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Harriet Walker - Medicine & Healthcare in Ghana

First Impressions of Ghana

With local childrenThe calls of a nearby mosque, chickens outside the window, the market just below me, all of this and it was only 4.30am. I had definitely arrived in Ghana. I actually arrived on Wednesday 16th February at about 10pm and as soon as those airplane doors opened and the 28°C heat hit me, I knew my three month adventure had begun.

I slept at the Projects Abroad Head Office in Accra on my first night, before catching a Tro Tro (a form of transport you get very used to over there, kind of like a rickety old mini bus) to Cape Coast where I was to be placed. I honestly did not know what I was expecting before I arrived, but the noise, colors and shouts of the market certainly exceeded anything I could have imagined.

With crocodileMy host family lived in the center of Cape Coast, just above Kotokoraba Market, the main shopping area where you could find pretty much anything. Having said that, one of the main aspects of Ghanaian life that I miss is being able to buy anything you could ever want out of a Tro window! You sit there in your seat and you can buy your weekly food shop, a new watch and kit yourself out in a whole new outfit from the sellers who carry all their goods on their heads and you don’t have to move a muscle! Now that is laid back living for you!

My New Brothers and Sisters

Anyway, back to my host family. At home in England I am an only child and it has always just been me, my mum and my dad in the house, this could not be more different to my Ghanaian family and I loved it. I had my host mum, grandmother and 3 children who lived permanently in the house, but the constant stream of visitors and family meant that you were never quite sure who you would be coming home to, but that didn’t matter because in Ghana everyone is your brother, sister, auntie or uncle and ever so friendly. I can honestly say that if I ever needed anything or any advice, there was never a shortage of people offering to help.

My Medical Placement

Kakum parkMy main placement was in Central Regional Hospital near Abura and it was here that I spent most of my time. Once again I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect and I arrived to find what looked like a fairly modern hospital from the outside, but when I went onto the wards and really opened my eyes, it was then that I realized how wrong I was.

I guess realistically this was what I had expected, and in an awful way, it actually meant that I could gain even more from my time in the hospital. I spent two weeks on each ward of the hospital and my daily tasks varied from taking patients for x-rays, offering support to a mother giving birth, taking patients vital signs as they arrived in A&E and assisting Doctors on their daily surgical ward rounds.

Other than the hospital I visited a local Leprosy Camp each morning and along with a few other medical volunteers, we cleaned and re-dressed all of the inmates’ wounds. I have to say that this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my time in Ghana, as you really did feel like you were making a difference to these men and women and their faces clearly showed the appreciation.

Traveling in Ghana

I could honestly go on all day about my experiences in Ghana, but I just want to finish by saying that it isn’t all about your placement. Almost every weekend I traveled to other areas of Ghana with other volunteers, and I even made it over the border to Togo for my 19th birthday! The placement was challenging, my host family were friendly and supportive and the country is beautiful, if not slightly crazy! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I loved every moment of it.

Harriet Walker

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