Going to Africa was a life-long dream. When a friend of mine recommended Uvolunteer, I knew that this was the right organization for me. I had been looking into so many different organizations for so long, but never found the right one. I immediately told my best-friend (Sammar) about this, and within the next week we decided to experience this journey together. I was extremely anxious when we arrived in Ghana. This trip exceeded all my expectations. Although I set out to merely help others, I returned with several valuable life lessons.
In Ghana, everyone was extremely friendly from the moment we arrived. I was a little worried about our living arrangements but I was so relieved to see our house. It was clean, comfortable, and safe. Our first weekend was busy with orientation and getting to know the city, food and culture. Our program coordinators, Fred and Annette, were always there to listen and answer any questions or concerns we had. They made us feel right at home. I am so grateful to them and cannot imagine our trip being the same without them.
On our second day, we were even able to attend a Ghanaian funeral which immediately opened my eyes to the culture. Unlike the costumes here in the U.S., the funeral was not treated an occasion for mourning but rather an opportunity to celebrate the deceased’s life. It is a party filled with dancing and joy. At the funeral I realized how friendly, warm-hearted, generous, and accepting everyone in Ghana was. They made us feel comfortable, and wanted us to engage in their culture. Frequently people would walk up to us and say “God bless you”–a statement that I can only imagine stemmed from them feeling that we had come to their country to help.
On our first Monday morning Fred and Annette took us to the orphanage to show us around and let us know what our job description would be for the next two weeks. At first it was hard for me to take everything in, seeing all the children and the lifestyle made everything so much more real. I was simultaneously happy, sad, and excited. I immediately knew that these children and this journey would be teaching ME more on the value of life than I would ever be teaching them.
That first day at the orphanage we learned that one of the children (Naomi) was very sick. Once we met Naomi we both felt an immediate connection with her. We knew that we had to help her. Once we talked to Annette and Fred about it, they arranged for us to take her to the hospital on our first day off. She was admitted to the hospital for malnutrition and we found out that once a child is admitted, someone has to be with her 24/7. Alec, one of the other volunteers, was part of our team to help Naomi, we set up different shifts with Fred, Alec, Sammar and I spending hours at the hospital each to care for her. During the next two weeks, we spent half the day at the orphanage and the other half at the hospital with Naomi. I do not have enough words to describe how thankful I am to Fred for helping us take care of Naomi. He went above and beyond his duty by being with Naomi day and night, treating her like his own child. He was there to guide us and help me deal with some of the difficulties I had seeing the children at the hospital and just dealing with a new culture and country.
Since our schedule was so busy we did not have the time to travel the country as much as we hoped for. We were able to visit the Boti Falls on our first weekend. We planned a one night trip with some of the other volunteers we had met. The falls were beautiful and definitely worth seeing.
I have had a lot of memorable chapters in my life, but none compare to this life changing experience. From the culture, country, children, and people I met along the way to the friendships I’ve made with Fred, Annette, and the other volunteers. I am truly blessed to have met such wonderful people and I know that I have made some life-long friends.
I would recommend going to Ghana to anyone that is even remotely interested in doing volunteer work in Africa; it was a beautiful country with beautiful people. The only thing I regret is that I did not stay for a longer period of time. If not for the responsibility of a full-time job, I would have changed my flight and stayed an extra month at least. Since being back I have been thinking on a daily bases about how and when I can go back. This trip has awakened a passion in me that I could have never imagined and I am hoping to add many more chapters in my volunteer journeys of this type.
Again, thank you Nat for your wonderful organization and Thank you Fred for an amazing experience and journey.