Ansh Johri - Care & Community in Ghana
It was a cold winter day and I was at home surfing the web, as usual. When I say surf, I mean about the most random things imaginable. The seconds ticked away, and soon became minutes, and before I knew it, I spent three hours doing almost nothing. Man, I thought, I definitely need to get out and do something. I remember that I was daydreaming about eating pie that day and could hear my mom talking what seemed like a mile away, discussing with my dad what our plans for that summer would be. As my thoughts drifted, I got an idea. I felt my fingers automatically typing on Google, “volunteering projects abroad” and clicking the second link.
That’s how I found out about Projects Abroad. I realized that I wanted to try making my summer break more productive than my winter. After reading about what Projects Abroad offers, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to volunteer abroad, something I had always craved, visit Africa, one of the few continents I had not yet visited, and not waste my time on the computer all summer long.
I must admit, after deciding to go on the two week Care and Community special to Ghana, I was unsure of what to expect. After all, I had heard that the village of Kwamoso, in which I would be staying at during the first week, had no running water or electricity. Before I knew it, I found myself packed and on the ten hour flight from the U.S. to Accra, Ghana. When I arrived at the airport, I was immediately greeted by locals from Projects Abroad who took me to the village of Kwamoso in the hills.
As soon as the other volunteers and I arrived at our host family’s house, we were greeted by a dozen kids who excitedly chanted the Twi word for foreigner, “Obruni!” and came to shake our hands. When I got to my room, a young man named John and one of the sons of Reverend Fianco, Kofi, immediately helped me set up my bags and mosquito net. As night approached, I felt scared, thinking that it would be pitch black and hard to see where I was going. I told John and Kofi that I didn’t have a torch and in the blink of an eye, I saw myself holding a fully charged flashlight that they lent me.
Over the course of my first week stay in the hills, we took part in several activities. On the first day, we shovelled mud from a large pile outside into a classroom floor. The mud was eventually mixed with cement powder and cemented across the entire classroom floor. We soon started painting the walls of the classroom, and other tasks like removing weeds and such. We also made mud bricks, which was quite a dirty task.
The most memorable task from the entire Ghana trip was taking little plants and planting them on top of a mountain. We hiked, literally at least a mile and a half up a near 45 degree grade into the mountain! Not sound tedious enough? Well, the entire climb was through a jungle with vegetation 10 feet high and almost no clear path to follow. Yep, it was definitely quite an experience. By the time we got back down to the village, we were covered in bugs and spiders and mud. A word of warning: Bring bug spray and long pants. Enough said.
When the kids came back from the local school, around 3pm, we often played with them; usually it was playing catch with a couple of tennis balls that I brought for them from home. During late evening, the volunteers usually played cards, while some of the kids came to watch and sometimes even play. All too soon, we had to leave the hills; it was sad that I could spend so little time with my new young friends.
The following week, we arrived at my new host family’s house. I lived in royalty, literally. Our host mother was the wife of the ex-military general of Ghana. We were cooked luscious food, and even had two maids who cleaned our rooms and beds everyday for us. This time, the house actually did have running water and electricity which made our life a lot easier. That week, we went to the New Life orphanage everyday for around six-seven hours, where we painted walls, played with the kids, etc. I would definitely recommend bringing some kind of small toys, such as a soccer balls, to the orphanage. This helps keep the children busy and away from trouble. After all, small kids can be mischievous at times.
After going to Ghana, I have reflected upon how much I take things for granted. It was such a different environment, lacking so many “technologies” we have here at home. At first glance, one may think that Ghana is uncivilized and that the western world is so much greater. However, this is completely untrue. Ghana has such a diversified culture, where everyone considers each other to be their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers… which leads to a much closer knit society. Everyone is always smiling and is never in a hurry. People who have never met each other before often find themselves chattering with each other as if they’ve known each other for ages.
I highly, highly recommend anybody unsure whether to go to actually go. Go out there and visit the country where you, the people, the roads, the trees, the hills, the bugs, and even the houses without electricity or running water, all become one