A Partner West Africa Testimonial
Testimonial 64 of 102
PWA Volunteer with children from Opeikuma in Ghana, West Africa
PWA Volunteer with children from Opeikuma in Ghana, West Africa
PWA Volunteer on a trip on a weekend off work
PWA Volunteer on a trip on a weekend off work

Lucy & Nathan - UK

Programme Completed: New - The PWA Daycare & Nursery Centre

Date Posted: 14/09/2015

The following provide highlights and extracts from the combined testimonies of Lucy & Nathan, a fantastically talented and charming husband and wife team, describing during their time volunteering with Partner West Africa through their internal volunteering department: Volunteer West Africa this Summer of 2015.

The following provide highlights and extracts from the combined testimonies of Lucy & Nathan, a fantastically talented and charming husband and wife team, describing during their time volunteering with Partner West Africa through their internal volunteering department: Volunteer West Africa this Summer of 2015:
"We arrived at the Partner West Africa (PWA) compound in the evening after a day of travelling. Greeted by 4 energetic dogs and 5 sleepy fellow volunteers, who kindly waited up to greet us so our first good look of the compound was not until at 5am the following morning. It was not what I expected at all, plenty of tropical trees and plants, a hammock and plenty of chill out areas. There are 3 buildings at the back of the compound where 70 children from the local community are schooled [and attend VWA's Daycare & Nursery for Vulnerable Children] from 8am-3pm everyday. They receive a hot meal and fruit in-between and are looked after and taught by wonderful staff and teachers. The children, typical children: shouting, screaming, laughing, fighting, crying, and laughing some more, greeted us with big smiles and plenty of hugs. 
Our first taste of Ghanaian life [outside of the VWA compound] was a weekend social trip to Cape Coast, via tro tro [a local public transport mini bus] and coach (air conditioned, a novelty we took for granted in those first few days). Our accommodation was literally on the beach, it was a little paradise I was not expecting, given the view of Africa we are frequently shown in England. The whole group of PWA volunteers bonded on a canopy walk above the Jungle at Kakum National Park. Even though it was scary at first, the views were phenomenal and we gradually forgot how terrified we were. we celebrated our survival by sharing a fresh cocoa afterwards! We then went to lunch at a restaurant by a crocodile park, and actually petted a croc! Our host assured us that they were fed enough chicken to make them docile enough for us to touch them. 
Elmina [a small coastal town a few kilometres from Cape Coast] was the final outing during the Cape Coast trip. I will say that this is a must see for EVERYONE who visits Ghana and any neighbouring countries. It was a plunge into the cold reality of what the human race has shamefully done to one another for financial gain [during the huge slave trade epidemic in the 1700s of which this coastline was the main extraction region for slaves being taken to the Americas and Europe]. It would be very easy to not go there and to avoid the emotional discomfort, but I would highly recommend it to anyone coming to Ghana. We have to see it in order to ensure that we do not allow such atrocities to happen again. 
One of the PWA projects we undertook involved a trip to Opeikuma, a traditional village about 45 minutes from the PWA compound in Kokrobite. We were greeted by Nana Opei Mensah II, a truly kind, caring, sincere and very funny traditional Chief [and an official partner to PWA]. My husband, Nathan, returning from the Ghanaian diaspora for the first time in his life was welcomed with open arms, hugs and kisses and even promised a job in the community and a night in the palace (a humble house, but a palace compared to the even more humble huts that the Opeikuma villagers lived in). He was promised some land and branded as Nana's son and me his daughter in law. It was very touching and humbling to be in this man's company."
Nathan had this to say about his experience in Opeikuma:
"Opeikuma was my first taste of a traditional village in Ghana and what a special place it was. Upon our arrival and as the oldest member of the team, I accompanied Inusah [PWA's Project Manager] to meet Nana Opeh Mensah II at his palace to announce our arrival. He was very pleased to welcome us and I was given a special welcome as I was returning 'home', with lots of hugs, kisses and an offer of land and a job was befitting as I was given the title of the new son of Opeikuma. 
We went to Opeikuma to see what Partner West Africa would be able to do to help them with the development and care of their community [having completed PWA's 2015 project work in this community the NGO is now planning their 2016 agenda]. We therefore carried out a community mapping exercise to see what PWA could further do to help the community. Even on a market day, the community made a big effort to attend and assist us with Chief Nana present throughout. The main issue that came to light was that there were no public lavatories, they had to go out into the bush at all hours in order to relieve themselves, not a very safe trip given the scorpions and snakes [PWA will now look for funding and volunteers to help build and sustain toilet and washroom facilities for the community in 2016].
The Opeikuma community then held a cultural celebration in our honour outside the palace, with one of the elders giving us a short history on the village, followed by drums and dancing, a truly great evening. Both Milla (a fellow PWA volunteer) and I celebrated our birthday [in Opeikuma that day] with good food and 'deke deke' [alcohol-fuelled fun in the local dialect], now a famous phrase among the volunteers! I will definitely be returning to my new village when I return to Ghana next year." 
Lucy continues...
"Anyone visiting Ghana must visit the markets of Accra and enjoy the hustle and bustle, music and colours and marvel in the wonders of this truly unique place. You will become a master at bartering if you follow Inusah's lead. It is an art form that I'm in the process of perfecting. People work so hard and it's a great place to people watch, there is so much going on. I wish I was here for longer than just the 3 week volunteer placement we could manage this time, it is nowhere near enough time for any volunteer, it was just a taster of the PWA projects that are going on...
The most difficult, but I think most important part of the trip, was visiting a community called Agbogbloshie[previously known locally as Sodom & Gomorrah]. Waste disposal is a big issue in Ghana, and this particular community is situated literally on top of a rubbish dump. It is made up of refugees from other areas in Ghana who came to make their home and to scour the dump for anything they could use to make money. The sad truth is that the dump is overfilled with electronic manufacturing waste, the majority of which is sent over in big shipping containers from the international community. Agbogbloshie is known as one of the most contaminated sites in the world. The river that runs through it is thick with rubbish of all kinds. Due to the rubbish blocking the drains there was a lot of flooding in Accra during the rainy season recently, which was believed to have caused a big explosion in the city [as a petrol filling station became submerged in water and the underfund fuel tanks ignited]. Because of this the government has begun bulldozing the Agbogbloshie settlement, flattening people's homes and livelihood. The people literally have nowhere else to go, because lets face it, living on a rubbish dump is not going to be someone's first choice. 
