Alumni Spotlight: James Pilmoor

James graduated from university in May 2015, and has worked in retail and as a personal trainer since then. For James, Africa is the greatest place on earth and he insists that those who visit will fall in love instantly. He believes that volunteering has the potential to open the eyes of travelers and allow them to understand the struggles that others go through on a daily basis in order to simply survive, which in turn makes them appreciate what they do have, thus doing more to help those in need.

Sports Volunteering in Ghana

Why did you pick this program?

I picked the program for various reasons, but primarily because of my love for Africa; Ghana specifically has been on my list of places to visit. Personally I felt that just a holiday would not be satisfying enough. For me, it would lack the fulfillment of doing something to make a real difference in the country in which I'm traveling. Finally, my passion for sport, football in particular, was another driving factor for choosing this program as Ghana has been one of the most successful African Nations, especially over the last decade. I thought it would be a perfect fit for me.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Never overthink it, it is more than likely that your thoughts will lead you down a path of negativity and fears. It is natural to be nervous when traveling to a strange place; the change in weather, culture, and food is enough to make even the most adventurous traveler apprehensive. That being said, traveling is something everyone should do. It can open your eyes to all the different cultures in this world, and has the potential to change your perspective on life in an overwhelmingly positive way.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Always take into consideration what past and present volunteers tell you. Their advice will help you to get the most from the program, and is something which you can combine with your own personal experiences to pass along to future volunteers.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

The story that I hold closest to my heart involves helping a woman who had collapsed near the clinic where myself and several other volunteers were working. Because it was good Friday, the clinic was not open so I arranged a taxi to take her to the nearest hospital. Fortunately I was accompanied by a local friend who was able to speak a common tribal language, as the woman's English was limited. Once at the hospital, the nurse informed us that she had a fever, and would need to be kept overnight for observation. At this point, I decided to pass along a small amount of money to her to help pay for her treatment and transportation home. Before leaving, my friend requested her phone number as a means of checking on her well-being over the coming days, as I had planned to go away for the weekend. Despite my worry for her, I received a phone call on Sunday learning that not only had she returned home and was feeling much better, she invited me to visit her and her family. Once arriving in the small remote village, I was greeted by the woman and her grandparents, who thanked me for what I had done, and welcomed me into their home. Language barriers aside, I enjoyed the whole experience and was honored by their show generosity and kindness. After further discussion with the woman (again relying on my friend for translation), I discovered that she was not only a single parent, but also the full-time caregiver for her grandparents. It was clear to me that with no job or prospects, and a family to take care of, everyday can be a struggle. Rather than living, this family appeared to be simply existing. This has inspired me to begin raising money to assist her family with setting up a rice stall that can provide a source of income for her and her family. I am in constant contact via email with my friend, providing updates on fundraising progress for the family.

What is next for you and volunteering?

I plan to return to Ghana as part of the same program for a longer duration and continue where I left off. This includes carrying on with the health clinic expansion, hopefully donating more money. Additionally, I plan to continue working with various football teams providing necessary assistance, such as helping meet equipment needs. Lastly, general help within the community where it is needed most, and working closely with my project leaders to see how to best utilize my time.