The idea of volunteering abroad has always interested me at a young age.There were several organizations out there, but none of them really spoke to me until I came across Projects Abroad. I was thinking about becoming a nurse, so when I heard about the High School Specials Medicine program, it immediately sparked my interest and I started researching. There were a handful of countries that I had in mind before choosing Ghana. It took my parents a lot of convincing to send me onto this trip and I will forever be grateful to them for letting me go because it was the most memorable two weeks of my life that I will never forget.
I first arrived in Accra and was met by the airport coordinator, Nyame, who immediately greeted me when I walked out of the airport and was very welcoming and kind. He gave me my Ghanaian name, Akosua, which corresponds to the day I was born. We then waited for three other volunteers, who were from France (and on the same flight as me!) and then drove to the Pink Hostel. After a long night in the Pink Hostel, me and two other volunteers drove three hours to Cape Coast, where our project placement was.
Our three hour drive to Cape Coast was filled with bumpy roads, church music, random police barrier stops, and naps. We finally arrived at our host family house and was warmly greeted by our host mother. We also met another girl in our program, who had been there for two days prior. Our host mom showed us to our rooms, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. We had our own toilet and shower, which became very convenient. Our host family was very large, there were always several family members around, who were always welcoming and friendly towards us. Our host family also gave us large portions, even though there were only four of us, so we never went hungry.
Our trips to various communities was the highlight of my trip. During our community outreaches we would test for blood pressure, BMI, blood grouping, hepatitis B, blood sugar and malaria. The people in the communities were always so kind towards us, even though we were the ones pricking them!
Once a week we went to the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital where we were able to choose which ward to shadow, I chose the Pediatrics. Being from Canada, I was able to experience some of the best healthcare in the world. Seeing Cape Coast Teaching Hospital was a real eye opening experience. Some of the kids admitted had malnourishment, malaria, and sickle cell anemia. To learn hear and learn about a disease is one thing, but to see it in real life is another. The nurses also helped and taught me how to do vitals, back home things like heart rate and respiratory rate were measured by a system, but in Ghana it was done manually.
We also went to a leprosy camp once a week and helped clean and bandage wounds for people. It was quite frightening to clean the wounds at first, because some of them were fairly large and shocking, but once we got used to it, and practiced a lot it came to us easily.
As the trip was coming to an end, I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new family in Ghana or the new friends I had made. We had done everything together for two weeks and spent so much time together. There is no doubt that I wouldn’t have had an experience this amazing if it weren’t for the staff there, Eric and Victor. They were always very positive, friendly, and kind towards us. They made sure we were well taken care of and treated us like family. Saying goodbye to them and my new friends was one of the most emotional and upsetting goodbyes I’ve ever had to do. The people I met during the outreaches, hospitals and leprosy camps also made my experience in Ghana more memorable. They were all very friendly and always wanted to start conversations with us. I can definitely say that my two weeks in Ghana truly changed my life and it is an experience that I will never forget. Two weeks was too short and I wish I could’ve spent more time there. I hope my story and experience will inspire you to go to Ghana because it is truly a remarkable country that I know I will visit again someday!