Alumni Spotlight: Diane Fitzpatrick

Diane Fitzpatrick, 56, is from Pottsville, PA. Pottsville is a small town located in the mountains and is best known for having the oldest brewery in the US (Yuengling).

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

Diane: I decided to volunteer with CCS in Ghana because I have volunteered with them twice before. I am 56 years old and felt very safe with this organization as I travel alone. I travelled to Ghana last October and spent 4 weeks volunteering. I chose Ghana because I believed it to be the most primitive of the sites that CCS offers. It was now or never for me. That being said, it was not at all difficult for me to endure. In fact, just the opposite. I felt so comfortable, happy and peaceful there. I will admit that I went there to challenge myself to live in an environment that was so out of my norm. But the biggest challenge was leaving a land and a people that I simply adored and admired.

girls in Ghana at a formal celebration

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Diane: My typical day with CCS consisted of rising early before anyone else so I could just enjoy the peace and beauty of Ghana. I would sit on the porch and sip coffee, while the cook was preparing breakfast. Once the other volunteers were up the mood quickly changed to one of excitement and chatter. After breakfast I would walk about 15 minutes to work with two other volunteers. We walked down dirt roads with open sewers and through tiny neighborhoods.

After a few days we were being greeted on the street by adults and children. That was truly a great feeling. We were being acknowledged by the community and becoming part as well. Once I arrived at the school, I rounded up the children and began their lessons. The children in Ghana did not speak english. They are not taught any english until around 8 years old, the being that they learn their native tongue first. I was teaching them their letters,numbers, colors, and shapes in english. I also taught them many songs and rhymes in english that they loved. I also played with them during their recess. It is rare for the teachers to have time to play with the children because they are marking and preparing homework for the children.

Each day I became more comfortable and confident with teaching which I had never done before. I would leave around noon and head back to the home base for lunch, where the whole CCS team would share all of our experiences of the morning. Afternoons would involve field trips, or we would our free time exploring our town or taking a nap (if need be).

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Diane: This experience showed me how important it is for people to maintain their culture while embracing the culture of others. I felt so accepted and appreciated in Ghana. I became so immersed in the culture that one day walking in town with two Ghanians I saw a white person and I said to my friends, "Look, look a white person!" They laughed and said, "Diana you do know that you are white, right?" I replied, "Oh yes, I guess I am not used to seeing white people that I do not know." It was quite funny but i guess you might have had to be there.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Diane: After my experience in Ghana I was so moved that I signed up for a 4th volunteer trip. I am going to Salvador, Brazil this summer for 4 weeks. It is kind of a follow up to Ghana. The slave trade having started in Ghana landed in Brazil. Now I am addicted to volunteering and hope I can continue for many years to come.