Eric Coco Mawuenyegah, known as Coco, is a board member of KickStart Ghana in Ghana. He has been working with the charity since 2009 and we spoke to him about what he does and what he feels he gets from the role. If you’re interested in volunteering with KickStart Ghana in either the UK or Ghana check out our recruitment pages.
Coco, tell us a bit about your background and where you’re from.
My parents are both from different places – my mum is from Togo and my dad is from Ghana. I was brought up in Togo where I went to school for 20 years before coming to Ghana in 2009. I decided to come to Ghana because education in Togo at tertiary level is so bad that it doesn’t give you many chances of success or a good future. I needed to try something else and I had a chance because my dad is from Ghana and I have family here. I didn’t know why I should be wasting my time when I knew there was a better chance for me somewhere else, so I decided to come here and try something new.
How did you come to work with KickStart Ghana?
When I came here in 2009, I met their first volunteers. I was in school then and I usually met them during football training. The first volunteer I got close to was David Arnold. He was very good and I normally went to training with him before Dave Thorp arrived. After that I got closer to Thorpy as it was only me and him in the house and I had to continue helping him. I was living in the compound with Thorpy, as it’s a family house for me. My grandmum is from here and this is her room that I’m staying in. I used to cook in the KSG house, and use their kitchen and toilet so I always came across volunteers there. I began to get close to them and then I began working with them.
What do you do when you work with KickStart Ghana?
If the volunteers aren’t here, I help Daniel with the work that he does and the plans that he has for KickStart Ghana, for example going to the school to see how things are going there and if a project has already been done there, then checking how it is being used. While the volunteers are here, I play the role of a kind of guide and sometimes translator. Sometimes they find it difficult to interact with the locals because of their accents and voice so I play that role. I also help them with their work on site, and whatever they are doing. I try as much as possible to help them. Also, I help Daniel with other things. For example when things are needed in the house for volunteers, I buy them, record receipts etc.
What is your favourite part of volunteering with KickStart Ghana?
I think my favourite part would be going to the sites with the volunteers and working with them, because I actually learn more from them. Anytime you are on site with them and there is a problem, you see how they all come together to solve that problem. I also really enjoy their evaluations (of their day’s work) going on in the house and the way they make new plans for tomorrow. It’s good learning for me and I’m learning from them and then I can use that on my own for my own stuff. Also, at the weekends the volunteers travel and I’m always with them and I have the chance to visit places that I was not able to visit before.
Do you have a least favourite part of the role?
No, I’m very flexible. My lifestyle is in a way that I meet every situation easily so anything that comes my way, I may struggle with it but it just takes me some small time to adapt myself to that situation. So I don’t feel like there is a least favourite part of KSG work that I do.
Why is it important for Ghanaians or Africans to get involved in working with charities like KickStart Ghana?
I think they are the main people benefitting from the work that KickStart Ghana is doing. The volunteers are not here for themselves, they are here to help us. We can help them do their work better because I think there is no use of them coming here to help us because we have to know what is good for us. If somebody else comes to you to help you with whatever problem you have, you can’t just sit behind watching the person doing the work. It makes it easier for them if you can also join in because you are the actual person with the problem. I think if we are working with them, we can see that they are doing it this way and maybe we can tell them ‘it would be better if you do it this way’ because we can gain more from it. So I think it is really, really important for locals to have a hand in the work.
What do you think Ghanaians/Africans who volunteer get in return for their time?
Firstly, my English wasn’t that good. I was interacting with the volunteers and I learnt so much and visited places. I think the way you guys normally move according time makes things easier for you to achieve. You have very good plans. I just learnt more about your culture and I try to include that into my lifestyle. There is a lot that I’m learning at the moment. I can’t talk about it all because some of it is just happening at the moment but I think you are improving my lifestyle and improving things. It offers Ghanaians a chance to learn new skills.