Kerry’s Volunteer Story, Part Two.
One morning, at 7am I dragged myself away from bed, realising my bed was soaking wet. During the night my ‘soggy’ cold water bottle had leaked, the bed broke and I cried for the first time. I had found the end of my tether. It was very humid and the electricity was still off. I felt very miserable. I would happily have gone home today. We ate breakfast; fried sweet bread and longed for a cup of tea and some relief from the heat.
We went back to our beds to rest after some debates about the global political status and what could be done. I finally slept before our lunch arrived and then what a surprise, a local lady came with her little baby boy to measure us for traditional Ghanaian tailored dresses and skirts. Alas, another baby boy prettified of our white skin and cried the entire time. Kay played with the village children while I slept, we then crossed over and I took over, drawing a lion and the world map as they went through my phone photos, catching some funny ones, which resulted in them all falling around on the floor laughing and giggling like all little boys around the world.
We venture off to the other volunteer house across the village, come back and ask the children to leave us till the morning. The power comes back on and we cannot contain our utter joy to pop the kettle on.
We set up a little area outside and enjoy more conversations about the world we live in, how we feel the systems are failing, but who has the solution? We talked about value, banking, work, family, parents and past travel experiences. What a privilege to have my best friend here. The power comes back on and we cannot contain our utter joy to pop the kettle on.
Our dinner arrives; ‘live’ chicken soup and rice. We are told another volunteer is arriving, but we start to feel tired. I take a shower (bucket) and roll into bed, which I’ve changed and swapped ends hoping to bring some good luck to reaching a good nights sleep. The fan whirls, cooling us down and we fall asleep on our last night in this house. The new volunteer arrives late in the night. I hardly stir.
We both manage a great sleep. It makes all the difference. I wake feeling positive and energised. That’s what a little fan can do for you in Ghana.
Our alarms, set for 5:30am wake us from a deep sleep. We take the volunteer bikes and cycle to the orphanage; it’s a beautiful morning and will be the last visit to the children’s home for this trip. We arrive and get stuck in straight away. I begin to wash clothes but quickly get moved to mopping and sweeping, clearly Olivia’s opinion of my hand washing skills isn’t high.
Some choral music gets put on, played through the TV as the children start to gather for breakfast. I instantly thought of my mum, who as a music teacher used to play classical music at weekends while weekend tasks were completed. I hand out the spoons, porridge, bread and sweetener as a topping. They pray and begin eating. I looked at Desmond and I suddenly felt very overwhelmed with emotion. The care and love the staff and children show towards him moves me. In very poor countries, the disabled are a burden no one knows what to do with. But here, in an orphanage in a rural village in Ghana, Desmond is being taken care of with such affection. I had to leave the room to wipe away the tears.
I found Kay and we started to set up the second round of ‘photographing the children’, this time all the children had big beautiful smiles across their faces. I then went and gave the toys and donations in anther, slightly uncomfortable formal type presentation, which made us both feel a bit awkward.
Lunch arrived and we sat and chatted to Jessica, who was on a volunteer programme, which was designed to guide you into a purpose driven life. Our taxi arrived early so we packed up in a rush, throwing all our belongings into a bag, eager not to leave anything behind. We jumped into the oldest looking car we had seen on this trip so far, which is something, as they all seemed to be held together with wood and nails.
We arrived at the Sunflower Beach Resort and everything felt nice, a little retreat at the end of our trip. We ran to find someone as we arrived, ‘do you have power?’ we asked before our taxi drove off. ‘ha, yes we have power and a generator’. We are delighted, a little piece of paradise for the next 24 hours.
We make our way to the beach, which was absolutely beautiful. We relax, drink beer, play in the sea, talk about our families, our relationships and reflected on the week. Jessica joined us as the sun was setting. We moved to the bar and talked about our dreams and ambitions, listening to her very brave story. Jessica’s taxi arrived and we crawled into our beds, after a little ‘ghosting’ around. The cool breeze, the fan directly above our beds, let us drift off into a deep deep sleep.
We wake up in paradise. The sunrise is spectacular, the blue sea crashing and rolling into shore. We pack and have breakfast looking out on palm trees and the never-ending ocean. We are reflective on our time in Ghana; both feeling it had changed us.
This little break and escape was exactly what we needed, with over 24 hours till we would finish our journey home. We are collected, taken back to the volunteer house where we eat our final meal, take our last pictures and meet with the founder of the children’s home, who sends us off with a beautiful summary of our stay, our tailored skirts are presented and finally our taxi arrives. We are told repeatedly the traffic will be very bad into Accra so we must leave early. The roads are busy, and at one point we grind to a halt, with no indication for how long. We count the hours till our flight. We then move, and we stare out of the window to the scenes, which have now become so familiar, busy markets and hustling communities.
We arrive at the airport in less time that it has taken us the whole visit. Maybe one day we will understand Africa Time, but for now, we check in, find somewhere to eat dinner and wait for the last leg of our journey, that will eventually take us home.
They say Africa changes you. Landing back into my home country, with new experiences, knowledge and understanding, I felt slightly sick. We live in a perceived secure bubble, but at what cost? I can’t help feel that our privileged lives are built on the back of African lives lost, all for money. What a sad reality to face. But the inspiration I needed to continue the work that I do, supporting and investing back into vulnerable communities. To encourage growth and development, to aid the eventual end to relying on foreign aid but make decisions based on their knowledge of their own communities and lives. I am so lucky to be a part of this stepping-stone.
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