Service Learning for Education and Healthcare in West Africa
94% Rating
(11 Reviews)

Service Learning for Education and Healthcare in West Africa

Backpacking with a Purpose: Apply by November 22!
If you're into cultural exchange, meaningful community service, and off-the-beaten path adventure, apply by November 22nd to secure an interview for your first-choice program!

In the hectic tro-tro stations of Accra, Ghana, vans weave through the market and spill onto the streets. Behind the castles of the ancient Gold Coast, strong ocean currents crash against colonial fortresses that once were the center of the Atlantic slave trade.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Togo is jam-packed with a diversity of terrains and landscapes, from coastlines edged with coconut trees to rolling hills and savannahs full of wildlife. Togo also has a diverse and colourful population with roughly 40 different ethnic groups – a true melting pot.

At Operation Groundswell, we journey to these two diverse countries to experience their rich cultures but also to untangle the pressing issues of access to healthcare and education. These vital and expansive topics are so intricately intertwined with many other arenas of daily life in West Africa. So get ready to widen your perspective on the world, international development, and what it really means to usher change.

Highlights
  • Get the big picture on rural and urban health issues, and examine the underlying conditions that cause them by contributing to local health initiatives.
  • Walk the dusty red paths in the Upper East of Ghana and learn about how environmental sustainability impacts health in remote areas of the region.
  • Connect with local educators and activists pushing for innovative teaching practices in various settings and against different constraints.
  • Hike to Agumatsa falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa, and stay in the breathtaking mountain village of Wli Todzi.
  • Explore the Vodun markets of Lomé, Togo and see how one of the oldest religions in the world fuses traditional and modern practices.
Locations
Africa » Ghana » Accra
Africa » Togo
Africa » Ghana » Cape Coast
Africa » Ghana » Kumasi
Length
1-3 Months
Language
English
Timeframe
Summer
Housing
Guesthouse
Host Family
Hostel
Lodge
Tent
Starting Price
$2,700.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Our program fee includes all on-the-ground costs including a comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region, accommodations, meals, transportation, excursions, and two experienced program leaders with you 24 hours a day.

The program fee does not include flights, insurance, or personal expenses such as souvenirs. We also ask team members for a community contribution that goes directly to support our local in-country partners.

As a registered non-profit, we're committed to financial accessibility. Our Financial Needs Grant can cover 15-25% of your five- or six-week program fee and is available for anyone experiencing financial strain, including individuals from low-income households, students, and recent graduates.
Other Locations
Sandema, Kazugo, Lome

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    88%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    88%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    95%

Program Reviews (11)

Sharleen
Female

Powerful Travel Experience

10/10

I went on OG's Ghana Global Health Program. By far it is one of the best travel experiences I've had as I've gotten older and become more independent. I had the opportunity to understand why developing cultural literacy before and while traveling/living in another country is so important. Visting and learning about different health initiatives in Ghana really opening my eyes to the wide range of social factors that affect health and the great value in having meaningful discussions with local community leaders and activists before doing anything as foreigners or "volunteers." The independent travel time, which is incorporated in all OG programs, was something I was worried about because I had never done any sort of travel without a program leader/tour guide/other family members, but I met some wonderful people over the course of the month that made that week one of the most transformative experiences in my life. The program leaders were amazing! They really knew their way around Ghana and encouraged us to travel as locals to really get a sense of what life there was like. If you love adventure, want to connect on a more personal level with the locals and the culture of Ghana, and understand what and how health issues are being dealt with at a community level I encourage you to apply! You will not regret it!

How can this program be improved?

I wish I knew more about the typical Ghanaian diet because being vegetarian I had very few opportunities to eat any fruits or vegetables. Most of my diet was bread, rice, and pasta. I was lucky that I brought vegan supplements with me which helped keep my energy up, but it wasn't enough.

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Karly
Female
25 years old
Edmonton
Other

Wow.

10/10

One of the most memorable experiences I've had in my life. I got to see what life was really like for West African people, culture, healthcare and way of living and what a beauty everything was. Useful tip: pack light, you'll have more time to sleep in and less to worry about. And also, be prepared for the time of your life that you'll be able to tell stories about for ages. The entire trip was my favourite memory, but Cape Three Points will always hold a special place in my heart.

