A Partner West Africa Testimonial
Testimonial 84 of 102
PWA Volunteer Sophie gained work experience in nutrition and health working with children and teachers in Ghana, West Africa

Sophie - UK

Programme Completed: Nutrition, Diet & Hygiene

Date Posted: 19/04/2015

As my 5 weeks in Ghana come to an end, I'd like to share some of my experiences with you. My background is in nutrition and health so my volunteer placement was designed around this so as to ensure I could be as effective as possible. Training the nursery staff in basic nutrition was a really rewarding challenge for me, as they care for and feed the children everyday and so are ideally placed to deal with nutritional issues as they arise. The training included what a balanced diet is and why it's important; discussing over and under nutrition and the consequences there-of; nutrient deficiencies; and outward signs and symptoms of malnutrition. The staff responded well and so I am proud that I played a part in improving their capacity to care for the children in future.

"As my 5 weeks in Ghana come to an end, I'd like to share some of my experiences with you. I've volunteered in Africa once before but I chose Partner West Africa (PWA) through their internal volunteering department: Volunteer West Africa this time as I like what the organisation stands for: engaging with local partners and communities to give them what they actually need (not what we think they need) and ensuring that all money goes towards the community rather than the organisation. Chatting with Matt, PWA Director, over email about what contribution I could make as a volunteer, before I officially signed up, was great: It was Matt's friendly and open approach which solidified my decision to join the PWA team.

My background is in nutrition and health so my volunteer placement was designed around this so as to ensure I could be as effective as possible. Early on in my placement I visited Agbogbloshie slums/shanty town, known locally as Sodom and Gomorrah. It's an area that thousands of people call home despite it being a toxic e-commerce waste landfill site. PWA supports an incredible lady called Amina, who cares for 30 children while their parents work on the waste site. It was moving to see the selfless sacrifice Amina showed by hosting the children every day and protecting them from the likely alternative: working on the waste site with their parents to salvage resoluble rubbish. Later in my volunteer placement I was able to return to Amina and the children as part of a PWA children's health project where the team and I screened and treated a number of vulnerable children for common health concerns and diseases like malaria. This was the final stage of a much larger PWA children's health project that I was part of. We completed events in three of PWA's partner communities where we worked in partnership with the Ghana Health Service to screen and treat the community's adults and children for free.  

I also spent some of my placement working in the PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre for vulnerable children. Training the nursery staff in basic nutrition was a really rewarding challenge for me, as they care for and feed the children everyday and so are ideally placed to deal with nutritional issues as they arise. The training included what a balanced diet is and why it's important; discussing over and under nutrition and the consequences there-of; nutrient deficiencies; and outward signs and symptoms of malnutrition. The staff responded well and so I am proud that I played a part in improving their capacity to care for the children in future.

During my stay, PWA were trying to recruit a new cook for the guest house, so the lovely Ramatu (PWA's House Manager) was cooking delicious meals for us all. Together Ramatu and I designed a 2 week rota of continental and African meals that hopefully you will enjoy if you come to stay with PWA! As part of this work I visited the local markets and got to see the huge variety of fresh and colourful ingredients for sale and how much they all cost. I left Ramatu in charge of haggling over prices in Twi with the stall owners! Ramatu also taught me how to make some of the traditional African dishes which I'll have to try out at home, though I'm pretty sure I'll have to return to Ghana for the authentic yam and palava sauce.

My time also included for plenty of fun activities for the children PWA supports, like taking them to play games on the beach or making salt dough decorations that they could paint. I also designed and delivered a range of oral health sessions with kindergarten classes which was fantastic, although it turned into a very messy practical 'how to brush your teeth' lesson!

In between all this I've still had time to chill out in the hammock in the guest house garden, go for runs along the beautiful beach, visit Cape Coast with its old slave trading castle (seeing the slave shackles and branding iron will stay with me forever), visit Kakum National Park, wander round the cool air-conditioned new shopping mall, and of course enjoy a cold beer at some of the beach bars.

The volunteer guest house is surprisingly luxurious! There were running showers, which I wasn't expecting based on my previous experience of Africa and after just a day or two the house felt like home; it's safe and clean and only a few minutes walk from the beach! Living somewhere so nice that was also so close to some of the desperate conditions local people live in made me consider how lucky I am. It was so difficult knowing that, for instance, during a tropical down pour through which I was sitting in the comfort of my room, the children I was working with each day were probably getting rained on through the cracks in their crumbling roofs, or that I could sleep under the safety of a mosquito net while they slept on the floor vulnerable to malaria. Realising these difficulties faced by millions of people worldwide has challenged me and, without wanting to sound clichéd, I'll leave Ghana with a different perception of the world around me and my place in it.

I love my Ghanaian family - Matt, Inusah, Peter and Ramatu, Comfort, Little Lizzie, Big Lizzie and Florence (and the pet cat and dogs... even loveably naughty Oshie!). The nursery children are amazing and are always happy to have a cuddle before school starts... and after school... and at break time! It was lovely to walk them home at the end of the school day with them holding your hand and skipping along next to you.

All in all there's nothing I would change about my stay with PWA (apart from maybe the mosquitos which love me almost as much as I love Ghana!). I'd definitely recommend volunteering with PWA as I am hoping to come back real soon!"

 

 

How can you help?
  • If you would like to also volunteer on the Children's Health Hygiene and Nutrition programme, please click here.
  • If you would like to volunteer or partner with PWA on any of our other projects or programmes, please click here.
  • If you would like to make a donation, of any amount, on a one-off or monthly basis, to the PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre, please click here.
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  • If you would like to support our charity in any other way - for example by donating goods like children's clothes or materials like mosquito nets, or helping us promote our charity through social media or identifying like-minded potential partners - please download the 'How you can support  us' Brief which is located in the introduction text of our Donate Page here.
  • Or, finally, if you would like to talk to our team about any other issue regarding our charity, our projects, or our volunteering & partnership opportunities, please click here.

Thank you

Donation Payment Methods

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