Ghana - Giving something back

Volunteering in Ghana

Dominic Durose

Volunteer projects in Ghana offer an amazing opportunity for individuals to live, work and have fun in a new and exciting country; having lived in Accra for six months myself, working in an advertising firm with i-to-i Volunteer & Work Abroad, I can thoroughly recommend the experience. However, there are a few things that are worth considering before you leave.

To begin with, it can often feel restrictive and unsettling living in a new and unfamiliar environment, so much so that there can be the temptation to neglect your placement. It is important to think carefully before you depart about the things that you wish to achieve as a volunteer, as this can go a long way to ensuring your time in Ghana is as beneficial to both yourself and your placement as possible.

This is not to say that volunteer projects are all work and no play; the laid-back lifestyle in Ghana lends itself to flexibility. If I wanted an afternoon off to do a little relaxing at the beach, or even a couple of weeks to explore the wilds of Ghana, my placement was more than happy to accommodate me.

The working style in Ghana is very different from that in the West, with a much more relaxed approach to working hours and productivity. It can be frustrating when things appear to be at a standstill, but be patient; once you get used to the rhythm and pace of life you’ll tend to find that things have a way of running smoothly of their own accord.

During the first few weeks, you are certain to feel the effects of culture shock to one degree or another. Nevertheless, as you begin to settle into your placement you will learn to accept the differences in your new environment, and who knows, you may even prefer them.

The fact that I was living with other volunteers served as an ideal parachute to settle me into Ghanaian life. Many of them had been in the country for a few months already and had acquired local knowledge that was invaluable in helping me through those first few disorientating weeks. I found that socialising with the Ghanaian people I was working with was hugely beneficial too; after all, they were the people guaranteed to be with me for the entirety of my placement.

Overall, volunteering in Ghana was a fantastic experience, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. For me, it was the little things that mattered most: the greeting of a bread seller as I walked to work and the friendly shouts of the local schoolchildren as I joined in their game of football. Becoming part of my community is something that, although it wasn’t easy, brought me the most enormous amount of satisfaction during my stay.

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