We visited a wonderful woman, Amina, who without being paid, runs a nursery in her home [which VWA regularly supports with food and health provisions], a small shack with a crumbling roof and little in it, no toys, nothing. She takes 40 children everyday for parents of the community so that they are able to go out and make their meagre living. Going into her home was a sobering experience, a harsh lesson for all of the volunteers to experience. the way that some people are forced to live. One of the many things that broke my heart that day was that amidst all of the filth and contamination, were smiling waving children eager to great us with a warmth I have never felt before in my life." 
And Nathan continues...
"After our action packed weekend we returned to the peacefulness of the PWA compound. The peace was extremely short lived though and soon was filled with the laughing, screaming, fighting, and crying of children [from PWA's daycare & nursery centre]. The children here are [chosen from a selection of the most urgently in need of assistance] from the local community of Oshieye. It is very very difficult not to fall in love with these children, who I now see as my new babies, I have grown very fond of them all. You cannot help but smile and laugh when you are around them. You will become a climbing frame, storyteller, cuddle buddy, nose wiper and a mediator between these 70 children. You will be known as Uncle or Aunty and will be loved immediately. It was very sad when the KG2 class children had their final day with us before moving on to full time primary school. Their send off was lots of fun with bubbles, paints, games, music, fighting over toys and ice-cream. All us volunteers walked the kids home and got to meet their families and see their [very humble] homes. The gratitude shown by the families made us very proud to be part of the Partner West Africa team. We will miss these little tyrants very much but feel proud that they are ready to move on. The PWA team and teachers work extremely hard and after my first full day in the nursery I can tell you I slept amazingly well!"
Lucy adds...
"...I know without a doubt that PWA does great things to improve the lives of the local community and the organisation is also trying to branch out further... it is an organisation built on donations; the charity [like all charities] depends upon the kindness and goodwill of others. It is crying out for more donations and also very importantly more permanent local staff. Being made up of mainly volunteers, it is very hard for the permanent staff and the projects that PWA have to make as big a difference as they would like to, it leaves the few permanent staff doing 10+ peoples jobs each. If you come to Ghana it is plain to see just how hard the people here work, from dawn til dusk, which is no different for the PWA team. For example, Matt [PWA's on-site Director] was not as present as we and he would have liked [to spend time with us on a day to day basis] as he was so busy doing a million people's jobs - and missing many meals and lots of sleep - so I will certainly let him off this time. Inusah: project manager, teaching manager, master barter and now a true friend was there as our first point of contact throughout, [thankfully] enabling Matt to [do his best to] get through his massive list of jobs. Kofi [PWA's Facilities Care taker] also stole a piece of everyone's heart and escorted us wherever we wanted to go and took us to our amazing tailor and gave us lots of laughs. if you need anything done around the house Kofi is your guy.
I thought I was prepared to come to Ghana, I packed enough creams and potions to soothe any ailments I thought may come my way. In truth I was prepared for the wrong thing... I should have prepared myself for the bittersweet return to England. I am not ready to go back. I do not want to go back. I have fallen in love with this country and its beautiful people. The only thing that consoles me is that I know I will be returning. 
Of course I was nervous before coming about how I would be received, but all of my worries have quickly dissipated, and those worries now seem trivial and slightly naive to me now. I have been welcomed by every person I have met, in particular the children who are so eager so shout hello across the street and run to shake my hand and ask me how I am. The energetic welcomes and astonishing generosity have warmed my heart.
If you plan to come to volunteer with PWA it is not what you think, it is so much more. Thank you to everyone at Partner West Africa as I very much look forward to seeing you again next year."
And Nathan concludes...
"This trip has always been about more than just volunteering for me so I felt that, with the contact I've had with PWA as well as all of my research into other NGOs in West Africa prior to my arrival, that this Partner West Africa was definitely the organisation I wanted to be involved with and I feel that PWA have shared that feeling with me in return. 
The excitement has been mounting so arriving in my mother and father land for the first time was an indescribable feeling. Getting off the plane to be greeted by PWA's warm smiles and welcomes definitely made me realise I was home. I already see Ghana as my home and one day at a time I want to be a part of the development here and I really would encourage more people from the diaspora to return home and get involved. The warmness of the people, the delicious Ghanaian cuisine, the music, the colours and the welcoming communities have etched a place in my heart forever.
The last 3 weeks working with PWA have been a great and humbling experience. There was plenty of projects to get involved in and. I feel that this experience was the extra push that I needed to really reconnect and get involved in things that will aid the development of Ghana and ultimately the African continent. As my stay here comes to an end I have already been thinking about courses and other things that I can do, alongside my degree back in England, that can give me the skills and additional knowledge that I can bring back with me to assist my new PWA family and Ghana. I feel that I have grown as a person here and met some really great people who I will continue to keep in contact with as our journeys through life progress.
I would like to thank Matt, Inusah and the rest of the PWA team for everything and I WILL see you all next year. You guys are doing a great job and I am very proud to now be associated with you."
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