Dear future Ghanaian YCI volunteers,
Wow, what an amazing four weeks I have had in Ghana. I have learned so much about myself and the people that live here. There are so many things that I want to write about, it is hard to pick one. Because of this dilemma I think I will talk about my favourite project and give words of advice for volunteers that will come in the future.
Youth Challenge International is doing amazing things in Ghana and we, as volunteers, are an important part of this. I would recommend YCI to anyone who wants to learn about themselves, be humbled, and create positive change through empowering youth. The projects that our group worked on included Malaria prevention education in the form of door to door surveys and a community outreach event. Additionally, as a way to empower young females our volunteer group created and facilitated two workshops on entrepreneurship and starting one’s own business. During the workshops we also connected youth with micro-finance institutions for loans and financial support.
I personally enjoyed the Malaria project the most. I found the door to door survey to be quite fun. It was fascinating to meet families within the community. Hearing their concerns about Malaria became a valuable learning experience. I also found that reaching out to community members and distributing the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) to families with young children and pregnant women to be very rewarding.
To make the most out of your project and time in Ghana (it goes by fast, trust me!) I feel it is important to get advice from those that were here before. So without further ado…
- Ask questions. You are in a different country; things are not always the same as at home. So ask. It will save you a lot of guesswork. People in Ghana are more than willing to help you and answer your questions. In fact, they will probably find it quite amusing.
- Your fellow volunteers are your best friends, get to know them, confide in them and indicate respectfully when you have concerns or frustrations. It will make things a lot easier and your memories will be a lot better.
- Your homestay family will be your African family; you are tied to them even when you go home. They are your life line and key to Ghanaian culture. They will help you feel less homesick and your bond with them will be strong. Take pictures and keep in touch, you will miss them.
- Everything in Ghana is much slower than at home: the travel; start times; workshops; food; even laundry. People at home might call it inefficient, but it is just the way it is. Learn patience, it will be a huge asset to you.
- Nothing will go according to plan, you may experience power outages in the middle of a workshop, being late for important meetings/events, or last minute changes to your program. My best advice to you is to not panic but rather take a deep breath, suck it up, and get creative. You will laugh about it later I promise, but if you want things to run smoothly don’t sweat the small stuff and just roll with the punches.
- Remember you are here to empower people. You have valuable skills you can contribute, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
- Don’t forget to have fun. You don’t need to be a robot volunteer, you are human, so let loose a bit and experience some of the wonderful things Ghana has to offer. Our group went to Kakum National Park and spent a night in the jungle. It was terrifying, but a blast. Those moments and memories will make your trip worthwhile and prevent you from burning out.
- Lastly, be proud of yourself and the work that you do here. You will get to work with some amazing Ghanaians and you will learn as much from them as they will from you. Make your work count, not everyone has this amazing opportunity.
All the best!
- Samantha Skinner, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013
To read more about volunteer experiences overseas, check out our Travel Diary.