We were delighted when Kerry agreed to sign up as our 2015 Volunteer Coordinator. She’s volunteered with KickStart Ghana before and knows the charity and the people we work with really well. Through being Chair at Winant Clayton and being heavily involved at Exeter University she has an excellent knowledge of volunteering.
Over the summer she will be supporting our volunteers to make sure that they can really make an impact on our projects, including the 2015 summer school and reading club and coaching at Dynamo FC. She’ll also be evaluating our impact and working closely with the Ghanaian board on other projects.
She’s going to be blogging about her experiences over the summer and below is her first. We hope you enjoy.
Escaping the City
“Why would you want to leave a good job in a City law firm?”; “You’re brave, I couldn’t do that”.
The most frequent comments I heard when I explained to people that I was leaving the City, my flat in Central London, friends, family and a potential legal career, to work as the Volunteer Coordinator for KickStart Ghana (KSG) in Ho, Ghana for two months.
Yes, it is a big change!
But the opportunity to escape the confines of London and the office world in order to spend a summer in Ghana, a country that is home to some of the most beautiful natural spots and possibly the friendliest people in the world; would you really say no?!
If you do, I hope that this blog will highlight just why Ghana, KSG and international volunteering could be just the escape that is needed… if not, just enjoy the read and photos J
“Welcome to Ghana” – Woezor!
10 hours, 2 planes and a brief transit in Casablanca, Morocco (which was an experience in itself trying to navigate an airport without English translations, alone) and I arrive to a warm welcome from Dan at Accra airport – the coffee he suggested was just the breather I needed to take stock of my surroundings and relocate my body (still somewhere 35,000 miles in the sky above!) and gear up the brain.
Although not my first time to Ghana, it was still slightly overwhelming to hit Accra’s motorway (especially during rush hour!); imagine taxis – the older ones, held together with gaffer tape and no suspension – everywhere, overtaking as necessary (pretty much all the time) and traders, balancing on their head, or carrying baskets, of fruit, water and household goods weaving through the traffic. That was the journey to the bus station – I needed to take a Tro (bus) to Ho, a three hour drive away. Never alone, I was met by KSG’s long-standing chef, Vivian (on Ghana-time, so approx. 2 hours later than planned!).
The route to Ho takes you past the Lake Volta, and we are crossing the bridge over the lake, with another throng of traders – Vivian calls one over, she hands me a Fan Ice, “Welcome to Ghana”. Specific to Ghana, it is the ice cream of a 99 Flake but in a sachet, and that’s only just beaten by the FanYogurt – frozen yogurt in a sachet! Most people are aware of the traditional Ghanaian foods such as Fufu and Banku – but for a sweet-toothed fan, these are the way forward and deserve a mention!
Bumping across the mountains at speed I take in the carpet of green trees, the winding dirt tracks slipping away ahead and monkeys lingering by the roadside watching us pass, “A second Welcome to Ghana” comments Vivian.
We arrive at the KSG House, and still on Ghana-time, wait a good 30 minutes for Coco to arrive with a key! That said, I received the warmest welcome from him!
As we would in the UK, a welcome to the KSG House involved a house party, appropriately termed the “Pineapple After Dark Party”. Random? Well, Ghana has some of the tastiest, juiciest pineapple, straight from the trees and actually ripe (Ghanaians are quick to point out that we eat it under-ripe in the UK!) and After Dark is a strong Ghanaian whiskey – move over champagne and strawberries! (FYI – I don’t think this is Ghana-specific, rather invented by Coco and I!).
By the end of the day, I truly felt welcomed and settled into my new home for the next two months.
Evening in Ho
In the evening the most common thing to do is take a stroll to a local Spot Bar. These are dotted all over Ho and sell the local beers, Star and Club, along with the popular gin and Fanta (word of warning – single shot measures do not exist here!).
At present Ghana is struggling from a shortage of electricity, so it is common for the power to be off on alternate sides of town from either 6am-6am or 6pm-6pm. Of course, a Spot Bar is out of the question when there is no power, likewise, if you realise it is late and that you only have rice and bread in the house, you can’t just call Dominos or nip to the local takeaway. Instead, you just have to take a taxi and hope that the other side of town has power and somewhere is still serving – luckily the street stalls generally tend to stay open until very late.
Top tip – carry a phone with a light and remember to charge it when the power is on! Alternatively, get a torch and a lot of batteries! The beauty is that it tends to push people into sitting around conversing… and the sky is dark enough to fully appreciate the stars at night. The only frustrating thing is not being able to turn on the light!
Sunday Church Service
I was cordially invited to church on my first Sunday in Ghana – a particularly special occasion as it was also a birthday celebration.
Start time, 7:30am – not a time I usually see on a Sunday morning! My local C of E church starts at 10:30am (and I struggle to make that on time!).
From the top of the road the sound of a gospel choir and the congregation singing can be heard. It is easy to slip in late (as some inevitably do). Once seated, the pastor, dressed in a white gown with a panel of Ghanaian pattern down the front, begins the service with a recap of the previous Sunday’s sermon and introduces the first bible passage. The teaching is a mixture of morals, science, personal experience and pure (unexpected) banter. I was unprepared for the force and power of the pastor’s delivery – his voice booming through the church hall, escaping through the building’s open archways and windows. This particular church gave the service in English, which was immediately followed by translation into Ewe. One element which struck me throughout the service was the repeated degradation towards America (I felt thankful to be English!). Equally, I was amused by the reference to both the UK and US as a “Stangeland” – I hadn’t considered it from this perspective before.
As a newbie to the Church I was called up to the front, along with several others to be formally introduced to the congregation, community and Ho. The pastor was delighted to hear that I was from England!
The service closed with everyone holding hands and having God’s mercy blessed upon us – an important aspect as the service cannot close until everyone has joined hands.
As this was a birthday celebration, the whole community came together at the end of the service for cake and a fruity form of bucks fizz.
This is just one experience of a Presbyterian Church service, however, the vibrancy and spirit of the service is common throughout Ghana, contrasting vividly with services at home.