Allison Villane - Physiotherapy in Ghana
My name is Allison and I am from New Jersey. I am currently a senior at the University of Miami in Florida. I am studying health science and psychology on the pre-physiotherapy track. I decided to come to Ghana for many reasons. First, I have had many experiences shadowing physiotherapists in the United States. I have worked in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and Pilates environments. After getting an idea of what physiotherapy is like here in the United States, I was curious to see what it could be like somewhere completely different.
Another reason I chose to go to Ghana with Projects Abroad was the fact that I have never travelled on my own. I have never been anywhere outside of the east coast of the United States and I have always wondered what experiencing another culture would be like. I had always dreamed of visiting Africa.
The final reason I decided to travel to Ghana with Projects Abroad was that giving back and helping others is one of my favourite things to do. Giving back is something that makes me unbelievably happy and I hope to make others happy as well. Due to these three reasons, I began searching the web for ways to do all three. I found Projects Abroad where I could observe physiotherapy, travel to a new country, and give back to those in need. After much research, Ghana seemed like the right fit for me.
The journey began at home, with filling out my visa application, getting vaccinated, gathering donations from friends and family, and packing up clothing and bug spray. I travelled from New Jersey to Ghana with a quick layover in London. When I got to Ghana, I was driven to my placement in Nungua, a suburb of Accra. I met my host family and quickly felt welcomed. Soon, I met my roommates, volunteers from all over the world. My family in Ghana instantly made me feel welcome. They always made sure I was well fed. We had three meals prepared for us per day.
The staff members with Projects Abroad were very welcoming. They all reached out to me to make sure I was adjusting well to a new culture and way of life. They made sure I was comfortable in my host placement and in my volunteer work. I felt supported. There was always somebody willing to listen to what I had to say and hear me out on any concerns I had.
On my first day, the Projects Abroad staff took me around and showed me how I would get to work each day. We also visited a local Chop-Chop Bar, where I was able to taste traditional Ghanaian food amongst the locals. The staff made sure we were safe and they planned many events to keep us entertained and engaged throughout the weeks. One evening, I learned to play the drums and had a Ghanaian dance lesson. They even planned trivia nights for us and organised a day for us to paint a local orphanage.
My Physiotherapy placement
My volunteer work in Ghana was something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life. I spent three weeks at New Horizon Special School working with the physiotherapist, Tony. The school was very nice. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and showed me how the school ran.
Each morning, I loved visiting the students at their assembly, where they sing and dance. Students go to physiotherapy for about an hour per day, depending on their needs. I was able to learn about children with cerebral palsy, autism, and Down syndrome. Tony was patient with me and taught me the proper way to work with the children. He explained how we could help them. I even had the chance to travel with Tony and the other Ghanaian volunteers to buy new wheelchairs for the children.
The children were so friendly and each one impacted my experience. They always had a smile on their faces, no matter how much pain they were in. Everyone at the school was interested in my life at home. The other volunteers from the University of Ghana shared details about their culture with me, while I shared with them more about mine. Although our lives and the places we come from are very different, we realised that we have the same passion for working with children to improve their care and mobility.
Volunteering at New Horizon not only gifted me with knowledge and experience, but I was also gifted with amazing friendships and lifelong memories. I hope to return to the school one day to visit my friends, the students and faculty, and share with them the things I’ve learnt as I continue my education in physiotherapy in the US.
My free time
All volunteers had free time on the weekend. This was our time to explore the amazing country. I spent time hiking the Wli Waterfalls and I took a trip to Cape Coast to explore the castles and Kakum National Park. There are always other volunteers eager to travel, so the opportunities for places to go and people to meet are endless.
I made lifelong friendships with the other volunteers and I hope to be able to meet up with them one day in the future. From figuring out our way around on tro-tros to discovering karaoke bars on the side of the road, each day was an adventure for us. We quickly became a little family in our home. It may have just been because there were 10 of us sharing one bathroom, or maybe it was the loving vibe of the Ghanaian community. We backed each other up when the taxis tried to overcharge us and we had many laughs every time somebody called us “obronis”. Each volunteer taught me new things about their work in Ghana. Many of them inspired me to continue travelling and helping people in need.
My overall experience
Overall, my time in Ghana was a once in a lifetime experience that will remain close to my heart for the rest of my life. I learned about myself and about others. I realised how strong and independent I am. I feel so grateful for the luxuries I have at home and I have learned not to take simple things for granted. The people in Ghana are so friendly and welcoming. I am inspired to emit as much joy for life and happiness as the many people I met in Ghana. Now that I am home, when I begin sharing stories with my friends about Ghana, I wish to be back with my friends in the school and with my host family!