Ghana

Daniele - Medical Assistant in Ghana

Lattitude volunteer Daniela, has shared with us her story about her experience volunteering in Ghana as a Medical Assistant, and how it’s changed her life.

Daniela was also the recipient of Lattitude’s Adrian Evans Award, awarded for her exceptional contribution over and above her role as a volunteer in Ghana. Thank you, Daniela, for sharing your inspiring story!

After I finished high school, I decided to live in Ghana for 5 months volunteering as a Medical Assistant. This amazing opportunity was provided by the organisation Lattitude Global Volunteering. I quickly became part of a lovely family in Akim Oda, met amazing people who are now some of my closest friends, spent my weekdays expanding my knowledge at the Jubilee Hospital working alongside experienced nurses and doctors, and my weekends exploring the beautiful country. Deciding to take a Gap Year was one of the best decisions of my life.

Why a Gap Year?

During my final year of high school, I knew I had two options for what I chose to do the following year: Post-Secondary or Gap Year for volunteer and travel.

For months I pondered the possibilities of how the path I would choose would influence my life. My ongoing lists of pros and cons made a gap year the obvious choice.

Gap Year Pros:

  • An opportunity to truly make a positive impact in people’s lives
  • A challenge (which ultimately promotes personal growth)
  • A chance to meet like-minded individuals
  • Gain new perspectives
  • The opportunity to work in the healthcare industry, and gain insight towards future career choices
  • Complete immersion in a new and very different culture
  • Expand knowledge on the countless topics that being abroad provides
  • Gain new valuable skills
  • An overall amazing, and perhaps life changing experience

Gap Year cons:

  • Costly
  • Can be perceived as less secure

Lattitude Global Volunteering was the organisation that really stood out to me for my Gap Year. They had an easy to follow website, accountable staff, and a sense of security (which my parents appreciated). The preparation was made easy through a step-by-step process and people that were always available to help. Everything was smooth sailing.

Lattitude Ghana Medical Assistant

Why Ghana?

Knowing Ghana was a developing country piqued my interest, mostly because I knew that the experience would be so different to anything else I’d ever lived through. I truly wanted to be immersed in a completely different way of living. I also knew that if Ghana was considered to be more challenging, then I’d ultimately benefit through my personal growth.

Family and Community

Overall the people I met in Ghana were all very kind, welcoming, friendly and helpful. An example of that would be the first time my host partner and I took a tro tro (a run down mini bus) from our friends’ placement about a half hour away. We were clearly confused in the busy city streets, and although we said we would figure out our way home, the elderly woman who sat beside us insisted she escort us home to ensure we made it safely.

Upon arrival back to our home, a casual Twi language lesson emerged, along with laughter, from both the kind lady and my host family. I later reunited with this lovely lady nearing the end of my stay. She still remembered me, and I expressed my gratitude for her kindness once again. Primarily, the main intention from many locals was to help us. Generally, I found that the crowds around me exuded warmth and happiness, especially when dancing and music were involved.

 

My host family was absolutely amazing. They are the kindest, most welcoming and caring people. It was safe to say that I very quickly felt at home: they made adapting to a completely different lifestyle not only much easier, but very enjoyable.

 

I’d laugh as Alberta, my host mother, would boil water for all the nightly bucket showers. She is only 10 years older, so our bond was quite close and filled with good humour. Although she did take on a motherly role as she reminded me to wear socks to prevent mosquito bites at night. She also taught me how wash clothing by hand, prepare their traditional meals, and pound banku and fufu. The environment around our household was pretty well always happy, the kids laughing, adults cooking or washing clothes. I spent a lot of my time smiling, admiring the simplicity of interacting with the loved ones I had grown close to.

There’s no doubt that what I enjoyed most during my placement and time in Ghana were the people. I grew incredibly close with my host family, as well as fellow volunteers. Those bonds ultimately made my overall experience in Ghana absolutely unreal, and I am beyond appreciative of that.

Volunteering as a Medical Assistant

The hospital I was placed in was very well established. The facility was clean, and they had a sufficient amount of resources to provide aid, as well as qualified nurses and doctors. Looking past some broken tiles, small rooms and cracks in the cement, it was clear that the system worked. I spent the majority of my time volunteering in the kids ward, and initially I would solely observe. Once I started taking on more initiative (which was pretty essential since there was very little direction), I was taken under the wings of a couple key nursing staff. I gained confidence in filling out the volume one forms, mixing vaccines, communicating with patients, preparing for nurses to set lines, and eventually setting them myself. I was also very fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe two surgeries, as well as a natural birth.

