Why did you decide to volunteer with OGVO in Ghana?
Anouk: I knew I wanted to go to Africa for 6 months, and I had heard that Ghana was a very safe country to travel to.Because I was only 17 and this was my first time traveling on my own, this was very important to me. I started looking on the Internet for an organisation, and I found a lot of commercial organisations. These were very expensive and not very personal.
When I came in contact with OGVO they seemed very organized, and it was also a lot cheaper then the other organisations I found. Also, the money that I paid for the OGVO program went to charity funds for Ghana. This was a big reason why I chose OGVO.
They really care about their volunteers; for instance, the first week there was someone showing me around in Ghana and teaching me how everything works there. They promised to help me with public transportation and teach me about the do's and don'ts of the Ghanian culture.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Anouk: I was teaching English and mathematics in a small village called Akrudwa. The schooling there was not good at all, and most of the children only spoke a few words of English. The books they gave weren't very useful because it was way too difficult for the children. However, they were really excited when I came into the classroom to teach them.
For English I just tried to talk with them and help them pronounce the words better. Also, I was trying to speak the language they spoke so we were teaching each other languages. For math it was easier. They were learning fractions, addition, subtraction, and multiplication.
To make it more interesting for them I sometimes bought candy and used that to teach them math; if they had the correct answer they could keep the candy. I also supervised tests and helped going over the tests. I also helped the teacher with typing the tests and other paperwork because I was a lot faster at it.
What made this experience unique and special?
Anouk: This is a very difficult question because the whole experience itself was unique and special. But the most important thing were the friends and family I had there. I stayed with a host family for 6 months who didn't speak English much, and it was just unbelievable what a connection and bond I made with them.
I really started to see them as my own family. They helped me when I was sick, when I was sad they made me laugh, and they helped me understand the culture. The same goes for the friends I made over there.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Anouk: I was in a small village where the conditions were very primitive. You had no running water and sometimes not even electricity. It was very special for me to experience this and also to see how happy these people are. They were always smiling and they were so happy with what they had. This made me be happy with what I have and made me less materialistic.
When I was there the culture was so different than what I am used to.However, different doesn't mean that they didn't do things the right way just because it wasn't how we do it back home. This was also a very important lesson for me. It made me change my perspective on a lot of things. You never stop learning. Because I went to Ghana for 6 months and loved it so much I am sure I will travel a lot more. You can learn so much from other countries and their cultures, and I am planning on doing that more in the future!