Alumni Spotlight: Laura Bronstein

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

Laura: As a child I was always attracted to the idea of traveling and exploring the world, learning about different cultures. As I got older and my passion for people and global awareness expanded, I realized that the only way I wanted to travel involved really getting my hands dirty and immersing myself in a different way of life. The time to do this had never seemed to work out due to school, work, and money until finally I was approaching my college graduation.

I researched tons of volunteer abroad organizations online, but none compared to International Volunteer HQ. The information was organized, the prices were super affordable, and the reliability of the website assured me that IVHQ would be able to provide me with the safest, most unforgettable volunteer abroad experience possible. The staff at IVHQ does a phenomenal job and is dedicated to ensuring that every volunteer has a great experience.

In addition, the IVHQ Facebook page played a huge role in my decision to go specifically to Ghana because I was able to connect with previous volunteers and hear their feedback on various programs. I was certain that I wanted to do orphanage work because I love working with children and I figured I could also use some of my teaching background. After asking lots of questions and studying up on Africa and the opportunities IVHQ had to offer, Ghana felt like the right place for me to be. So, after months of deciding what country to go to, my heart was set on volunteering in Ghana and I could not imagine it any other way.

You can make a difference as a volunteer in Ghana with IVHQ

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Laura: I spent two months volunteering at Achiase Children's Home in the Central Region of Ghana and each day was a different experience and a new opportunity to learn. Our normal routine was to go over to the children's home at about 6:30am to help the younger ones get ready for school--bathing, brush teeth, and dress in their school uniforms. At this time, everyone is either doing chores or getting ready for school. At 8am the children go off to school (hopefully on time!) and the volunteers go back to the volunteer house to eat breakfast. While the kids are at school, volunteers can choose to do a variety of activities. Often times we would go over to the home to help Mama Sarah with washing dishes or clothes, which there is always plenty to do. The children also get a few hour-long breaks during school, so it is always fun going out to play with all of the kids during those times. There always seems to be someone who needs a plaster (Band-Aid) or some other form of medical attention on varying levels, so that can also take up some of your time.

At 3pm, the kids get out of school and come back to do homework, fetch water, hang out, play games, or do other activities that volunteers set up until our dinner time. After we eat, we go back to the children's home and split up into tutoring groups. Each volunteer is designated about 5 or 6 kids to help improve their math and English skills. We spent up to an hour practicing basic skills with the younger kids and helping the older kids with homework, etc. On special nights, the kids loved to watch Disney movies.

At night, little ones will usually fall asleep on a volunteer's lap and be carried into bed, while older kids stay up a bit later and can manage to get themselves into bed at a decent hour with some good encouragement. We also arranged a special day to take the kids to the beach, which was a highlight of the experience since its very rare that they ever venture outside of the home premises. The kids will be teaching you new things left and right from how to fetch water, climb trees to cut fruit down, cook, do washing, and much more.

There are also opportunities to teach at the school behind the home and get involved in that during the day. There's also a town about a 10 minute taxi ride away where volunteers can go to use the internet, visit the market, and purchase necessities. The Achiase Children's Home was a great place to volunteer if you are willing to do a variety of different activities!

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Laura: Traveling to Ghana and having this volunteer experience has allowed me to expand my passion for global awareness. I have always known I had a knack for working with children and it was something I loved to do, but being able to learn about a new culture and make an impact with kids at the same time was the perfect combination of everything I hoped to do in life. It took me a long time to plan a big trip like this, and finally I realized the missing link in my love for teaching and working with children--traveling. I think it's so important to learn as much as we possibly can about the world outside of our own comfort zone and that's exactly what this trip did for me.