Service Learning for Education and Healthcare in West Africa

Video and Photos

About

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.

Financial Grants Available!

Our financial grants program can cover 15-25% of your program fee. Simply apply for an OG program and contact our financial support team. Visit our website for more information!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.46 Rating
based on 13 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 8 of 13
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Catherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Trip of a life time

Going into this trip I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anyone in my group and I had never been on a trip this long before. However it turned out to be the best experience I could ever ask for. The trip leaders knew exactly what they were doing and made us feel safe and welcomed the whole time. We got to experience Ghana in a way few people besides locals do and it was truly amazing. I fell in love with this country and it’s oeople and it was so hard leaving at the end. The travel group grew close and I still keep in touch with them today. I would go back in a heartbeat if I could. Operation Groundswell is well organized and will provide you with a once in a lifetime experience if you let them.

What would you improve about this program?
More predeparture meetings. It would have been a little more comforting if we got to know each other a little more before traveling across the world
Cat
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Travel of My Life

I have never traveled with people that I had not met before. I had been going with groups from my school or with my family. So going into this I was really nervous. However through the entire trip I never once felt unsafe. I also got bit by a monkey my third day there and the program leaders handled it amazingly and I got the shots I needed with no problems. The experiences themselves were also amazing. I got to do so much and see so much of a country I had been dreaming of visiting since I was little. We got to meet so many people and see so much. I also had a lot of self growth. Going into the trip I had a lot of mental health issues. I was very self conscience and closed off in many ways. The trip help me open up in so many ways and soon I was the most confident and happy I have been in the past 10 years. I owe this trip so much. For future participants I say go in open minded. And when you're presented with an opportunity to try something new to take it. You wont regret it and chances are you'll love the experience. Make the most out of it, because you never know if you'll be able to make it back. It was an amazing trip and I enjoyed every moment of it!

What would you improve about this program?
I would say just more communication between program leaders and participants. We only had 2 video meetings with everyone. I know its hard to get everyone together but having a few more might be better and have a lot of people feel more comfortable leaving for Ghana. Also just assuring this isn't a scam. My group talked about it a lot but comments on Facebook on OG adds had people saying this was a scam and worried a lot of us.
Sharleen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Powerful Travel Experience

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Karly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wow.

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.

What would you improve about this program?
It was perfect
Default avatar
Dana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

perfect choice for me

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Ghana Discovery

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
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Mindblowing

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
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Doesn't get better than this

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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.