A Partner West Africa Testimonial
Testimonial 33 of 102
Volunteer with children in Ghana, West Africa
Volunteer with children in Ghana, West Africa
Volunteer with vulnerable children at a Daycare and Nursery Centre in Ghana, West Africa
Craft activities with children at the PWA daycare and nursery centre
Fun days and events for vulnerable West African children
Share knowledge and skills to improve the education of children in Ghana

Sarah - UK

Programme Completed: Creative Early-Years Education & Child Rights

Date Posted: 05/04/2017

After a series of events and with the support of some special people I finally had the opportunity to become a volunteer. Although I had been looking at organisations for a while choosing the right one now became very important. Partner West Africa (PWA) became the choice for me…I love working with children yet was very conscious of volunteers being helpful long term and not simply 'there for a cuddle'. The chance to become involved in an education programme seemed perfect and PWA offered this.

What an experience!!

After a series of events and with the support of some special people I finally had the opportunity to become a volunteer. Although I had been looking at organisations for a while choosing the right one now became very important. Partner West Africa (PWA) became the choice for me…I love working with children yet was very conscious of volunteers being helpful long term and not simply 'there for a cuddle'. The chance to become involved in an education programme seemed perfect and PWA offered this. It also offered volunteer accommodation and support so ticked many boxes.

After a series of very efficient and helpful emails with Matt, PWA Director, I signed up…then began a range of emotions that have continued thorough out my stay and am sure will continue when I return home. I think I have probably experienced most from excitement to anxiety, including many highs, some lows but never any regret.

I had initially agreed to support staff in the PWA Nursery and Daycare Centre for Vulnerable Children with my knowledge of Special Educational Needs. After a fairly short time it was clear that at this time there were other areas that would be more suitable to support. So my project was re-planned and I could get going. I have focused on assessing the educational journey of the nursery children, supporting the teachers with their teaching and resources, developing outdoor learning and teaching the teachers about phonics. Although difficult at times due to the obvious language and cultural differences I have been able to cover most of the project which is a great feeling. I have had support from the PWA team when I have asked for it although I am used to organising myself and being independent so I have possibly found starting and completing work easier than some.  I am hopeful that in some capacity a Nursery Manager can be appointed to continue supporting the teachers and children.

Other than my work project, my visit seems to have fallen into these areas…

The house, staff and volunteers: I have been really impressed, and grateful for the standard of accommodation the house offers. There is no doubt that for most people a trip like this is quite demanding physically and emotionally, so to have food cooked, the house cleaned, power for lights, laptops and fans, running water (although cold but I quickly got used to it) and comfortable chairs and bedrooms has been such a help. I really don’t think I would have enjoyed it or lasted so well without it all. As with most organisations staff/volunteer staff seems a tricky one! Most have been fantastic and I really hope we stay in touch, some far less so. If you do have any staff concerns though, as long as you talk about it to the right people I certainly feel it is acknowledged. The volunteers have all been fantastic. A real variety of personalities, backgrounds, skills, age, outlook and humour!!

The nursery and children: They have my heart!!! To me it is what the whole trip has been about. Any challenges that occur are put into perspective when you get to understand how these children and their families live, it really is fantastic what the nursery offers them. They have a very challenging life yet every day the children's beaming smiles lift us all. I love seeing them all arrive sleepily in the morning, eating their breakfast and then enjoying their day. Making kites from plastic bags and racing up and down the compound with them was a pretty special moment along with beach Fridays [on the last Friday of each month we take all the children to the local beach for fun and games]!  Also walking along the road at the weekend and hearing 'Aunty Sarah' yelled from a group of children sitting on the dusty ground…it's so good to feel a useful part of their lives albeit for a short time.

Ghana: The phrase that any volunteer must hear a hundred times is 'it's Ghana time'!!! Although as a visitor to the country there are many things to get used to…food, toilet roll put into buckets, power going off regularly, buckets for showers, tro tros (local mini buses), taxis practically un-road worthy, everyone carrying huge boxes on their heads, the openness and friendliness and 'obroni' (white skinned person) being yelled at you… for me the biggest challenge has been 'Ghana time'. I now know I'm not a very patient person but I have certainly had to try and learn here! A plan could end up being one hour, one day or maybe one week later…but that’s Ghana time!!

The local area: I have felt very safe and comfortable locally, with normal sensible behaviour. Oshieye is the community most children who attend the Nursery come from and a 5 minute walk from the volunteer guest house. It is an under developed fishing community, many families living in a single room structure with no running water. The area is covered in litter, there are shared public toilets and limited health care. Many children don't attend school as families can't afford it…thank goodness for PWA. In the other direction is the village of Kokrobite. This is cleaner but still very basic. You can walk here to buy food, get phone credit, go to church or go to one of the local bars. It is quite lively at weekends when visitors come from Accra for a night out at Big Millie's or Dizzy Lizzie's. Joining the two is a stretch of beach…often covered in litter and not the safest sea to swim but great for a walk and some people watching!!

So…What an experience!! I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time here. I have learnt so much and experienced more. I haven't been able to immerse myself into anything, without other distractions, in such a way for 27 years!!! PWA has been a huge part of me for ten weeks…it is going to be very hard to walk away from...

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