I was extremely nervous before I left and had absolutely no idea what to expect, which in the long run was a good thing. The little expectations I did have were definitely exceeded when I arrived and met the staff and settled in. Everyone was extremely warm and friendly from the moment I was picked up at the airport. The weekend was busy exploring Koforidua and getting familiar with the Ghanaian food and culture .After seeing how people lived in the town I was relieved to find our dorms very comfortable and clean. The staff at the dorms went out of their way to meet our needs and cook up lovely traditional dinners and hearty breakfasts daily.
Before we began camp at the Orphanage, we were brought to the orphanage to meet the staff and children. Sunday night we spent planning how we would execute the English and Sports camp for the next two weeks. I was glad to find that Nat and the team had already done some basic lesson planning for the week so I felt prepared. Mon-Thurs we worked from about 9am-3pm at the orphanage. The days were well organized and it was comforting to have local staff and teachers there to help us as well. I was pleased that there were other volunteers with me during the program so I could not only make new friends but also have co-teachers to plan with. Even though I am a teacher, the work was challenging but extremely fun. Coming from teaching in West Philadelphia, I was blown away by how well behaved, well mannered and respectful the children were. They were eager to learn and try new things and their excitement for us being there was incredibly rewarding.
In the mornings we taught English using different types of lessons and games. In the afternoons we played a variety of sports and relays. They kids were extremely enthusiastic about the competitions and their excitement was contagious! The favorite parts of the day were when I had some free time to just chat with the kids and learn as much as I could about their day to day lives. They were also eager to ask me questions and learn about my life and family. The days were tiring but we were given plenty of down time in the evening. On the weekend, Nat accompanied our group on a trip to the Cape Coast and was an excellent tour guide. At the end of the two weeks, I could have never imagined how upset I would be to leave the children. The children are amazing and really make everything about working at the camp completely worthwhile, in just two weeks I felt a developed a really strong bond with my entire group of kids. Before I entered this experience, I would have never guessed I would have wanted to stay longer!
Overall, my experience is exactly what I was looking for in a volunteer program. This was the first time in my life I travelled somewhere alone and although it was somewhat terrifying at first, it ended up giving me a certain confidence that I definitely did not know I had before. I made sure to stay open-minded and patient the entire trip. At times, when I wanted to feel frustrated with some of the ways of the culture (for example, lack of punctuality…) I reminded myself that it was part of the whole learning experience. I would not have done anything differently and I am completely satisfied with the program. I felt by having the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture I was able to come away with a life changing experience that I will surely never forget.