A Partner West Africa Testimonial
Testimonial 55 of 102
PWA Volunteer Chris teaching young men from Oshieye, Ghana

Chris - UK

Programme Completed: Soccer/Football Coaching & Development

Date Posted: 01/05/2016

So, after 5 weeks with Partner West Africa it's time for me to return to the UK. Whilst looking forward to seeing friends and family it is with some reluctance that I leave after having the most amazing time in this incredible country.

"So, after 5 weeks with Partner West Africa (PWA) it's time for me to return to the UK. Whilst looking forward to seeing friends and family it is with some reluctance that I leave after having the most amazing time in this incredible country. 
 
Throughout my time here my main project has been to create a football team in Oshieye, the community in which Partner West Africa is based. Oshieye is an under developed fishing community where most people lack basic sanitation, water and electricity. Being the area in which PWA is based the charity already does a lot of great work within the community, the biggest being running the PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre for children aged 2-5. PWA provide 70 unbelievably sweet children from the community with an education, healthcare, food, and drink in the hope that all children will attend school upon leaving the nursery. By looking after these children the charity already has great relationships with many members of the community. However, the young men were a previously untapped group so my aim was to develop relationships with this demographic so PWA had the opportunity to have a positive impact on all members of Oshieye.
 
Upon arrival at the volunteer guest house I was amazed at the quality of the accommodation and food. The staff work incredibly hard to provide a clean environment and good, healthy food to ensure you feel energised to make the most of your volunteering programme. On your first day you are given a briefing to discuss what your role will be during your time with the charity. In addition, you are given an introduction to the area that involves changing your money into Ghanaian currency, using public transport, sorting out your phone and internet, and visiting the supermarket. This gives you a great understanding of how things work here which is useful in building your confidence. Despite this, you need to go into every situation with an open mind as it is very different to the western world and there are several things that take some getting used to - the staring, the (friendly) shouts of 'Obruni' (white person) as you walk past, the unusual and sometimes hilarious public transport and, most noticeable, the poverty. All of these things are initially quite unnerving and can be upsetting but you quickly become accustomed to the way things are and within a week you'll wonder why you were ever nervous about going out by yourself!  
  
After my induction, much of my first week was spent familiarising myself with the area and climate. Having arrived over the Easter break it was busier than usual with thousands of people heading to the beach for the weekend parties. Being new to the area I decided to go to the beach to see what was happening and it was insane! There were literally thousands of people on the beach so much so that you could barely move! This was a slightly overwhelming experience but was interesting to see and certainly helped me become more confident as I felt I could cope with anything after surviving that! 
 
In addition, I spent some time that week observing the players I would be working with to see what sort of standard they were. What was instantly apparent was that no one had ever received formal coaching before but instead just played matches. I therefore started planning sessions that would introduce them to proper training to improve their playing ability. Having coached youth football in the UK I was confident that the transition to coaching adults would be straightforward enough. Boy was I wrong! As word of a new coach from the UK spread around Oshieye more people than ever turned up to train, with 35 people turning up to the first session. Whilst the number itself isn't too daunting, the fact that I didn't know any of them and that they spoke broken English made the session somewhat challenging! At first I had to explain things numerous times before they understood what I was asking them to do. This is a little frustrating so patience is a must!
 
As training progressed, people gradually gained a better understanding of what was required and their playing ability improved significantly. This was great to see and showed that what I'd been doing hadn't gone to waste! Despite the initial issues, the players were great to work with and showed amazing commitment to everything we were trying to achieve, with the number of players attending each session ranging from 20-35. Their time-keeping wasn't great though with many turning up half an hour late! This is something you have to get used to as there is a long-standing joke about 'Ghanaian time' being somewhat different to normal time!
 
Whilst I was predominantly here for the football project, the nature of PWA is such that I was given the opportunity to take part in other volunteer's projects too. As a small and close-knit team, PWA rarely has huge groups of volunteers together so everyone is encouraged to help one another with their projects, which is a great way of getting involved in different activities in the various areas i which PWA works. During my time here I got to visit a school in a village called Opeikuma to deliver donations from their partner school in the UK [as part of the International Schools Partnership Programme], Agbogbloshie, a slum area just outside Accra, to conduct a malaria workshop, and Oshieye health clinic for an oral health workshop. Having signed up for the football programme these were all unexpected surprises and were a great way of seeing more of the region and getting involved in other worthwhile projects.
 
All of these projects added to the overall experience I had but the visit to Agbogbloshie was by far the most interesting and powerful experience for me. Agbogbloshie is a vast area of shanty type dwellings just outside Accra filled with litter and toxic waste. It was, without a doubt, the dirtiest and most unpleasant place I've ever visited and it was quite upsetting to see people having to live in this environment. However, the residents welcomed us with open arms and never stopped smiling which was somewhat surprising given how little they have. Whilst there, we visited one of PWA's partners: a lady called Amina who runs a nursery in her small house. She looks after, feeds and cleans around 40 children whilst their parents go to work. Whilst the work she does is admirable the conditions in which these children were kept were pretty horrific and I felt distressed by what I witnessed. However, without places like this, and without support from PWA, these children would often be forced to go and work with their parents which, at the age of 2 or 3, is unimaginable!
 
Another thing PWA does very well is encourage volunteers to use their free time to go on excursions to see everything Ghana has to offer. One such excursion I took was to Kakum National Park, where I did a canopy walk over several bridges suspended above the top of the canopy. This was great fun and the views were unbelievable. Following this I visited Cape Coast Castle, a British-run castle that was used to keep Africans imprisoned before shipping them overseas during the slave trade. This was by far the most interesting and harrowing place I visited during my stay and I would recommend it to everyone who ever comes to Ghana. After reading about the history of the castle in the excellent museum we had a guided tour, in which we got to go into the cells the slaves were kept. The conditions were truly awful and to be told that 1000 men were kept in a pitch black dungeon no bigger than a tennis court for up to 3 months was pretty sickening and made you wonder how anyone ever thought it was ok to treat another person like this. It was a place I will never forget.
 
All in all, if you are considering volunteering for an NGO I cannot recommend PWA highly enough! Whilst there are many larger and better known charities, working with Partner West Africa gives you the autonomy to make a real difference! For some football coaching programmes your role will simply be to help coaching the members of the community. At PWA I have been given the responsibility to not only coach but also develop a whole new football club for Oshieye. In addition, you are given the opportunity to get involved in numerous other projects. Whilst the experience was challenging and, at times, frustrating due to the way Ghanaian people work, I will look back on my time here with the fondest of memories and will undoubtedly miss it when I'm back in London!
 
To end, I'd like to say a big thank you to the staff at PWA - Inusah, Matt, Sandy, Mary, Isaac & Sarah - for giving me a truly unforgettable experience. I will miss you all and hope to be back in future to see you all again.
 
All the very best, Chris."
 
 
How can you help?
  • If you would like to also volunteer on the Multidisciplinary volunteer 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

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