First week’s report from our volunteers- winter break
Olivia and Kristina write about their first impressions
After my university exam period, I applied for a volunteer programme and was looking forward to my new volunteering experience in Ghana. We had a good flight from Zurich to Lisbon and from there to Accra and it took us only ten hours. Especially on our second flight, I met a few interesting people. Everybody was so friendly, and they wanted to know more about what we are going to do in the next three weeks in the Volta region. A man from Ruanda who teaches in a University in Ghana even invited me to his home. This shows how open and hospitable African people are. After our flights Samuel our coordinator in Ghana picked us at the airport up and together, we drove to a nice small hotel in the capital.
On Monday we started our day early in the morning. Samuel gave us the most important information about Ghana and what we must do if we have any problem. After that, we went to the probably most chaotic city I have seen so far. I expected that Accra and the whole of Ghana are different from Europe but not that different. In my case, the city was a bit overwhelming but worth it.
Tuesday was our travel day to Adaklu Waya where the school and our host family are located. It took us quite a long time going to this place, but I liked to meet Ghanaian people on the bus and to see the landscape. In the early evening, we finally arrived at the village centre of our new home. Our host sister directly welcomed us so warmly that I felt from the first moment on like at home. I think you could not have a better host sister like her, and she is even the best cooker if you like spicy food.
One thing that I was not used to in Switzerland is getting up so early in the morning. Every morning around 5.30 a.m., a man who says the most important news about the village wakes us up.
Samuel (coordinator) thought that we would just meet the kids and see the school on Wednesday but in the end, all the volunteers ended up teaching. This was a challenge because none of us had prepared lessons so we had to improvise. The teachers are nice, but the communication can be difficult because of the language barrier. Most of the kids spoke good English, but especially the younger ones do not know how to read nor write better.
As I got to know the kids and their English level, I start my mornings around 6 a.m. to prepare the lessons for the whole day. I always begin the school day with the same structure by giving them their name tags back. Because the kids love to sing and I thought it is a good way to learn more words, we sang the Hokey Pokey song after. I give the kids a few exercises and between them, we play a game for relaxing a bit. Even though the kids can be exhausting, teaching them is a big satisfaction and I already know that I am going to miss them when I am back in Switzerland. After two satisfying days of teaching, we left the school around lunch for our weekend tour. Together we went to a small village at the border to Togo called Wli. There we went hiking, but it was more climbing to see the beautiful landscape of Ghana and we ended up at a waterfall where we enjoyed a cold bath. On Sunday we came ready for next week back home to our lovely host family.
Arrival: We arrived at the Accra airport, where we were welcomed by our cheerful guide Samuel. Because we arrived late, he drove us immediately to the hotel, where we spent the first night. The hotel was quite nice, we had a shower and a comfortable bed. The second day, we woke up and went for breakfast in the hotel, however the lady in charge of breakfast preparation did not make it to work that day, so we had to go to another place instead. Later, we went to explore Accra. I must admit that I experienced a little cultural shock as the city was very chaotic and noisy to the extent that I did not expect. Fortunately, the next day, we travelled to our final destination, Adaklu Waya, where we are volunteering. Adaklu Waya seemed from first sight much better than Accra. From my point of view, people there are generally living in much better conditions, it’s quite a calm village (except for daily morning singing starting around 5 a.m.) and people are much friendlier (majority of the inhabitants is waving at us every time we pass by). Since the first day, our host sister Cynthia has been taking really good care of us, which I appreciate, and am thankful for. She prepares us everyday breakfast, lunch and dinner, all of them are always very tasty. Cynthia is a very smart friendly girl with a big smile on her face, who is always willing to help us.
School: The first day at school was one big surprise. We went there expecting that we will just look around, get familiar with the classes and generally get to know how it works there. However, I was very surprised when a teacher immediately asked me to take her class. Unprepared, I started improvising. As travelling is my favourite hobby, I started teaching geography, namely continents and states in the 5th-6th class (age 12-15). So, in the end, the first day ended up very well. I like working with the kids because they pay attention, listen and most of the times do what I tell them, so they behave very well, which makes managing bigger classes (around 25 children) much easier. However, there are also some problems such as differentiating between continents, states and cities. The children are also not aware of how the world looks like on the map. Therefore, I was repeating the lecture we did on my first day until Friday to make sure that they remember. Unfortunately, I am not 100% sure if I have succeeded, because many children do not think for themselves, but copy one from another or their notes without thinking about what they are writing.