Today, we’re talking to one of our Ghana volunteers, Jamie. Jamie is an aspiring nurse who spent two weeks working with children in Senya-Beraku. Read her story below to find out about how Jamie’s experiences in Ghana changed not only her career path, but her entire outlook on life.
What did you volunteer work consist of?
We went to the orphanage in the morning and helped where they needed us. While we were at the orphanage, we would clean it, so we would sweep, mop, and clean the windows. We would also play with the kids and give them the love and affection they needed, and a bit more of that kind of attention. When we were done, we could go back to the volunteer house and do whatever we liked. One of the last days, we even took the day off to go to the beach.
I also did a bit of teaching there while I was there; just a math class. Whatever you’re capable of doing, you can do it if you’re comfortable with it. A girl I was volunteering with was from Mexico and she did some of the English classes with the Grade 1s. We also played with the kids at the daycare; that was tiring though.
What were your expectations before starting? Did these match up to your experience when you finished?
I think my expectation before I started was that I wanted to feel that I made a difference somehow in the kids life. I don’t know if they matched up to my expectations because I found that when you’re only there for such a short amount of time you can’t really make that much of a difference. It does help to have that extra attention and support there, but at the same time the kids need more long-term relationships. It’s always hard when you leave because you can see that they’re sad.
However, I’d say expectation wise, it kind of exceeded them because I saw more of a change in myself through them.
Can you describe that change in yourself?
I’m in nursing school and one of the things I wanted to do with my nursing degree was work for Nurses without Borders and help people in developing countries. I feel like there’s a lot of people in western cultures that want to create a lifestyle similar to their own in these developing countries, but I find that’s not what they need. The people more so just need things like clean water, road construction, and improved healthcare and education systems, and I think that’s what the real focus is and the focus isn’t on them having flat screen TVs and things like that. So I would say the change in myself was that it made me focus less on the materialistic things I need in my life and more on creating connections with people. I found that I didn’t even want to come home because the people there were so much happier and more joyful and more welcoming than people here who have so much more. So I would say that was one of the things that changed, and also just a change in what I want to do in my career.
So do you still want to go into nursing?
Yeah, I’m going into my fourth year, it’s just more so what I want to do when I’m done.
So how did this experience impact your career path? And would you say it’s helped in your schooling and career at all?
Yeah, I would say it helped. It does look kind of good on a CV, in the sense that I’ve been to a country like that and done some work. I found that it also helps direct me in the way that I interact with my patients and it gave me a more of a clear idea of where I want to work and that kind of thing. When I’m done with school, I probably need to gather all of my skills in Canada and get that all figured out, but I do still want to work somewhere like Ghana that needs that extra assistance, and I’ll be able to stay for longer periods of time.
So why should someone choose to volunteer in Ghana over somewhere else?
I haven’t been anywhere else, so I’m not 100% sure. But Ghana is a mostly English-speaking country, so that provides one less barrier. You also just feel safe there. Like my mom was always texting me asking if I was ok and I was like, I’m not texting you because I literally feel so safe that I feel no need to let you know how I’m doing. Me and the other volunteers (there were nine girls in the house), we went on adventures on our own too, and throughout that whole time, there was never a time where I felt unsafe. So I think that was one of the greatest things. And the people there are just so warm and so welcoming, I always tell people they should go to Ghana.
So did you get to explore Ghana at all?
Yeah! So the first week as volunteers, we got to go to Cape Coast. We took this big bus, so we all met up, drove to Cape Coast, and stayed at a hostel for the night. While we were there, we got to go on a canopy walk, which was really cool, and we got to go to the castle and learn a lot about slavery. We also had our own time to explore around, so some of us went down and got street food or went to the little shops and stuff and bought people’s art work. There was a little club thing there, so there was music and dancing at night. We also got to interact a lot with the locals that day.
The second weekend we went to Wli, where there are waterfalls. It took us so long to get there, it took us nine and a half hours. I think it was three tro tros and one taxi, and there were nine of us in this one taxi. So we all piled in and we went to these waterfalls and stayed at another hostel. We went hiking the next day and then we came back. It was really nice. On the way back, our tro tro driver had bread, and he did a baboon call and all these baboons came and he fed them the bread, so it was pretty cool to see that too. So yeah, we got to explore a bit and interact with the locals.
What would you say was the most impactful moment from your volunteer experience overall?
I don’t know that I could say there was one single moment that was most impactful, I think just the whole trip. I came back and people would ask me how it was and I just said it was amazing because I couldn’t sum up everything, my thoughts were so jumbled. I said to the girls that it’s amazing how many memories we packed into a two week span. So maybe I would just say the thing that I took away the most was trying to bring that sense of human connection that they have over here to Canada. I find that everyone there lives so simply but so happily. I’m trying to bring that joy and what I learned there back here to share with people. Also, just the love and the kindness from the kids, and their openness, because they’re so welcoming. They don’t even know you, and the first time they see you they run up to you and give you a hug. So probably that. It was amazing how in two weeks, you develop these relationships with these kids. I want to go back so bad; if I could I’d be back this summer 100%.
To learn more about our programs in Ghana, click here.