Elizabeth Watts - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Ghana
Arrival in Ghana
I first stepped off the plane in Accra at about 9:30pm and after traveling for over 24 hours including two six and a half hour plane rides I was exhausted and overwhelmed to say the least. I got through customs and collected my bags with no problem. Then I walked down the ramp and my fears of ending up alone in the airport in Africa were quickly put to rest as I saw Nyame from Projects Abroad waving his arms up and down looking for me. That’s when it set in. I was in Africa. I had been dreaming of this day for years and it had finally come. The excitement left me speechless as Nyame sang the parses of Ghana to me.
I stayed with Reverend Fianko-Bekoe at Holy Hills Complex in the Hills. Deciding to go to the Hills was the best choice of my life and getting placed with Reverend Fianko-Bekoe was the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me. Starting from day one living at Holy Hills it was easy, I can’t think of any other word to describe it because, it was easy. I was welcomed by the whole family and by every child in Kwamoso. The Holy Hills community is built on family ties, trust, relationships and loyalties, which is a refreshing change from the technology filled Western World that I have lived in for the past 20 years.
During my time in Ghana I taught KG2 at Ebenezer International School. I had been a teaching aide and substitute teacher for four years in a public school system in the United States, that has a large number of students with a range of severe special needs, but this by far was the most challenging teaching project that I had ever been faced with. I had 41 students, no extra full time staff in my classroom and the only supplies I had were notebooks for each child, pencils, chalk and the supplies that I brought with me.
I also brought with me teaching techniques that involved different workstations for the children where they would practice skills by playing games and engaging with material. This was a complete change from the sitting in rows and chanting material, it was hard for the children at first and as a result created a lot of work for me because they needed extra support and structure, which kept me running around from child to child all day. These children were so incredibly smart and active they kept me on my toes every day forcing me to come up with new creative activities that kept challenging and engaging them, I spent nights drawing new materials for all of them, I even had another volunteer at Holy Hills help me.
Despite all this work it was the best teaching experience that I have ever had. I will never again be challenged with such bright, active, and engaged students and virtually no materials to help them. I hope to never forget any moment of my trip but I know that I will never forget the moment when I assigned seven students to go to the table to practice matching letters and letter sounds and they all look at each other and simultaneously cheered “YESSSS!” and pumped their arms as they stood up to go to their station.
Free Time in Ghana
When I wasn’t working I made afternoon trips in the surrounding area to places such as the wood market where you can get handmade wooden artifacts (I brought home a drum, bowls, and boxes). There were so many wonderful places so close to home and so many that I did not get time to explore.
On weekends I traveled with other volunteers. Traveling around Ghana was empowering, now I feel like I can tackle anything. It was incredible to see the cultural differences and similarities in different regions of the country; despite differences there was always the common thread of the importance of human relationships. The other volunteers and I were always welcomed warmly and were always talking with local people. During our travels I built great friendships with the other volunteers in the region and with the other volunteers who lived at Holy Hills, whom I have kept in touch with.
Leaving Ghana was one of saddest moments; I was still crying twelve hours after leaving my host family when I arrived in London. I will never forget my trip, I have made what I think to be some lifelong friendships and I have forever been changed by the energy of every student in my class.
I can’t wait till I can go back for a longer period of time after I graduate from university in two years. And I owe it to Holy Hills, Reverend Fianko-Bekoe and his family, Ebenezer International School and all the staff and students there, and Projects Abroad and their staff members especially Care & Teaching Supervisor, Suzy Adams.