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Chris the Football Coach on Arriving in Ghana with VWA

Chris the Football Coach on Arriving in Ghana with VWA

Date Posted: 05/04/2016
Meet Chris. Chris joins us from North London for 5 weeks on our Football Coaching Volunteer Programme. Hear what he says about his first impressions of Ghana and VWA...
My First Impressions of Ghana

After months of researching different volunteering programmes the day finally arrived for me to fly out to Ghana to work with Volunteer West Africa (VWA). After several conversations with Matt, the Charity's Founder, I was confident I had a good idea of what to expect and was excited to get out there and be a part of the great work they're doing. Despite this, I was, on arrival at the airport, somewhat anxious to say the least! Other than the odd two week holiday I had never been away from home by myself before and to know that I'd be spending the next 5 weeks in a totally unknown environment was daunting. As I took my flight and spoke to a number of Ghanaians heading home for Easter my anxiety subsided and I became increasingly excited about the experience ahead.

Upon arrival in Accra the first thing I noticed was the intense heat! I knew it was going to be hot but nothing could have prepared me for the humidity which was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. After collecting my bags I was greeted by the beaming smile of Inusah, the General Manager of Volunteer West Africa, who had kindly come to collect me. Being Good Friday the roads were particularly busy, with many people returning to their families for the Easter break, and it quickly became apparent that the rules of the road are very different to England - organized chaos would probably be the best way to describe it! Fortunately, we avoided any mishaps and left Accra unscathed. As we headed away from the city and towards the house in a small coastal village called Oshieye the poverty was clear to see. Children roamed the streets, walking up the middle of the road begging for money as people sat in traffic. Small houses, no bigger than most people's living rooms, were occupied by families of 10. No electricity. No running water and no sewage system. You regularly see on TV the conditions  some people live in but never truly appreciate it until you witness it first hand. It was somewhat upsetting but made me feel good about being here as I could see what a positive impact my work, and the work of Volunteer West Africa in general, would have on these communities.

Having arrived over the Easter break my first few days were spent acclimatising and familiarising myself with the local area. As with all Volunteer West Africa volunteers, I was given an induction that consisted of learning about the local culture and how to stay safe in the area, and also given some useful information about the language and the way to interact with local people. Having gone through this I was then taken into town by another Volunteer West Africa employee, Kofi. During this trip Kofi showed me how to use the various forms of public transport, where to withdraw money, where to purchase a SIM card and Internet, and where to do my shopping. This did wonders for my confidence and made me feel a lot more familiar with my surroundings. Despite this, my first few outings were still slightly unnerving. Being one of very few white people in the area I attracted a lot of attention. I had been warned that this would be the case but it is an unusual experience having everyone either stare or shout greetings at you! More often than not, people were keen to just talk to me and introduce themselves but the language is quite aggressive sounding so can be intimidating at first! Of the people I did speak to all were very welcoming though which gave me greater confidence.

Having gained some confidence from the trip into town I accepted an invitation from Kofi and Mary (another Volunteer West Africa staff member) to go to the beach that night for the weekly 'reggae night'. There are several bars by the beach with 'Big Millie?'s Backyard' being the main attraction. After buying my first drink and sitting looking out over the sea I could see why this was such a popular place, and quickly forgot about the miserable weather back in England. The beach is beautiful and there was a real party atmosphere as the live reggae band played through the night. For anyone thinking of coming here I'd suggest brushing up on your dancing skills because Ghanaians really know how to dance!

Easter Monday is notorious here for being one of the biggest holidays of the year with thousands of people heading to the coast for a day at the beach. After spending much of the day avoiding the crowds, myself and two other volunteers decided to wander down to the local beach to experience the madness. As suspected, it was crazy! The crowds were similar to those you'd get at a football match. People everywhere, loud music, and a crazy party atmosphere. Certainly something worth seeing!

After the public holiday 70 children from some of the most under-privileged families in the community returned to the nursery run by Volunteer West Africa. For children who have so little they were the happiest and most enthusiastic kids I've ever met, with smiles that could melt even the coldest of hearts. It is clear that they love being here so it gives me great pride to know that the work Volunteer West Africa does has such a positive impact on the lives of these children who would otherwise have very limited access to healthcare, education, food, or clean water.

After a varied and exciting first few days I am confident that I made the right decision to come to Ghana and, more specifically, Volunteer West Africa. The people that work here are great, the locals are friendly, and the kids at the nursery are so unbelievably cute. As with any volunteering experience in Africa you need to come with a very open mind as the culture differences are huge and the poverty is thought provoking, but the general atmosphere, with everyone seemingly happy and welcoming in spite of having very little, is great, and the noticeable difference the work of Volunteer West Africa makes to the local community should make my visit a very fulfilling and enjoyable one.

Chris Holmes - VWA Volunteer
Author: Volunteer West Africa

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