How can this program be improved?

It was perfect

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Dana
Female
24 years old
Toronto, ON
Other

perfect choice for me

10/10

I don't know if I've ever felt more nervous in my life than in the days leading up to this trip. I had never done any international travel or any sort of program even remotely close to this. It was going to be a completely unprecedented experience for me and I remember being so petrified that as I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight I seriously considered just not getting on the plane. Had I done that I can honestly say it would have been the worst choice I had ever made.

This program gave me exactly the experience that I was looking for. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone while still feeling safe and supported. I wanted to be part of a close knit team. I wanted to learn how to best use my skills and time to make a positive impact on the place I was visiting and all the people I encountered there. Also, most importantly to me, I wanted a real experience and not a manufactured one. What I loved about travelling with OG was that I never felt like I was taking a tour of Ghana. Instead of being carted around and shown specific things we spent our time taking public transit, eating street food, shopping at the market and interacting with the people of this gorgeous country. A highlight for me was the time we spent in Sandema. After a couple weeks of travelling all over and orienting ourselves our group spent 2 and a half weeks living in a house in a village in the north. During this time we shopped, cooked, cleaned and hauled water (during the five days our water was shut off) for ourselves. We also got a chance to do the bulk of our volunteering for the trip. As a group we accomplished a lot in the time we were there and I appreciated that as participants it was largely left up to us to decide where we could be most useful. I personally helped to sort out clothing donations for HCC (a boys' home in Sandema that we worked closely with) and help to run a Girls Leadership Program with the other girls on my team among other things. After Sandema came Independent Travel Time -- 10 days where you were given complete freedom to travel wherever you chose which meant taking care of your own transport, accommodation, food etc. At the start of the trip I couldn't imagine how I could ever be ready for that and I was shocked to find I was a lot more prepared than I thought I would be. I saw elephants in a national park and relaxed on the beach. After ITT we all met back up at a castle by the ocean which is probably one of the most awesome places I have ever been. It was an otherworldly experience sitting on that castle wall listening to the waves. We had 3 days here to reflect on our trip together and mostly just enjoy the friendships we had formed. Our whole group really bonded on this trip.

Overall this program was just what I was looking for and also more than I expected. It gave me endless cool stories to tell and brought me more personal growth than anything else I've experienced. It's been 7 months since it ended and I still think about it pretty much every day.

How can this program be improved?

This is not so much a critique as it is a clarification. This is not a perfectly structured 6 weeks. The trip leaders sort of start the trip with a basic outline of where you'll be going and a few things you'll be doing but most things are decided as you go. This means that the group gets to shape the experience for themselves in order to get what they want out of it but if you are looking to volunteer for x amount of hours per day, eat at scheduled times and then have planned activities to go to this would not be the program for you.

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Jaclyn
Female
24 years old
Redmond, WA
Western Washington University

Ghana Discovery

10/10

I think about this trip on the daily- best, most rewarding, most eye-opening experience of my life. There is so much to experience and learn from Ghana and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it through OG. Our group flourished as team through the guidance of our trip leaders and because of this we were able to talk about, understand, and internalize all of our adventures. This encouragement to grow made every experience all the richer.

The structure of volunteering in Sandema was very open- we could choose where we wanted to spend each day. Amoung other opportunities, some people went to Horizons, some people helped with building the new center, and some people offered tutorials to folks at the computer lab. This choice-based structure worked out really well for me. While in Sandema I met a local man who teaches high school (secondary) art. I teach art back here in the States and I was pumped to get to see how the job is done in Ghana. Due to the flexibility of OG's program I was able to work with him for a few days and experience Ghanaian life in a way that was deeply meaningful to me. I'm very grateful for the freedom and autonomy we were given that made experiences like this possible.

I wish I could spend every summer this way!

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Lev
Male
24 years old
Santa Cruz, CA
University of California- Santa Cruz

Mindblowing

9/10

This trip was a most rewarding experience of my life. The group was very tight knit thanks to the great facilitation of the organizers. Due to this the adventure was marvelous and integrating. We shared everything we saw in group discussions and critically analyzed our volunteer work and how it could be better. Overall, I feel much more involved and aware of the world around me after my trip with Operation Groundswell.