Lattitude Ghana Medical Assistant

Alberta’s Clinic and Pharmacy

Alberta is my Ghana mom; she works as a nurse at the same hospital I volunteered at. Through many conversations with her I was able to gain insight into her dreams and aspirations, and develop a very close relationship with her. I discovered that her main goal in life, similarly to mine, is to make a positive impact in people’s lives. I realized that almost everything she does is to help people, and to make people happy. She informed me that she would regularly visit the quite underdeveloped village Aperade, about an hour away, to dress wounds and treat injuries.

There is a hospital nearby, however, it lacks the space, supplies, and staff to be able to accommodate the needs of the entire community. As a result, residents will frequently avoid seeking the care they need. Alberta’s passion and drive to help people truly inspired me to try my best to work towards making her ideas of establishing a clinic and pharmacy in Aperade a reality. I started a GoFundme page, which enabled us to begin the renovations on the run down building. I have the mindset that with hard work and the support of the community, I can provide Alberta the opportunity to truly help make a difference in these people’s lives. My mission is to fund the renovations, constructions, and supplies that Alberta’s Pharmacy and Clinic will need in order to operate, so that the residents of Aperade receive the care they deserve.

What was it like to be recognised as the recipient of Lattitude’s Adrian Evans Award, presented by our Royal Patron, HRH Princess Anne, who also donated to the cause?

To be recognised on such a large scale was mind-boggling for me. I was in complete disbelief as Kweku, the country manager in Ghana, informed me I was being considered for such a prestigious award. I had a sense of pride and determination that strengthened as others saw value in Alberta’s Clinic and Pharmacy. This caused the drive to establish the clinic and pharmacy to grow even stronger.

What have you been doing since returning from Ghana?

I returned from Ghana with mixed feelings. I wasn’t just leaving Ghana, I was leaving another home, another family. Being unsure of when I’d see the wonderful people I became so close too again, was quite an uneasy feeling. I was looking forward to reuniting with family and friends, which was probably the best part of returning home.

The month and a half that I spent back in Canada was good for the most part, although I found it difficult to adapt myself back into the western lifestyle. Reverse culture shock hit me, and everything was once again different. The way of living in Canada is simplified, in a much more privileged way. However, what made adjusting harder than expected was being surrounded by people who just didn’t fully understand everything I had experienced and my new perspectives that had strengthened while being away.

After a month of being settled back home, I decided to book some flights to New Zealand to travel and visit a couple friends that I had met in Ghana. I have just completed a road trip around the South Island, and after two months I am heading back home to Canada.

What do you have planned for your own future?

In September, I will commence a Bachelors of Athletic and Exercise Therapy programme. I’m really excited to further my education in the sports education field. Until then, and perhaps during, I hope to continue with my spontaneous travels and wonderful adventures.

Felix - Football for Hope programme in Ghana

What made you volunteer in the first place?

I volunteered because I wanted to do something different than leaving school and heading straight to university. My sister had done a GAP year with Lattitude before me and loved it and this helped me choose to go abroad.

Why Ghana?

Ghana appealed to me because Africa was a continent that I had not spent much time on. I had previously spent a month in Morocco but wanted to see more of Africa and Ghana being the team I supported in football helped. What ultimately made me chose Ghana was the fact that I could teach football which was an idea that appealed to me more than being a regular teacher or community worker.

lattitude ghana team on the beach

Can you describe your placement in detail?

I was placed in Cape Coast, Ghana. Cape Coast is a large sized (for Ghanaian standards) town on the coast of Africa placed only a few hours from Accra. It gave us a great sense of Ghanaian life, as you got a mix of rich and poor all while heavily being surrounded by Ghanaian culture. Access to the beach was a huge plus and CC (Cape Coast) being half way between the other two placements made it ideal for seeing the other volunteers in the weekends. Our house was very nice and from it we had no trouble exploring and finding our way around and we lived very comfortably. The old slave castle on the beach is a stark reminder of the dark history that CC has put behind it, as CC used to be one of the main exit ports for the African American slave trade. The town has flourished since then and is full of life, the marketplace being such a place which is great to explore and get lost in.

What are some examples of the duties you performed there?

