VPWA Volunteer Rachel Carter Shares Her Experience

Rachel Carter
January 2013
Street Library Ghana

My experience as a volunteer at VPWA in January 2013 was eye opening and rewarding. I worked on the Street Library Ghana project with another volunteer, Sarah. Our main role was to get support from businesses for a book drive to raise the resources needed to establish permanent community based street libraries.

I was surprised at the generosity of the publishing firms that we contacted. During one month we received over 700 books including comics, textbooks and storybooks. Much more work is however needed to get very basic books suitable for teaching children to read.

A highlight of my time in Ghana was the opening of the first community based library at J’Ann Royal International School. Joseph, the Principal of the school is clearly dedicated to improving the education of children in his community and it was amazing to see the varied program that the school runs on a very limited budget.

Travelling during the weekends was a good chance to see more of a very diverse country and learn about its history. I went with some other volunteers to Mole National park, which I found most interesting for gaining insight into rural life in Ghana, and to the Cape Coast.

As a small, locally run NGO, VPWA has a personal approach to its volunteers. People were matched to roles that suited their interests and Hayford and his wife, Portia hosted us for dinner each week. As Hayford included me in meetings with local organisations, I got a sense of the Ghanaian business environment.

These aspects helped make my time in Ghana very worthwhile. I think that in order to make the most impact to local communities during your time volunteering, it is useful to keep an open mind about which projects need the most help from foreign volunteers.

Although I originally planned to do a placement more related to my current studies (nutrition), I feel that I gained a lot from working on tasks that are really core to the success of a NGO, such as proposal writing and sponsorship, while also having opportunities to interact with locals through the library opening at J’Ann.

I hope that this short volunteer experience will not be my first and last time in Ghana.