Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Global-Cultural Solution in Ghana?
Jake: I made my decision after a lengthy search. Honestly, I took to the internet and poured over many websites asking previous volunteers of their experiences.
I also submitted questions to the Directors of the NGOs. I wanted to have something that I figured out would be safe according to the replies I had received from several other volunteers.
After I received a good amount of positive feedback from volunteers, I discussed the potential trip with the Director, who was living in Ghana. The more information I received the better I felt about moving along with Global-Cultural Solution.
Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?
Jake: I would like to think I made an impact, but it wasn't without the help of several others (from the US, Ireland, and Ghana). I tried to communicate with anyone and everyone.
The Ghanaians I met were all incredibly kind and hospitable. The desire some of them have to help each other was what inspired me to return to help their community.
I met with local individuals, elders of the village, surrounding villagers, other NGOs, and foreign volunteers. I established long lasting bonds with many of those individuals while assessing the way I could make a 'bigger' contribution.
When I was able to, I returned to the U.S. to raise money for the construction of a school (following a couple trips it was completed). Global-Cultural Solution assisted every step of the way in the project. Other organizations that contributed greatly were 'CrossCause' from Ireland and 'DIVOG' from Ghana.
There are a lot of great people working in the Philanthropy field. I still would like to go back again to visit everyone. There is a lot anyone can learn from another culture. The local community has definitely impacted me.
What did you wish you knew before going to Ghana?
Jake: I would have liked to know more about the people I was going to meet for the first time. It was quite nerve racking to travel a far distance to meet people I did not know, in a place I had never been -but it was totally worth it.
I think it also would have beneficial to know that there are several items that aren't necessary to pack since those same items are sold in cities (ie toilet paper). It would have been helpful to know a bit more about cooking on my own, but that's my own fault :)
Tell me about one person you met?
Jake: Godwin. He is a man with a small wallet but big heart. Godwin comes from a small village called Kpetoe (known for the Kente weaving). Godwin is the man that runs the school for the poor.
As a local Ghanaian he would get up early to 'pick' the kids and take them to school. He exemplifies what it means to be a volunteer. He taught humility, good will, and perseverance in a destitute situation.
Of course everyone has downfalls but he was one of my largest inspirations. I truly hope he is able to gain more in the future and that life becomes easier for him as well as the others he seeks to benefit.
If someone was to deserve such help in the future I think it should be him! We could all use some help but he grabbed a heavy burden; starting a free school for locals without training or a lot of money. If you ever make it to Kpetoe pay him a visit. Better yet give him a hand with the kids!
How has this experience impacted your future personally/professionally?
Jake: I have traveled to several countries but my experience in West Africa has altered the way I think and live. Ghanaians taught me that one can be joyful with little. Most of them also taught me the importance of hospitality.
I learned from Nana (the volunteer Director) that hard work can truly pay off, and that determination is essential. As I stated before, Godwin taught me more about humility and good will.
I have learned so much more about these virtues and I believe that my trip to Ghana has forever changed the way these virtues are understood by me. The virtues have been redefined.
In the workplace I believe I have become more understanding and patient. On a personal level I have grown to respect people that sacrifice even more. I believe that there is an honorable quality that attaches to sacrifice that many people are not familiar with.
Finally I learned so much about my own community in the state of Wisconsin. While fundraising I was humbled by the support and trust by so many people. Many people surprised me with their kindness and trust in financial support that it became even more empowering to build a school.
I hope the school was a good way to remember my friend Dave, someone that had a passion for education. Without the support of many people much of my experience would have been less impactful.