Jade Scarfe - General Building Projects in Ghana
Africa has always fascinated me. Ever since I was little, I have been saving to take part in a volunteering trip and as soon as I had confirmed my placement, it was all I could talk and think about!
Traveling has always been a huge passion of mine, but since this was my first trip alone, I was pretty nervous, especially as it was quite a far distance. Leaving my home town was easy as I could sense the excitement of this new adventure awaiting me. On my flight, two Ghanaians started talking to me about their lives and gave me some information of what living in Ghana was like and asked about my trip. I have heard many times that Ghanaians are known for their friendliness, which was 100% true.
When I arrived at the airport, I was welcomed by the damp night time heat of Ghana and was quickly greeted by the lovely Naymee, a Projects Abroad staff member. Within the hour, I had already been given my Ghanaian birth name (Ama- as I was born on a Saturday) and placed in a friendly local hostel for the night.
The next morning, we left Accra, which is now probably my favorite city which I’ve visited. You are overwhelmed by noises of raging tro-tro drivers, street sellers, and constant shouts of ‘Oborni!’ (which means foreigner. I soon became accustomed to hearing this). It is a city alive with culture and hospitality.
My Host Family
I was placed in Mamfe, a town in the Aukapem Hills region. I lived with an amazing host family who made me feel comfortable immediately. I instantly clicked with the two daughters of the family, Paulina (14) and Jane (12). Every day we would end up in some kind of huge laughing fit over some of the most random subjects! They never failed to make me feel at ease. My family also had a younger son, Brian (9), who was a cheeky boy, but nevertheless always put a smile on my face.
I stayed with 5 other volunteers who came from all over the world. They are honestly some of the best people I think I have ever met and I miss them very much. However, we have planned to meet in Portugal next year! All the Aukapem Hills volunteers met up almost every night at the local bar for a catch up and to plan our weekends away from the Hills.
We grew into a close knit family: sharing jokes, stories, and going on adventures together. We traveled the two weekends I was there to places the Cape Coast which was incredible, exciting, and full of laughs! I cried when it came to saying goodbye to them.
Volunteering on the Building Project
My first day at the project was hard work. By lunch time, I had learned how to make mortar, plaster a wall, and fetch buckets of water. I was covered from head to toe in cement! This didn’t stop the children from cuddling up to me though, except that they didn’t look best pleased when they found patches of cement on their clothes. It was only me and one other volunteer for the first week, which was hard work but fun. We sang and danced while shoveling sand then got to play with the children during our breaks.
It was such a rewarding sight to see how quickly the school was developing into an improved learning environment. I can even say that I worked until my hands bled to create something valuable for the children. After a 20 minute power nap in the tro-tro home, it was a race for the shower then a dive for lunch (the highlight of the meal was always the succulent pineapple! I hated pineapple before I went to Ghana!) Then the day would go by in a flash as we all immersed ourselves in books, wandering around the small town, or simply talking.
Traveling and Sightseeing in Ghana
Ghana is the most beautiful of all the countries I have traveled to. I visited local cultural attractions such as the wood markets and Boti Falls, but I also visited the big tourist attractions such as the Kamku National Park Canpony walk and Kokrobitis Monkey Sanctuary. On these trips, we stayed in hostels and spent a few days exploring by just using a Brandt book and a few tro tro’s to get to where we wanted to be.
Coming home was strange. I went to get a water bag from the fridge and then suddenly remembered that I am privileged enough to have safe running water at home. It really makes you open your eyes to how lucky you are. I learnt so much from my experience in Ghana and gained lot more independence. Not a day passes where I don’t think about the people, the work I did, and memories I created. They will stay with me forever.