For work we had two main roles: to teach the children at the Oguaa Football for Hope Centre, and to involve ourselves in the community. The community was made up of all the people who sent their children to the centre on a daily basis and our job was to communicate with them to let them know what was going on and take in feedback that they may have for us. Teaching the children took place 4 days a week with the 5th day dedicated to ‘free play’ where we would play football in the afternoons. Towards the end of our time we started to work our program in some of the other CC schools in which we ran our program.

gap year ghana - lattitude team

Can you describe your accommodation? Your host family?

Our accommodation was very pleasant and much nicer than I was expecting coming into Ghana. I was paired with one roommate and we lived together in a nice sized room each with our own bed. We had a large dining and lounge room as well as a proper kitchen, bathroom and much to the envy of some even a rooftop space in which we could star gaze and do our washing. We lived above our host families’ cousins and we got along with them superbly and often played games with them or watched the mother prepare dinner while talking to her and her kids.

Our host family consisted of a host mother, Agnes and her 28 year old son, Josef. Josef’s brother would also come home some weekends but often was away as he lived near Accra as a teacher. Agnes was amazingly kind and made us feel at home right away but Josef was by far one of the best people we could have been placed with. I cannot say how much we loved staying with him as this would go in far too long. However, he made us feel welcome and would often take us places to adventure or down to the beach to play volleyball. Lattitude got the host family perfect for us.

gap year ghana - lattitude team

How did you get by with the language barrier?

The language barrier was something that all of us were nervous about heading into Ghana, but we soon realised that it was nowhere near as big an issue as we first thought. A great thing about Ghana is that most of the people that you will be interacting with on a regular basis have a very good understanding of English and the children in some cases are near fluent. We learnt some basic phrases in the local languages and through our time we learnt more and more. After about a month in, we were competently able to greet and thank people as well as have short conversations and talk about ourselves.

What kind of things did you do during orientation?

Orientation helped us to settle in to the country after 3 days of flights over. During orientation we learnt some history of Ghana, some of the local traditions and etiquette and the staff briefed us for what we were likely to experience over the next 6 months. We also did some research on the types of things which would be expected of us as teachers over the next half year in the class rooms. This involved lesson planning, learning about classroom etiquette and an extensive talk about having to discipline students and how we should go about it.

gap year ghana - lattitude team

What are some of the big differences between Ghana and home?

Living in Ghana is like another world compared to back in New Zealand, as everyday life is different in nearly every single way. Living in Ghana may be a shock at first as things that you have become used to using in your everyday life at home are no longer around, things such as dishwashers, running water, active showers, privacy, steady choice of food etc.

One thing you will notice right away is the difference in climate as Ghana can be twice as hot as an average NZ day. At the start this will take its toll as you adjust but after a few weeks you really do not notice the heat nearly as much as you do when you first arrive. This was the case for all the people in my group. The choice of food is very basic, lots of carbohydrates and very little protein and zero sugar unless you choose to purchase a soft drink or candy bar. Although the food is basic, it does not lack in taste as nearly all the meals which I ate in my 6 month spell I Ioved, and always looked forwards too. The meals can be very heavy and if you do not keep active it can take its toll. Keeping hydrated is incredibly important, far more than it is at home due to the intense heat. Water is easy to come across however as in every village and town you can purchase it with ease and for next to nothing cost wise.

How did you get around?

Travelling in Ghana is something which you will very much want to take part in but the modes of transport are very different to how you get around in NZ. Due to large poverty you will not have easy access to a vehicle which you can drive yourself, instead Ghanaians rely on taxis and tro tro’s. A tro tro is a minivan with around 15 person capacity and is used for the sole purpose of taking people between towns and cities. Your first time using a tro tro may be very confusing and daunting but within a few trips you will have acquired the skill to be able to ride any tro tro and they are by far the most cost effective and easy form of transport for long distance travel.

Tell us about how you got on with Ghanaian food.

I mentioned it briefly before but Ghanaian food, although very plain, is delicious and very filling. Breakfast will usually consist of oats or bread with butter / whatever spread you can get your hands on, as well as a hot drink (Miksi Hot Chocolate should be your drink of choice). Depending on your placement the local dishes will change slightly but at large they are very similar. Some dishes you will come across often are:

– Jolloff Rice, which is like fried rice with a tomato base cooked into it. Delicious.

– Fried rice and chicken served with salad.

-Banku / Fufu – These two are the most Ghanian meals, both being served with soup and meat and eaten with your hands.

