Why get involved in a summer action project? -Michael and Katie’s volunteering stories in Ghana!

Posted on the 22nd August 2018

Running a 6 week summer project this year has been a change from our usual placements. For the first time, our Lattitude team took on a new challenge to set up a short and sweet volunteering experience over July and August; the Ghana Action Project (GAP). Eight volunteers joined their team leader Emily and local programme coordinator Agnes, in the community of Abrobriano, getting involved in a number of tasks such as teaching English, summer school games and activities, and refurbishing the local library. Our volunteers got the chance to visit a number of exciting historical sites and explore the area while taking a well-deserved break from the hundreds of energetic kids! Staying with host families immersed them in true Ghanaian family life and customs too.

Michael and Katie are two Lattitude return volunteers from the GAP, and here is what they had to say when looking back on their experience…

 

Why did you decide to volunteer for the GAP/ what were you most excited about before departure?

Michael: I picked GAP for two reasons: firstly the time frame suited me in that I wouldn’t miss my results day and would have enough time to prepare for uni, secondly the nature of the project being teaching rather than trekking was right for me at the time. I was most excited about the cultural experience and the volunteering aspect of the project. So essentially all of it!

Katie: I have previously volunteered in Africa and since returning have always wanted to go back. When looking for a volunteering placement I wanted to find something where I would be making a real difference to a community. An English teaching project sounded like a great way to do this. I wanted it to be really beneficial for not only the children but my personal development. The project in terms of the teaching, leadership, support and accommodation provided by Lattitude all sounded great so I decided to give it a go. I was most excited to explore a completely new country and have the opportunity to teach  English in an underdeveloped community. All aspects of the programme, from staying in a host family, immersing myself into a different culture and free travel times at the weekends excited me about this trip.

 

How was your experience of living amongst the Ghanaian culture and community?

Michael: I found it comfortable and feel like I adapted well, however certain cultural attitudes were jarring at time, not excessively so.

 Katie: The culture and views on certain things were very different to my own culture, but this was expected and I found it extremely interesting. I loved living in Abrobriano and felt I had settled in completely within a matter of days. Everyone was very friendly and within a couple of weeks it started to feel like home!

 

What was most challenging about the experience?

Michael: The level of energy that you have to have, all aspects of the project take an immense amount out of you!

Katie: Although I loved the teaching it could be extremely challenging. Schools in Ghana are completely different to ones in the UK. However, if a volunteer was struggling with their class we worked as a team to support each other and helped one another out in lessons. A lot of us had supportive teachers who helped us with discipline and the language barrier with the students in the early stages of teaching. The project is extremely tiring but most locals go to sleep very early so there is plenty of time to rest and sleep!

My biggest challenge throughout the project was feeling ill, which was inevitable with the change in diet and new foods!

 

Can you share some of the highlights of your time in Ghana?

Michael: Teaching and church were highlights for me because I am really interested by development and religion.

Abrobriano has two main schools, one Christian and the other Muslim. The volunteers worked with kids from both during the summer school period. The south of Ghana is predominantly of Christian faith; however the community has a mix of religions and a number of churches and mosques. The team of volunteers were very much welcomed to take part in religious activities by the community.

Katie: The teaching was a huge highlight for me. It is something I have always wanted to do but have never had the time and ultimately the confidence to do. It was great to build relationships with the children in your classes and monitor their improvement throughout the six weeks. The support from the teachers in the early stages of the project was great and really set us up for the summer school at the end where we independently taught. Another highlight was living in a host family. It was great to form such strong relationships with my host family and also with the other volunteers’ families. They were all very close together so all the volunteers got to know each other’s’ families which was great.

 

Do you feel you have benefited from this experience?

Michael: Yes immeasurably so! I wouldn’t have changed anything!

Katie: Absolutely! It has massively improved my adaptability, cross cultural awareness, communication and many other important life skills.

 

What would you say to those thinking of going on a similar placement?

Michael: Go for it because it’s one of the best things you can do with 6 weeks of your life, but be prepared for a challenge!

Katie: I would tell them to sign up if they have a passion for volunteering abroad! They definitely shouldn’t overthink it or back out just because they’re apprehensive or not 100%. It is one of the best things I have ever done and I am so glad I decided to sign up.

 

What’s next for you?

Michael: I am starting at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) this September to study Philosophy. Volunteering wise I’m looking at going to Palestine next year, although it is still not secure. Career wise my options are still very open!

Katie: I am going into my third year at The University of York in September studying Human Geography and the Environment. In the future I am hoping to work in Environmental Consultancy or a career in International Development.

We were so happy to hear from both volunteers and get to share some of their rewarding experiences with the rest of you, as well as some of their stunning pictures. We are excited to see what they both go on to do from here, and wish them the best of luck in their next step!

 

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