Catherine Jones - Australia

Post date: Oct 26, 2010 10:25:57 PM

Firstly, can I just say that to really get the most from any volunteering experience, I think you need to stay for a minimum of 6 weeks-2 months. Coming to another country for 2 weeks isn’t enough to even let your feet hit the ground (and the amount of work involved for an NGO to coordinate your visit...eek!). In a month you can definitely achieve something, so it’s better than nothing, but be aware you won’t really have made a home for yourself here and by the time the culture shock wears off you’re heading home again...

Secondly, if you get the opportunity to work in a rural setting in Ghana – go for it! I have been working in a clinic in Amanase (and no, I don’t mean Amasaman!) – It’s a small rural village about 1.5 hrs north of the volunteer residence in Pokuase (well, it takes that long in a tro-tro but it is not so very far!) The welcome I had in the village – by the nursing staff, the Youth Club, residents, everyone – was phenomenal. Working in a rural village is an entirely different experience to working in or near Accra (I’ve been comparing notes with other volunteers) - the people are so friendly (but perhaps in a more gentle way...), full of laughter and fun, and so very generous...I will be leaving a second family when I go home today...

You need to be realistic about your expectations in a 3rd world country though - you won’t find western food in rural areas like this (and definitely no internet, flushing toilets, running water...) - they are the real deal. But the food here is good and cheap (I bought some waakye for lunch yesterday and it cost about 20cents) and I found that otherwise things are simple, but sanitary and very safe. The biggest expense for me was the tro-tro, which cost 1GHC30p each way, but I was well and truly taken care of in every other way. (I am only including prices because Hayford gets a lot of questions...)

Generally small clinics will work on minor treatments and midwifery – major issues are referred to bigger hospitals and clinics. The clinic in Amanase has 2 mornings of antenatal clinic and 2 mornings of Child Welfare Clinic each week. The CWC is generally conducted under the trees outside, or sometimes we would go to an outlying (really rural) village and have the clinic there for people who otherwise don’t get access to services. CWC involves weighing babies and toddlers and giving them their vaccinations – so if you’re into kids, this is definitely your thing!

As for working for VPWA – well, I chose to come because when I was deciding where to go and what to do I felt that I was getting the necessary support and answers. But coming here – I am in awe of what Hayford has already achieved and I can’t wait to see more as the story unfolds. He needs people who can come and take the initiative – offer ideas, develop plans and make projects come to fruition – so get involved people! The beauty is he may mange the organisation, but he’ll welcome any ideas or input you have to offer. He’s also just a decent guy and good to have a laugh with. He takes care of his people and the environment here with the other volunteers, Nuumo and Princess, the neighbours in the compound - it is one of family. (PS – when you come – tell everyone I say hi! :D