Fish is a very common meal if you are placed close to the coast but if you do not want to eat it I highly recommend trying it then politely telling your host family so you avoid offending them. Goat and cow are often eaten in small amounts with dishes like Fufu and Banku but are nowhere near as bad as they sound. Western food is available at certain places, Oasis Beach Resort in Cape Coast being one, but often will cost you around 8-10 times as much as a normal Ghanaian meal would so I recommend eating them sparingly and really getting stuck into Ghanaian cuisine.

gap year ghana - lattitude team

What do you think was your favourite moment/ best thing that happened to you whilst on placement?

I cannot pinpoint one specific moment which I could say would be my favourite as my trip had so many incredible experiences, but all the time spent with my host family, roommate and the other volunteers I remember extremely fondly.

The best thing to happen to me on placement was the people I was placed with as we all became incredibly tight and a few days after writing this we are all meeting up in Wellington.The best thing was making lifelong friendships with my fellow volunteers. The travelling didn’t hurt either!

What positive impact, even small, do you think you made?

I think that being able to interact with people and share parts of my culture with the world as well as learning about the world outside of my box had an impact. Even though we didn’t change the world, the small contributions we made in education and just having fun with the locals, turning up to events and helping promote programs benefited the communities in small ways. I believe that although your aim in volunteering is to try and make an impact in the lives of others in the world it is them that actually have a bigger impact on you and your life.

gap year ghana - lattitude team

Did you travel much in Ghana? Highlights?

I travelled a great deal in Ghana, we were fortunate enough to get 4 weeks off work when the school holidays were on to travel around Ghana as a group. Although 10 people spending 4 weeks straight together can be stressful it was one of the best parts of the trip and we managed to cover Ghana from north to south, spending time in national parks with elephants and other wild beasts to swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the mountains and staying in the highest village in Ghana and being able to look out to Togo from our house. Ghana is a beautiful country and getting to see it all was something I did not expect when I arrived. We also travelled a lot on weekends to all meet up as a group, with people often coming to Cape Coast to enjoy the beach and local culture.

gap year ghana - lattitude team

Did you get on well with the other volunteers?

Easiest yes of my life. As a group, we all became incredibly close and as mentioned earlier are still friends and have arranged to meet up in soon. Due to some delays on our flights over we had already spent three days together before we arrived in Ghana and by the time orientation was over we had already formed a close knit bunch and we all saw each other nearly every week we were in Ghana. I was especially close with the two I was placed with, my roommate and I spending only thirty-two hours apart in six months. I can happily say I formed many lifelong friendships during my time in Ghana.

gap year ghana - lattitude teamCan you give examples of any personal development you may have gained during your time there?

Ghana had a huge influence on who I am as a person and I went through significant personal development in those 6 months. Having to live a very basic life gives you a lot of time for reflection about life back home and how lucky we are to live in a country like New Zealand. One thing I think I really noticed since I left was how much more I appreciate the basic things that I use on a daily basis here, things like hot showers, water that runs when you need it, being able to head to the store and get whatever you need, a comfy bed to sleep on etc.

Living in such close proximity to others for such a long time also really makes you realise things about yourself which you may not have noticed before and will have a huge effect on the way you interact with people around you as it really develops social skills and your ability to understand other humans. In situations like that you have to form close relationships with others and learn to rely on them as well as yourself to overcome hardship or any obstacles in your path.

Finally, what are you doing now, and has your Lattitude experience helped or influenced your path in any way?

I am currently working full time before heading down to Otago University to study economics and political science. I do believe that my Lattitude experience has helped me to settle on this path as taking time to see the world through another lens and really see what is out there before making my career choices opened up more paths than if I had gone straight into university straight out of school.

Jolene - Teaching in Ghana

My Gap Year in Ghana

I’ve always known I wanted to do a Gap Year, but I never wanted to just travel by myself or stay at home and work, so volunteering with Lattitude was a really great way to combine both work and travel, while also doing something useful and helping others.

Africa has been on the bucket list for a long time but I’ve always been wary of the fact that it is quite dangerous, so it was really awesome to see it as an option for volunteering because I knew I would be in a small, safe village. A gap year in Ghana specifically stood out to me because of the way past Lattitude volunteers had described it. Travel within Ghana is so easy, which means they were able to travel each weekend, to each other’s placements and all over the country, plus it has the coast and so much beautiful scenery.

