Traveler Story: What It’s Like To Volunteer in Ghana
By Kimberley Richards
Traveling to Ghana was such a beautiful and memorable experience. It was my first time visiting the continent, so I was excited to gain new experiences, gain new perspectives and to finally “go home,” so to speak, to the motherland to volunteer.
Volunteering gave me the opportunity to experience Ghana in such an intimate and enlightening way. I lived in Senya Beraku (2 hours west of Ghana’s capital, Accra) for six weeks in an orphanage home compound called “Becky’s Home Orphanage and Day Care.”
I truly built relationships and captured the culture and essence of the people, while giving back to a community that struggles with providing adequate education and housing, especially for the many children without parents to care for them. It was eye-opening, life-changing and without a doubt, the most beautiful experience of my life.
There are plenty of volunteer organizations to choose from, IVHQ (International Volunteer HQ) is an extremely organized travel company and my experience with them was flawless. Through extensive research on other volunteer platforms, I found IVHQ to be relatively inexpensive and take the least amount of administrative fees. What I appreciated about this company, was its emphasis on working with local organizations around the world. IVHQ has locations all around the world (IVHQ Programs). The company understands that local organizations understand best, the needs of their communities. So IVHQ partners with various local organizations in all of the countries they are stationed. Communication was great and as a first-time solo travel journey, I felt safe and protected.
Once arriving in Accra to the Ghana IVHQ headquarters, I was randomly assigned to “Becky’s Home Orphanage and Day Care” in Senya Beraku. I met a group of volunteers from around the world. Together we participated in the IVHQ orientation and later we were sent to our separate assignments.
At Becky’s Home, I slept in a small room with bunk beds with a few other volunteers. We all ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main living room (meals were included in my IVHQ fees), with our host family, the Asiedus. We felt like a family and had fun comparing our extremely different cultural backgrounds and experiences amongst us volunteers. Sure, it was not easy getting used to the electricity going on and off and taking bucket showers since there was no running water but to my surprise, by the end of my trip, I somewhat mastered the art of bucket showering.
My volunteer work was teaching at Becky’s Home school that they operate right in front of the main house. I taught, English, math and reading to Class 5, which are children ranging in age 11-14. I had 42 children in my class and it certainly wasn’t easy, but my students were loving, respectful and a bright group of children. I woke up excited to go to class and to interact with the children. “Madam Kim,” was my name and now back in states, I think about how much I miss hearing “Madam Kim! Madam Kim! Can you snap my picture?”
Another great aspect of this travel program is that you have the opportunity to travel and take work breaks as you please. Some worry that volunteer programs limit your experience to only your work area, but this program gives you the opportunity to vacation as well. On the weekends, I traveled with my fellow volunteers to the slave castles at Cape Coast, Kokrobite beach resort, Kumasi and The Kakum National Park. I made friends with Ghanaians in different areas and went to local bars, parties and met so many interesting and kind people
My experience gave me a true insight into the beauty of Ghana and what it’s like to live in a particular area of the country. Like everywhere else, Ghana has very developed areas with a lot of resources and opportunities. Though I was stationed in an area with limited resources that struggled with extreme poverty, I built relationships with the children, the owners of the orphanage and my fellow volunteers that will last a lifetime.
Kim has truly fallen in love with travel. Her passion for exploring the needs of the African Diaspora led her to her first travel experience, serving as a volunteer teacher for 6 weeks in Ghana. Kim is a freelance writer, covering stories that deals with social concerns of Black communities. Kim currently serves as the Special Assistant and African-American liaison to a Philadelphia City Councilman. She is of Jamaican decent and a proud Temple University alum that split her childhood in New York, Massachusetts and Florida. Kim has an obsession with coffee shops.... loves ice cream, Jamaican food and the beach. She's excited to travel to new places but also to frequently visit the small village she lived in, in Ghana...that community has without a doubt, captured her heart.