Ghana, Africa: Week One of Volunteer Placement Complete

So it is Friday and we have officially completed one week of our volunteer placement at the orphanage in Achiase, Ghana. Although it has only been one week I can already feel myself getting very attached to the children. They are just so happy and loveable, I never have a free hand or lap. My favorite is playing sports with the children and also practicing English with some of the older ones. I also love dancing with them and having the little ones fall asleep on me. Yesterday we took the kids to watch a soccer (football) match, which some of the boys play on the team. One of the older men who live in the village, Richard, who I have started going running with in the mornings (lots of hills!) told the men’s football coach that I am a good football player and the coach made me warm up with the team and asked me to actually train with them. I refrained, as I think I would get mauled if I played with adult male Ghanian football players, but I said that sometime this week I will come practice with the girls team.We are still without running water at the volunteer house. At this point it is just funny, we all smell and have gotten used to not having a flushing toilet. The funniest thing was when it rained a few days ago all of the volunteers stripped into their swim suits and brought our soap and shampoo and we were all bathing and dancing in the rain. It was actually a lot of fun and we all felt very refreshed.

Wednesday night was one of the volunteer’s, John, last night at the placement so we had a little party with lots of alcohol and, our staple meal, Milk Cream biscuits with Nutella and brown nut paste. I was sad because John was really cool and I was starting to get pretty close with him but was happy I got to know him for the time that I did. All in all was a really fun night, although my run the next morning with Richard at 7AM in the intense African sun, up and down the hilly roads left my vomiting up my oats.

I have been getting to eat a lot of traditional meals living with locals of the village. Our cook, Flo, cooks us all kinds of things, our collective favorite being her fried chicken. My personal favorite is ground nut soup (super spicy, which I love) with a rice ball and chicken. We also eat pancakes, French toast, oats (which is like porridge), Red Red (beans in red sauce), fried yams (like French fries), boiled yams, Jolif Rice (fried rice with spices), and Udon noodles. We make a lot of Swedru (the nearest town where you can buy things) trips to buy Fan Ice (kind of like ice pops/ice cream), Snickers (not quite the real thing but decent), biscuits, brown nut paste (like healthy peanut butter), Nutella, and various biscuits and crackers. I have also come to love Mangos and non-refrigerated cheese.

Overall, the first week of the placement has gone extremely well. I am already forming strong relationships with the kids and really wish I was staying longer. It’s going to be extremely hard to leave them, as I look forward to every day getting to play with them and make them laugh. This morning when we left for Cape Coast for the weekend, the children saw us with our backpacks on and actually came running out and started shouting “Where are you going?!” “Why are you leaving?!”. It was adorable but made me not want to leave.

So far this experience has also made me really think about my life and if I want to adopt one day. It has always been something I have thought about but now that I am actually faced with it first-hand it has been something that we discuss a lot at the volunteer house. On one hand it would be great to be able to give the children opportunities and endless love. On the other, it would be difficult to remove them from the culture that they are so accustomed to, where the food, clothing, morals, music, and acceptable behaviors are completely different. I have been told that our children have a very good situation where they are at the Bethel Orphanage, and this is something that I have noticed as well. Although the kids don’t really get a ton to eat or have nice toys or clothes, they are all very happy, bright children. They all lookout for each other and are like one big family. They find joy in playing with bottles and using the resources that they have, and this makes me happy for them. However, I have also been told that many of the other orphanages in Ghana are not this great, and many of the children are unhappy. This makes it a tricky debate, but ultimately I think that adoption would be something I would love to do, or even sponsoring a child’s education to give them opportunities in their own countries.


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Jessica Festa is the editor of Jessie on a Journey as well as Epicure & Culture. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and living with a family in Ghana.

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