Although Ghana is relatively developed compared to a lot of other African countries, it’s still very clearly quite poor. The main road connecting villages is paved, but the rest is simply dirt and dust. Houses are small and often the whole family will sleep in the same room. It’s a much more intimate experience because everyone lives so close to each other and therefore knows each other. The thing I love most about Ghana is the people. It’s such a relaxed and happy lifestyle, and everybody is always laughing. As well as that, the country is amazing. The beaches and scenery are completely different to anything back at home and it’s so interesting to see.

Gap Year Ghana Community Work

My placement is in a small town called Gomoa ABEA, which is made up of 4 little villages. The lifestyle is very slow and relaxed, everybody is insanely friendly and always wants to know your name or where you’re from or why you’re in Ghana. Everyone will invite you to eat dinner with them or carry your things to your house, and the children always run up and grab our hands and give us hugs, it’s just the happiest environment to be in.

At my placement, we go to a primary school from 8am until 12. We started off observing classes and then started teaching a bit, and now we are painting the library and will hopefully raise enough money to paint the rest of the school too. After 12 we go to a daycare in another village which is specifically made for underprivileged children. We help them with their homework and play with them during break times, and are also fundraising to do some construction work to expand the daycare and add upper primary classrooms.

Ghana Gap Year - Teaching

After the daycare we rest for a few hours and then go and play sport for a charity organisation which funds underprivileged kids to go to school for free. We play either football, volleyball or handball with different groups and are always trying to get more children to join each sport so they can be supported for school, and we also use the sport as a way to raise awareness to the children about the relevant social issues in Ghana such as teenage pregnancy, access to education, mental health awareness, and other problems within the smaller communities.

As well as this work, we are helping out with the organisation of free health screenings in the different communities, and are planning to start visiting different communities to do needs assessments, so we can see if there is anything we can improve about each community.

Ghana Gap Year - Teaching

At home our host family lets us take care of ourselves which is great. We cook our own breakfast and help out with dinner, clean our own dishes, do laundry, sweep and clean our room, and so on. We have a host mother who is retired and stays home most of the day, and a host father who works as a teacher. Their daughter, son, son’s wife and son’s child also live with us, and they’re all so friendly and helpful.

Me and Meg share a pretty big room, we have 2 beds and 2 chairs, and we hung up a washing line between two windows so that we could hang our clothes up on something. We have flushing toilets where all you need to do is bring a little bucket of water into the bathroom with you, and a working pipe as a shower, but because of limited water supply we use the pipe to fill a bucket and then bucket shower.

Everything is smaller than back at home but I love it. We still live very comfortably while at the same time challenging ourselves, and it has definitely made me realise how privileged I am at home and has made me appreciate small things which I never thought of as special before.

Ghana Gap Year - Arrival

There are a lot of differences between Ghana and home and it was a bit difficult at the start since we didn’t really know how everything worked, but it was very easy to cope with all of the changes by just getting into it as much as possible. As long as we looked at the differences in a positive way (eg cold showers are so much more refreshing than warm ones) it made it very easy to become comfortable. As well as that, it was relatively easy for me to deal with any problems by just telling myself that I was only here for 6 months, everything I was struggling with was very temporary, and that it would be over so soon that I would miss it, which helped me a lot and made me appreciate the differences even more, plus I enjoy working with the children a lot so being around them would always brighten my mood.

Gap Year Ghana with Lattitude

My best moment so far was at the end of my second lesson, I had just finished teaching class 4 how to add fractions, which is a concept they’d been struggling with for a few days. As soon as the kids understood how to do it they got very excited, and at the end of class they started cheering and gave me a standing ovation. They were singing and dancing and screaming, and all came up to hug me as I was leaving. That was by far one of my favourite moments, and it was so amazing to see them reacting so happily and gratefully to what I had taught them.

The teaching has really helped me change and develop as well. It has made me become a lot more loud and confident, and I can feel myself becoming a lot more mature and independent as I’m getting used to living by myself and having to take care of my own washing, sweeping, buying toiletries etc. I’m becoming a lot more talkative as well, which I absolutely love since everyone in the village always wants to talk. I’m more involved in the community and just becoming so much happier to live in this village than I was living at home.

Gap Year Ghana with Lattitude

Ghana has made me realise that I love people, especially children, and that I really want to have a job where I help those who need it the most. After Ghana I want to study something along the lines of developmental studies, environmental studies or international relations to help me get a similar job, and I definitely want to come back in the very near future.

Volunteering is a great way to make friends and see a new country while also feeling good because you are helping people. I personally think that community work is the best placement as we can choose different work and specifically focus on doing what individual communities need. It’s amazing and makes us feel so good because we are genuinely changing lives and getting kids educated, meaning they can get a well-paying job and support a family, which they wouldn’t have been able to do without an education. I highly recommend any sort of volunteering, especially in Ghana!

