Alumni Spotlight: Madi Essing

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with IVHQ in Ghana?

Madi: During year 12, three friends and I decided we wanted to take a gap year between secondary education and university. After researching some amazing places we decided on Ghana because as a country it had a lot of stability in its government and people, and was recommended by volunteering sites as a great and safe place for first time volunteers. We basically Googled 'volunteering in Ghana' and went from there in terms of deciding on a company. IVHQ popped up and after sending a few emails to Daniel Radcliffe, the Executive Director, we eagerly signed up. Daniel was extremely helpful and patient in answering our questions as well as Jamie Reenolds and Edward Adeli. Ultimately, we decided on IVHQ because it was about a third of the price of other companies, proved to be extremely reliable (we emailed some past volunteers after reading their testimonials), and the fact the staff was extremely supportive from the beginning.

Volunteer at an orphanage and help kids in Ghana with IVHQ!

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Madi: We were placed at an orphanage about 30 minutes north of the coast in the Central Region of Ghana. The orphanage is owned by a Ghanaian couple. They initially opened a school, yet after some time they realized a lot of the children hanging around were not being adequately looked after, were not getting substantial food and had no family. So they opened their home they shared with their own children to kids who needed a place to live.

Each morning we got up early to help the kids ready for school. This involved showering the younger children, dressing the little ones (kids as young as 18 months in school uniforms), finding their lost shoes and books and chasing them around outside with a toothbrush and tooth paste in hand, forcing them to clean their teeth!

After the kids went to school (located at the back of the Home), we helped with washing the clothes of the 35 children, cooking the lunchtime meal for not only the orphans but the entire school and doing dishes. We occasionally went down to the school to assist the teachers or carry the sleeping toddlers back for a snooze!

After a month or so we were able to determine which children needed extra one-on-one help with school work. So we also started tutoring for an hour in the mornings. At lunch time we played with the kids until they went back for their afternoon lessons. After school we played ball games such as soccer and volleyball, played highly competitive games of cards and had cuddles with the little ones who were exhausted after a full day of learning. We were torn away for a speedy dinner before returning to the orphanage to help with homework, sit outside to chat and joke around with the older kids and put the little ones to bed-occasionally chasing them around in the dark with a nappy/pamper!

Madi and other volunteers helped build and paint a new schoolroom in Ghana

We were fortunate enough to receive donations while over there and it was decided we were to build a brand new cement classroom with a proper door and actual desks. So as the construction of the building took place we spent a lot of afternoons painting the classroom and ordering desks. We were also able to paint the entire ceiling of the orphanage, have regular shopping trips to buy chicken, fruit and vegetables and start the lengthy process of health insurance for the kids that didn't already have it.

Ultimately we had a lot of freedom and it would have been extremely easy to sleep in and laze around as they rah rarely asked for help but we realized we had to take initiative and make the most of our 'short' three months.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Madi: Upon arriving home I realized I had a different perspective on everyday things. I remember going shopping a few weeks after I went home and purchased a top and afterwards couldn't stop thinking of what I could have spent that money on in Ghana for the kids (food, medicine, toilet paper, toothpaste). My time volunteering had most definitely made me realize how truly fortunate and privileged I am to live in Australia and appreciate basic things like our health care system, clean water at our finger tips and nutritious foods.

I also realized how lucky I am to have such a supportive family as most of 'my' children in Ghana has lost either one or both of their parents, been abandoned by their family or had been split up from their siblings. I honestly can't wait to get back over their and see my family in Achiase. While helping the older kids with their homework (material that I had just learned the previous year) I confirmed that in the future I will most likely become a secondary school teacher.