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Omead
Male
24 years old
Ann Arbor, MI
University of Michigan

Doesn't get better than this

8/10

I've been fortunate to travel the world with multiple programs. However, I have never experienced one like Operation Groundswell. OG truly cares about the country that you visit and the people you meet. Wherever you go, you will travel, eat, sleep and party like a local. OG enabled me to absorb all that Ghana had to offer and helped me learn more about myself.

In just 6 amazing weeks, we traveled all over hiking through unbelievable mountains, chilling at the beach, and hanging out with some of the most incredible boys you'll ever meet. However, what I found most unique about OG and what I felt made it such a great trip, was the autonomy and responsibility that you're given. I wasn't held back by a program that only sees one way of doing things. It's up to you to push yourself and to try explore, but there will always be amazing trip leaders and mentors to help you along the way.

All in all, an incredible journey that I wouldn't hesitate to do again. I still don't know what propelled me go to Ghana, but I'm so glad I did!

How can this program be improved?

It could've been a little more structured. There were times that I felt like I wasn't making the most out of my trip. However, my trip leaders always had solutions and were always willing to help.

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Lu
Female
24 years old
Sheffield UK
University of Sheffield

Words can't describe but I'll try

10/10

This experience will stick with me forever! It has changed me for the best. It's an experience everyone should undertake. It made me personally realise how lucky I am to have the education and educational opportunities I hold, and even made me regret how previously I had not used these opportunities to my full potential, taking a lot of it for granted. However since the trip I'm I trying to take all opportunities that arise, be it educational or just generally.

There are 2 outcomes of this trip which illustrates its brilliance...
1. I want to do another operation groundswell trip
2. I want to visit Ghana again

Ghana is an incredible place and I would (and have ) recommend everyone to go and see it for themselves because you have to personally feel and experience it's magic, whether it's dancing in the rain with a group of school children or eating stew and rice under the stars on top of Wlitogi.

And obviously I would not have experienced Ghana the way I did without operation groundswell and the amazing leaders! This organisation makes your trip unique and you feel at home in a new country. People did think it was a little over priced but for me personally, from what I gained out of it, the price was cheap! It allowed you to feel independent but safe still. If you want to visit Ghana for the first time do it with this group, because you will experience Ghana so much more than doing it on your own.

There is not a day that goes by when I don't think about this trip, Ghana and the people I met. I'm still having Ghana/operation groundswell blues to this day! I really wish I could do it all over again! So if your reading this...sign up right away!!!!!

How can this program be improved?

Really struggle to think of any criticism, but maybe just uphold certain rules more firmly. Drinking water maybe should be bottled not pure water.

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Hannah
Female
24 years old
Montreal
McGill University

West Africa Discovery

9/10

Five months later I am still thinking and longing for my summer in Ghana. I am so grateful for the people I met, the sights I saw, the food I ate, the thoughts I had, and the feelings I experienced. Operation Groundswell offers a very unique experience, one that is grounded, thought-provoking, fun, and challenging.

Whether it was walking around the market in Accra eating egg and bread, lying on a beach on the coast, climbing up a mountain to meet a village of wonderful people, or just listing to music on a long tro- tro ride, I loved everyday in Ghana and would go back in an instant!

How can this program be improved?

More discussions as a group throughout the trip.

More organization regarding the volunteer portion of the program is needed.

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Sheetal
Female
24 years old
Toronto, Ontario
Ryerson University

OG West Africa 2012 Review

10/10

Operation Groundswell is definitely one of the best organizations out there for volunteering abroad. I had the best experience of my life on this trip. I originally set out on this trip because I wanted to do something that would bring me out of my comfort zone and open me up to a new culture in a different way rather than the cookie cutter tourism experience. This trip did exactly that.

The best part of OG is that you actually get to immerse yourself into the culture of the country you are in. When they say, “you live like locals” they mean it. It is a whole different (and amazing!) experience when you are living in a house with 10 other strangers eating rice and vegetables you cooked yourself compared to staying in a hotel and eating fries and a burger. Even small things like riding the local bus, bargaining on the price of a bracelet, buying groceries, or trying to get a tro tro (a van kind of used for a taxi but usually cheaper) by yourself all adds to the experience and makes it that much more personal and memorable (rather than someone doing it all for you).