Jake - Teaching in Ghana

Jake's Lattitude Gap Year in Ghana

First arriving in Ghana was incredible; I have done some travelling before but never for so long. Stepping off the plane and the first thing to greet me was a great gust of heat. I was slightly nervous as I had never been to Africa and I didn’t know what to expect. However, from the moment we met our Lattitude Country Manager at the airport to the end of the placement I had the most amazing and unforgettable time of my life. Ghana really is ‘Africa for beginners’.

The first week in country we spent with our Country Manager in a large house north of the capital. This week was essential and I am so glad Lattitude Global Volunteering implemented it into our programme. It covered everything from overcoming the first signs of culture shock to learning the local dance. Then we were escorted to our placements to meet our host families and integrate into our local community.

Everyone in Ghana is so welcoming; at first it can be quite daunting with every other person shouting ‘Hey Obruni! Where are you going?’ (Obruni is ‘white man’ in the local language). But after a while you learn to love this and accept the people for their warmth and spirit.

The most satisfying thing was getting to know the children at my school and engaging with everyone involved. The children are so passionate about their studies and try their hardest on a daily basis. At first the teaching was difficult. After a week or two you become used to the way children in Ghana learn and understand concepts.

Helpful advice for future “gappers”: to talk slowly and clearly so the children can understand. More often than not you will ask whether they understand and they nod their head (with a big smile on their face) whilst you know it may have gone in one ear and out the other. Have patience, be confident and be compassionate. The love they will give you in return you will never forget.

Whilst living in Ghana you may feel a twinge of homesickness every now and again. Don’t let this put you off. There are many ways to keep in contact with your family and friends and as for the homesickness, just try to keep yourself busy and it will soon vanish.

I think my placement has given me confidence in all aspects of my life now. It opens your mind to new places, new cultures and a different way of life. I certainly cannot wait to set sail on another adventure and its all down to my placement.

If you’re up for the experience of a lifetime I would recommend this trip to anyone.

Marissa - Teaching in Ghana

Marissa's in Ghana - Lattitude Gap YearUnforgettable, powerful, inspiring, and eye opening. These are just a few words that describe my life changing experience in Ghana. Whether you’re fresh from high school or looking for a break from university, it’s an excellent opportunity to “find yourself”.

Travelling to Ghana is like stepping into a whole new world. Every aspect of life is overwhelming and different. The people, food, language, temperature , clothing, driving, and the ways and norms of society. These are just a few things that are incredibly different than what we’re used to…but that’s the beauty of it. By embarking on an experience like this you learn: to adapt, about a new culture, and more about yourself.

Teaching is SO much fun. The kids are crazy and rambunctious like all kids back home, but there’s no need to be intimidated. These kids are guaranteed to love you as long as you show up and teach. They thrive and benefit from your expertise in English and are thrilled to have you there. While teaching, you create many bonds with the children and memories that last forever. Even the small moments like listening to them sing during worship or watching their eyes light up when they understand or receive a sticker makes the whole experience so worthwhile.

The people are genuinely kind. They will go out of their way to help you find your destination and will go into lengthy conversations just to find out more about you and why you’re there. Some even go a step further to hold your hands throughout the entire conversation to express their sincere compassion.

Highlights?

Some of my many highlights: having deep conversations under the stars with my host dad and fellow volunteer Mason. Going on a field trip with my school to Kakum National Park to brave the canopy walk. Travelling up North with a couple of great friends to witness the elephants and monkeys during Easter holidays. Coaching a group of phenomenal soccer players and really getting to know them. Fundraising with Mason and Sarah to help build a library and classroom. Hanging out with my little sister Ellen doing absolutely anything and everything together. Having African clothes made (African pants are the best!). Pounding fufu/banku. Having a lizard climb up my pants while passing through the thunderstorms. Being called “Madam Marisa” or “sister Marisa” on a daily basis. And the many weekend escapes to the beautiful beaches with my friends.

I taught at a small, ambitious school by the name of Timoskay School Complex. The family atmosphere was everything I hoped it would be (I already miss them to pieces). The school’s staff was so welcoming, and the students were a blast to teach. This kind of experience is a gift. It’s an opportunity you need to take advantage of because who knows if you’ll get the chance later on.

