My trip to Ghana was my first experience of travelling abroad independent of my friends and family, and one I will never forget. To this day, I still have beads around my ankle which were placed on me 5 years ago, which act as a constant reminder to be thankful for the life and opportunities I have. It is very easy to forget how fortunate we are to have been born into these circumstances, but my experiences in Ghana allowed me to see how there are people in this world who are happier with far less and so I try to be more aware and grateful for the life I have.
I am currently studying a long-life dream at university and it’s hard to imagine that there are countless people all over the world who, for many different reasons, do not have access to education, something so fundamental and essential to life.
Signing up for this trip was not a decision I made lightly. I had been wanting to travel for a while, so when I saw the opportunity to visit a completely new country and have the opportunity to give back to the community at the same time, I thought it was the perfect match. There were moments in the lead up when I would think ‘what am I doing?’, but to this day, I’m so glad I didn’t pay any attention to those thoughts. Life is short. Its fragile and unpredictable. If you get the chance to do something amazing, take it. You never know when that opportunity will come around again.
Getting to see a country I may not have ever previously thought of visiting, meeting local people who are accommodating and willing to give despite having so little themselves, building friendships that last a lifetime, experiencing new food and different customs, picking up words from a new language, these are just a few examples of why this experience will stay with me for a lifetime. Experiences like this are not always easy, but they’re worth it. They thrust you out of your comfort zone, from what you’ve always known, into a world of unknown and this can sometimes seem frightening. But growth cannot be found in comfort. In order to grow mentally, physically or spiritually, you must experience some form of uncertainty and change.
By volunteering abroad, you experience things you never thought you would and overcome situations with a sense of pride and strength. It is very rewarding to be in a position where you are able to give back to those who are less fortunate than yourself and I urge anyone who is in a position to do so, to act, to take steps to change someone’s life for the better.
I spent a month in the beautiful community of Ada Foah, on a beach surrounded by beautiful smiley faces who would greet you in the morning and accompany you throughout the day. We got to bathe in the river and be at one with nature again, a natural state for us which we often forget in this busy, fast paced world we live in. It is a joy to be free from the accessories we consider to be vital in our day to day life. To be WIFI free and finally put your phone down and have real conversations and connections with people around you. To truly immerse yourself in the local community and integrate with the children and their families. The work was tough, yes, there’s no denying that, but the reward is so much more. To know that by giving a small fraction of your time, you may affect the lives of so many people for the better is something you could never explain or recreate.
The ‘classrooms’ the children had before as part of their school had no floor or roof, which meant that when it rained heavily, school would need to be cancelled as it was impossible to continue a class in those conditions. To know that through our work, a lot of children will no longer have to worry about school being cancelled due to something as trivial as rain, is gratifying and humbling. I will never forget those children, their positivity, their smiles and warmth and their perseverance. I hope one day to return and witness how much they’ve changed and what they have achieved.
I couldn’t recommend volunteering enough. You have the opportunity to experience a country for what is truly is by immersing yourself among the locals and their customs and for a small fraction of your life, you could have a huge impact on someone else’s. You will grow as a person and overcome challenges which you may never have thought you could have and you will leave with a sense of pride and achievement. The only downfall, is that you will forever miss those children and what you experienced there, but your memories will forever remain with you and the contribution of what you’ve left behind.