The typical daily schedule was as follows:
7-8:30 : wake up, breakfast, get ready
9-12:30 : volunteering (my project was planting trees in a village, but I believe they change the project each session)
1-3: lunch, free time in house
3:30-6 : evening volunteering, guest speaker, or cultural trip
6:30-10 : dinner, free time in house
The times I listed are approximated, because I don't remember the exact schedule, but that is the basic format of the day. The guest speakers taught us Ewe (ay-way), a local language, the history of Ghana, folktales, drumming, songs, and dances. All of the lessons were interactive, so it isn't like sitting in a classroom lecture. They try to make it as much fun as possible for us.
I only really had one weekend there, because I arrived on a Saturday and was given the weekend to catch up with the time zone and rest, and I departed two weeks later on a Saturday morning. The one weekend we had, however, was a lot of fun. On Saturday, we took a trip to a lake where we could play soccer, volleyball, swim in pools, and take kayaks out on the water. This was extremely fun. We also visited a monkey sanctuary, which is a jungle where wild monkeys will approach you and eat bananas out of your hands! It was amazing!
My volunteer group consisted of 11 people from the U.S. and Canada, and we all traveled as a group. In addition to that, there was a group of about 20 Ghanaian teenagers and adults who joined us daily to help with our volunteer work. By the end of the two weeks, I had formed extremely strong friendships with both the U.S./Canadian volunteers, and the African volunteers.
Living in the village is a lot of fun. The safe house is very isolated (there is a long dirt road off of the main road), but there are several families that live right around the house. Many of the children from the surrounding area came over to our yard sometimes to observe our activities, and sometimes join us. We had two large vans that picked us up and drove us everywhere, so living down that long road was not an issue in that sense.
I got to know a lot of the local people. When I was leaving, many of them gave me phone numbers and addresses to stay in touch, and a few of the teenagers even have facebook. Even today, almost a year after my trip, some of them occasionally chat with me online.
The accomodations were excellent. The house was very large. The front doors led into a spacious room with a long dining table and a circle of couches. To the left was a door into the girls' room and bathroom, and to the right was a door to a hallway. This hallway held the boys' room and bathroom, the program director's room, and the kitchen. Every room had multiple fans. There was electricity and running water, but no a/c, so the house was pretty warm, but after a day or two, I adjusted. The shower water is freezing, but after a long day of working in the sun, it actually felt great. The in-country staff cooked us three meals each day, and the food was delicious. I think I ate better there than I do in America (haha)!
One part of the trip that really stands out to me was the trip to Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa. We were able to swim through the waterfall, and it was such an unbelievable experience. We spent a lot of time in orphanages playing with the children, and just talking to them and seeing how appreciative they are of the smallest gestures was eye-opening. When I walked down the street in the village, strangers invited me into their homes to share a meal with the family. The generosity and selflessness of the entire Ghanaian culture was unbelievable. The whole trip was one of the most memorable parts of my life. The most challenging part of the trip was staying motivated in the morning volunteer sessions. I was there in late June/early July, which is one of the hottest and most humid parts of the year. Working out in the intense sun, digging holes, fetching water, and planting trees was physically draining. There was plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated, but I still had to force myself to keep working. The staff are very respectful and understanding, however. When any of the volunteers felt too hot, tired, or sick, the staff made sure they had water, and allowed them to rest in the shade for as long as they needed to recover.
I never felt unsafe during any part of the trip. I remember being worried about security prior to arriving, but as soon as I left the airport and located the staff, I felt safe. Local salesmen immediately bombarded the group of volunteers trying to sell us food, drinks, souveniers, taxi rides, etc., and the CCS staff quickly stepped inbetween and demanded that the salesmen leave immediately. We were then escorted to our vehicles and handed bottled water. This initial protection made me feel secure and comfortable. In the safe house, there were 24-hour guards who stayed in the house, or in the front yard to ensure that no one entered our house at any point without authorization.
In our spare time, we usually played card games, played sports outside, or just sat in a circle talking. I think we had a perfect amount of spare time. Sometimes, in the afternoon, the local volunteers would join us for lunch and free time, so it was also a chance for more cultural enrichment. We taught eachother games and songs--it was almost like a summer camp feeling. Although it looks like there is excessive free time in the evening, it isn't too much, because during that period, everyone needs to shower. In my session, we had 6 girls who shared one shower, and 5 boys who shared one shower, so we used about two hours each night for showers. We also had a phone and a TV in the house, so nightly freetime was often used to call home or watch television. The phone is not too reliable--it often takes several tries to complete a call, and once a call is made, it's lucky to complete a conversation before getting disconnected, but with a little patience it's not a big deal. You do need to pay for calls, but it isn't expensive. If I remember correctly, 80 minutes of calling is about $7. Some people purchased international cell phones for the trip. While this connection is more reliable, the prices are OUTRAGEOUS. I would not recommend this, because although frusterating, the landline will work, and for a lot less money.
I can honestly and easily say that the two weeks I spent in Ghana, Africa were the best two weeks of my life. Part of what made it so unbelievable and unforgettable were the people that I met. The other volunteers in my group were all extremely kind and welcoming, and also very supportive. Living in a house with them and having meals together around a large table made it feel like I was part of a large family. Not only were the volunteers fantastic, but the local people that I met were so welcoming and generous. Some of these people, by American standards, truly had nothing--they lived in mud huts with no electricity or running water, no means of transportation besides walking, and no toys besides what could be made from nature or from trash, yet they still wanted to share everything they had. This is the mentality of every person that I met in Ghana.
I highly recommend CCS to anyone considering volunteering abroad. It is more expensive than many other programs, however, the support offered by the staff combined with unlimited bottled water, three cooked meals each day, running water, electricity, transportation, cultural excursions, etc. more than makes up for the high price. My experience was well worth every penny I spent.