly encourage volunteering in Ghana. You will be made to feel at home and you will learn so much about yourself and the world. I will never, ever forget my experiences. It was beyond amazing and so gratifying. I made so many wonderful life-long friends and had so many fantastic experiences. These I will hold in my heart forever and ever. How can you ask for more than that?