Looking back I’ve realized that each struggle I’ve faced has been a learning experience that’s made me that much stronger. It’s given me the ability to open my eyes and view the world from a whole new perspective and a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude for our standard of living.

I’m so glad I took on this adventure because I’ve now gained life long friendships, a second family, and an endless collection of unforgettable memories.

Mason - Teaching in Ghana

Mason in Ghana - Lattitude Gap Year

An update from Mason:

I’ve been meaning to send an update earlier but I’ve been busy with teaching and coaching responsibilities. My past month has been nothing short of fulfilling!

During school days I’m still teaching English to the juniors, with the addition of “World Studies” classes I’ve started. This class was started due to the kid’s lack of basic geography, as they couldn’t find themselves on the map. We learn about various countries and geography. Primary class 5 now also have reading blocks with me where they can improve on their oral reading skills. I’m beginning to see a dramatic improvement with them!

At the end of the day it’s straight to the local soccer field to coach. My partner and I coach the U13, U15 and U17 soccer teams. They are a great bunch of local kids who eagerly participate in practice and posses exceptional athletic ability.

I hardly ever get called Mason anymore with acquiring my Fante name Yaw. Yaw comes from the day of the week my birth was on (Thursday). So on my way through the village I can hear Yaw being called from any direction. Being the only white man around I tend to gather a crowd! Saturdays or Sundays are our league matches of which Timoskay is on the top of the league pool. We are training hard in order to prepare for upcoming playoffs, with the hopes of winning the league cup. After season we will be traveling to the capital city to participate in a national friendly tournament.

In my spare time I’ve taken on some projects to fix up the school. With money donated by my old high school, we were able to resurface two worn out chalkboards that were in need of some TLC. During the upcoming term break, the Head Teacher and myself have hired a local mason to come and re-cement all 9 classroom floors. Marisa, myself and another volunteer are raising funds to build the schools desperately wanted library. Over the years Mr. Kainyiah has acquired or had books donated to the school. With the books we purchased for the school and the others donated they now are literally just stacked up in the corner of my room just waiting to be used. It would cost 5000 Cedi (roughly 2500 CDN) to build a permanent library here so I will keep you posted on its progress.

I’m also planning to weed and overturn a garden plot out front of the school. The kids will bring plants to plant when they return from vacation.

This has been what my time in Ghana has consisted of for the most part. Ive had the occasional weekend to travel to the city of Cape Coast which was one of the first slave routes from America. I’ve also been to Axim, on Ghana’s border with neighbouring Cote d’Ivore.

Unique to my placement I have been integrated into Ghanaian life. I eat only ethnic food and I can’t honestly remember what most western foods taste like. I can hold small conversations in Fante but my pronunciation still needs work. I barely notice the heat anymore!

Thank you for taking the time to read this, hopefully I can send another update once some of my projects have been completed.

Mason - Teaching in Ghana

Lucy in Ghana - Lattitude Gap Year

My time in Ghana was a phenomenal, life-enhancing and truly unforgettable experience. Volunteering in Ghana made this the most special and memorable year. I truly feel privileged to have had completed a placement in such a fantastic country

My role in Ghana was to teach English and ICT to various classes. I also worked in the crèche on Fridays. Teaching ICT without a computer was certainly a challenge, as was teaching in a wet classroom full of puddles every time it rained. Just two examples of many I had in Ghana which reminded me of the privileged life I lead at home.

When I first arrived, the children had difficulty understanding my accent. I believe that aside from the teaching, hearing spoken English really helped them develop their language skills. I saw a big improvement in their speech and understanding throughout the course of my placement.

I stayed with Madam Love Kwofie (Grandma) who owns the nursery and primary school, Heavenly Home Academy. Heavenly Home is a wonderful school, with friendly, bright and loving children. Like the rest of the country, it has an amazing sense of community. It didn’t take long before Ghana felt like home. Immersing into everyday life as part of a family was a really big part of that. I was welcomed with open arms and I felt so much a part of everything.

I feel fortunate to have had the chance to meet and interact with the students. Although time has passed, I have to admit my heart is still in Ghana. The friendships and bonds I made and the memories I have gained, mean so much to me. For that reason I would like to thank Lattitude Global Volunteering for the opportunity. The experiences and challenges of living and working in Ghana have made me a more independent, confident and stronger person.

