Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thank you Ghana for an interesting adventure

Having just got back to Perth, I look back on a visit that I will defiantly not forget hurry. It has been one that has been fodder for many memories.  This trip has been an unexpected 5 weeks but in many ways it has been exactly what I wanted. 

To begin with Ikando, the NGO who I organised the trip through, soon became the "I can't do" of African volunteering. It  gave me a valuable insight into NGO politics and international volunteerism. Who actually benefits when I pay to go and volunteer in another country? is it worth it? and where does the capacity building occur?

I still haven't worked out the answers!

If you haven't heard the story, when I arrived the boss said he was expecting a Sarah who was a lawyer and  he'd never heard of this Ikando Foundation/"I can't do".  When I showed him what I thought I'd be doing he said he'd never seen it before and that he have never advertised such  a position.  In short, advertises volunteer positions that do not exist.

While I got off to a rocky start, a lot was learnt.  

Despite the mix up, I was able to see how the Red Cross works in a country that isn't not well off.  They play an equally grass roots role as in Australia but instead of teaching First Aid (probably run for profit), facilitating blood donation and  providing accommodation for Children with disabilities, Ghana Red Cross Society runs healthy living classes for kids and teaches very basic first aid for learner drivers as well as mothers' clubs. Much of it is the same but it is different in so many ways.  So during the 5 week stay, I was able to observe and participate in a few of these activities.  

Mothers' Club

The more memorable ones were the National Youth Day where 2500 kids came together in a Botanical Garden for presentations, dancing and lots of food. I really enjoyed handing out the drinks and snacks while meeting so many kids. Seeing more of Ghana outside Accra  was another bonus!!!

Apart from Red Cross activities, there was the many strange and interesting things that will stick in my mind.

Travelling in Tro-tros would have to be one of the more memorable activities in Ghana. Not only are they completely different to any form of public transport in metropolitan Western Australia (plus being totally cheap) they often provide you with a wealth of unusal memories.

Fresh meat anyone?


Another experience that I'll never forget is walking through what they discribed as "The Slums". While I'd seen environments like that before on TV, I'd never been to one. While I could go on about how poor it is and how hard life is for them but in reality the locals just get on with it and make the best of what life has given them with as much dignity as possible. It was just sad that it has to be like that.  

Finally, the kindness of strangers is something that I'll always remember and to them I say a big thank you. Accra can be a scarey experience for a small white girl and these strangers  had no idea how nice it was for them to show me where to go and to make sure I was ok.
This trip to Ghana was an experience that I'll never forget. While it didn't go as first planned and I couldn't contribute as much as I had hope to, I learnt so much about life there and met so many cool people. Travelling to Ghana has made me want to see more of the world especially in a volunteer capacity.     

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