I had always wanted to go to Ghana to volunteer teach and after researching lots of different organisations, I decided to go with the Volta Aid Foundation. The cost was very reasonable, the website informative, I had read great reviews, and all contact I had with the Volta Aid Foundation volunteer coordinator to organise the placement was very efficient and helpful. I booked to go for the month of July 2014, leaving late June and returning early August.
When I landed in Accra, the Volta Aid Foundation volunteer coordinator picked me up, took me to a hotel, and we left the next day for Ho. He brought me to my host family, and the following day took me to school to start teaching. This is where I began to encounter problems.
As I was arriving at the school for the first time, the VAF volunteer coordinator informed me that there was actually only 1.5 weeks of teaching left. After that there would be 2 weeks of exams when there would be little need for volunteers, and school would finish completely on 24th July, leaving me with the last week of July with no volunteering. I was very unhappy about this, as I had been told I could teach for the whole month of July. Another problem was that it turned out I only had 8 hours of teaching to do a week, often only one hour a day. I had been led to believe I would be doing full days at school from Monday to Friday, so again, I was disappointed as I felt I was contributing very little to the project.
The other major problem was the host family. The accommodation and food was fine, but the family made almost no effort to communicate with me at any point and I felt invisible to them. They barely spoke to me or acknowledged my presence - they would just set my food on the table and disappear. During my first weekend in Ho, I explained to the host parents that I was going to a bar in town to watch a World Cup match and would be back that night. When I returned "home" I found they had locked me out of the house. I had to ask for help from strangers to get me into the garden and then bang on the door before they would let me in. This was a very distressing incident as it showed how little they cared about me as a guest in their home, and I felt very unwelcome and unwanted.
Due to the lack of actual volunteering for me to do, and the uncomfortable and lonely living conditions, I decided to end my placement after just two weeks. I stayed to finish the teaching at the school, as that was the reason I had gone, but after that I could see no need for me to be there. There were no other volunteers from VAF in Ho at that time, and I felt very lonely and miserable. When I agreed to speak to the VAF volunteer coordinator about my reasons for leaving, he took me in his car to the middle of nowhere at night time, and parked up on a deserted street to ask me what my problem was. As a lone female, I felt very uncomfortable and quite scared in that situation, and it is another example of VAF's lack of professionalism and ethics.
It cost me a lot of money to go to Ghana, and even more money to get home earlier than planned. I had travelled to Africa before and had a fair idea of what to expect, but I feel severely let down by VAF. Since returning home, I have contacted the VAF volunteer coordinator to ask for some of my programme fee to be refunded, as I feel VAF was dishonest and misleading about the conditions of the volunteer placement. The VAF volunteer coordinator has replied, but refused to consider my request. Unfortunately, I am not the only one to have been deceived by this organisation. For the first two days in Ho, there was another volunteer at my host home, who told me she had also been misled about what she would be doing in Ho and was extremely angry about the way she had been treated.
The Volta Aid Foundation is unethical, badly organised, and dishonest and I would avoid them completely in future. I am glad I went to Ghana as it was important for me to try, but I wish I had chosen a different organisation to go with. By choosing VAF, I believed I would be contributing to a worthwhile cause and would be well looked after and kept safe by the organisation. This was not the case and it turned out to be quite a traumatic experience.
I hope this review encourages potential volunteers to avoid VAF and commit their time, skills, and money to a more worthwhile organisation.