Jordan & Ben - Teaching in Ghana

Clara & Tahlia - Teaching in Ghana

Community Work in Ghana - Football for Hope

Football for Hope - Lattitude Gap Year

6am, Accra, capital of Ghana. A wall of heat hits us as the doors slide open.We wake up and meet our coordinator, Nana, friendly and welcoming. We converse about Ghanaian and our own traditions. We then set off to the centre of Accra to the largest shopping centre. We travel in a Tro Tro, a mini bus type vehicle. Accra was busy! Loud cars, rubble and dust!

The feeling of being a minority begins to settle in. We get back to the hotel and have our first taste of Ghanaian food. Although our pallets were not quite prepared for the heat of the dish, it was bursting with flavour and unbelievably tasty. Tilapia, beans and plantain! Yummy! Our evening brought to a close with information about our new home, filling us with excitement.

The next day, the luscious green flora and dusty red road guides us to Cape Coast. As we crawl to our destination the concrete reappears and the buildings begin to multiply. Beeping cars, and an abundance of weird and wonderful things being sold in the street markets. Our eyes darting everywhere to try and catch  glimpses of the unknown. Finally looking in the distance, the coast, the gulf of guinea, the grey bluish sea blending into the sky.

We meet our host, Madame Adina warm and welcoming! The rest of the house also occupied by other family members, smiles and laughter. The sounds of hymns blaring from the nearby church, we’re home. After the family greeting we move on to our work place, the Play Soccer Centre! Large and spacious, colourful and bursting with energy from the children scattered around. Mixed teams playing soccer and the other children playing the local Ghanaian game Ampe! We try to learn it, but the rules don’t appear to be that clear. The children are smiling constantly murmuring the word ‘obroni’.

The rest of the week, we settle into our home and our daily routine of helping at the centre. Mornings occupied by cutting and weaving water sachets to make a volleyball net. Followed by playing games to break the ice and get to know the children. Afternoons spent exploring the wonders of Cape Coast, finishing up back at the centre helping the children with reading. Evenings spent with other volunteers on a different project, being extremely kind and showing us the ropes.

The days long, the week fast. We are constantly learning and digesting information and the culture. We are not quite used to the slow paced lifestyle. Everyone relaxed, never in a rush, quite different to the pace of life back home. The food is delicious, the fruits, fish, sauces, rice. Our weekend topping off a fantastic week, ending with a canopy walk through a maze of intertwining trees. Struggling to close the mouth with the constant disbelief of being extremely high walking through a green wonderland! Followed by feeling slightly terrified, after touching a supposedly sleeping crocodile, which looked as if it was blinking, or maybe even winking at us. Bring on week two!!!!

Sarah - Teaching in Ghana

Sarah in Ghana - Lattitude Gap Year

I really do feel like I’ve taught my students all sorts of wonderful but useless things. In my very first lesson with Class 4 (which, by the way, feels like a million years ago) I taught them what a narwhal is. You know, those whale-type creatures that have a horn like a unicorn? Everyone needs to know that! And the science behind a sunburn. (“Madam, you are no longer white. You are red! Why?”) And that a cold day in Ghana is like a hot day back home.

But the most important thing I’ve taught them is Creative Arts. This week has been midterm exams. Last term I gave them tests on the principles of design, art knowledge, etc. How boring. I clearly hadn’t figured out yet what Creative Arts is all about. This time I gave all my classes a blank sheet of paper. And they drew whatever they wanted.

When I first arrived I liked Creative Arts, but wished I was doing something more. Which I got to do. I’ve taught a variety of things as well as taking on the younger kids Creative Arts and Library classes as well. And yet, somewhere along the line, I’ve fallen in love with teaching Creative Arts. I’ve always said that education is the key to a kids future. I still believe that. But there’s more to it than that. Creative Arts lets kids just be kids. My school is an amazing school and it absolutely prepares them for whats next. But school is all about the results, and the memorization, exercises, homework, and project work to obtain the best possible marks. When people ask me how the school system is different from ours back home it’s a simple answer: back home is way more interactive.

So that is why my exams were blank pieces of paper. Ready to be drawn on, coloured, and designed. And I was impressed. Not only did they draw, but a bunch of them decided to use my origami book and fold their papers into all sorts of things, and then colour that instead. Finally, some creativity!! These kids are amazing; their enthusiasm never fades. I have 10 days left. I seriously have no idea how that happened.

But I’m leaving with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of goals met. My time in Ghana has literally been nothing like I would of expected. But I can’t for the life of me remember what I thought it would be like. What I know now: I want to come back one day.

Nessa & Maddie - Teaching in Ghana