Day to day experiences included cooking and eating like locals (which was amazing!), and taking your own lead on volunteering projects in the village. Whether you wanted to help farm with G-Roots, help Gilbert at the local disability centre, organize soccer tournaments for the local schools, help out at the local resource centre, and/or have a workshop with the boys at the Horizons Children’s Centre, it was your choice. We would then come home and usually have a debrief about our day as a group, and discuss anything we were feeling, successes of the day and/or anything we needed help with. (These debriefs were much needed and amazing!) The trip leaders were awesome as well. One leader in particular was with us every step of the way and extremely supportive by just making sure were were physically and mentally okay, and was always there to help if we needed anything.

The highlight of this trip would definitely be working with the Horizons Children's Centre in Sandema. The boys there will teach you things you could not imagine. The love, wisdom, and experiences they share with you are unforgettable and make this trip worth every penny. Another major highlight would be during the independent travel time you are allotted during the trip. I myself along with 2 new friends decided to take daylong walks to experience the people of Ghana. This idea did not disappoint. We met the most amazing, kind, and generous people on our walk that have changed my outlook on people and life.

How can this program be improved?

No program is perfect. Even with the most amazing experience I had if I had to suggest something to OG it would just to be clear on the volunteering aspect of their trips. Meaning if it is unstructured just to be more clear of that in their descriptions, where as some trips might have a more structured 9am-5pm volunteering schedule.


Things can happen on trips like this but as the saying goes in Ghana, “nothing works, but everything works out!” Just remember this while you’re there!

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ishaule
Male
24 years old
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
University of Guelph

One of the best organization's out there

9/10

Operation Groundswell (or OG as it is affectionally named) is one of the best organizations out there! The experience that OG offers competes with some of the bigger names out there and outpaces them faster than Usain Bolt. The trip leaders truly make their programs amazing; not only do they come with years of crazy life experience, but they are also real people that care about who you are and what you want to get out of the trip. When I was in Ghana, one trip leader in particular really pushed us all to get out of our shell's and make a connection with the boys at HCC! One of the most common critiques of programs like this are that they are over-glorified 'volun-tourism' trips and OG works really hard to get away from that by making sure that trip participants live like a local. Taking crammed tro-tro rides (basically a van that they somehow manage to fit 12 people in) and working alongside locally-created projects (rather than coming in as white saviours and messing stuff up). One of the craziest things I ever did in that country was to take a 45 minute motorcycle ride with three people (on one bike) and all of our bags and backpacks--so not only were the 'boys' hurting but also every other part of my body as I struggled to hold on to this speeding machine. But. That's what it is to be Ghanaian. You just go with the flow.

How can this program be improved?

This program has a great deal of flexibility and has the ability to change based on the participants experience level. So if there is a group that doesn't have a great deal of travel experience, it can be more rigid; whereas if a group is comprised of experienced backpackers and hitchhikers then the program can become a little more loose. However, there can be an issue that emerges when the trip leaders can't modify their leadership styles to match the group needs. This is a very young organization and it still has a few hiccups to overcome. But the model they present is refreshingly different than other programs that advertise themselves as the same thing.

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Kelsey
Female
24 years old
Ontario, Canada
Wilfrid Laurier University

West Africa Experience

8/10

My trip with OG is something I will never forget.
Travelling to Ghana with a group of amazing people has truly changed my life.
Being able to travel throughout the beautiful country of Ghana, and learn about the culture, food, music and people was incredible.
Operation Groundswell is a great organization that allows its participants to experience an authentic cultural exchange.
Yes, it was hard to get used to the food at first, but once you try the egg n' bread you will be hooked!
OG creates relationships that last a lifetime, and although it is not always easy to be with a group of complete strangers in a foreign place, the good times definitely outweighed the bad.
Overall- OG WEST AFRICA has made me fall in love with Ghana, and was a great program to go with, as a first time traveller.

How can this program be improved?

Perhaps helping the participants to fly together.

Lowering the program fee, as the flight is very expensive and is not included in the price.

Having more debriefs as a group!

About The Provider

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Operation Groundswell is all about backpacking with a purpose. With ethical travel at the crux of our philosophy, Operation Groundswell designs financially accessible programs that tell a story, addressing key challenges unique to each region and community we work with, told from diverse local perspectives.

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