Sarah Miller - General Building Projects in Ghana
I'd known for a while that I wanted take a year out between school and going to do Medicine at University, and found Teaching & Project Abroad's flexibility perfect for what I wanted to do; I could go when I liked, for however long I wanted and combine projects that I was interested in.
In January I arrived in Cape Coast, and was taken to meet my host family. They always made us feel really welcome and we built up good friendships with our host brother and sisters. I was taken around Cape Coast for the first time and remember feeling really excited that I was finally there but wondering whether I would ever fit in - it was completely different to anywhere I'd ever been. After a couple of weeks though I felt really settled - I knew my way around, was used to the cries of "obrunni, where are you going?" in the centre of town and was confident enough to barter and argue with taxi drivers over the cost of a journey.
The work in Central Regional Hospital was superb and I was able to experience things that I would never be able to see here. I spent my time in different departments ranging from Paedics to Radiology to Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and the doctors were always conscientious in explaining what they were doing and why. I also had the chance to see a wide range of surgery including Caesarean sections, a total thyroidectomy and a small bowel resection. We were also really fortunate in that they allowed us to attend several autopsies. I learned so much from my time in the hospital and now feel so lucky to be able to go to medical school with those experiences of healthcare in a developing country.
At the end of March I then had an amazing two weeks travelling with two friends. We did a circular route around Ghana that took us to see the Akosombo dam, the Wli waterfalls and right up to Bolgatanga and Sirigu in the North. I'll never forget those two weeks travelling - from sitting squashed at the back of a tro-tro along the bumpiest and dustiest road in Ghana to spending a Saturday morning at Mole National Park, watching the elephants in a waterhole a few metres away. Those two weeks were definitely a highlight of my time in Ghana.
At the start of April, I moved to the Akuapem Hills to begin work on the Community Housing Project. I lived in Kwamoso village where the work takes place. The village has no running water or electricity and it was brilliant to have experienced living there as well as living in a Ghanaian town like Cape Coast. The building project was hard work but a lot of fun and really varied - one day we would be attempting to plaster the new classroom walls, and the next digging foundations for the library - whatever we did though there was always the sense that you were doing something worthwhile for the local community.
I've got fantastic memories of my time in Ghana that I will never forget. There are a lot of things I miss too - the customary visit to an "egg sandwich lady" after a night out; buying pure water, plantain chips and Fan Ice from sellers through the tro-tro windows when it stopped; to weekends in almost guaranteed sunshine at Anomabu beach. Going to Ghana built my confidence and made me appreciate so much of what we have in England, particularly in terms of the healthcare and medical facilities. I made some wonderful friends, many of whom I've seen back in England, and I wish I could repeat my whole experience in Ghana again!