Thursday, 27 July 2017

What to expect when volunteering in Ghana

This is by no means, a comprehensive list; considering we are only on day 10. However, those days have given us substantial experience for what is to come and certain etiquettes.

1. SERIOUSLY consider the heat and mosquito bites. This is Africa, most people know it's hot, but it should be in the forefront of your mind at all times when making decisions. What clothes to wear, dehydration, deodorant (make-up wipes are an absolute saviour to freshen up).You will find yourself easily drinking 3 litres of water a day. As for the mosquito bites... anti malarial tablets are a precaution and usually have nasty side-effects you should also sleep under a mosquito net and apply DEET spray whenever you can and as much as you can! Having said this, malaria is common and many of our volunteers have been diagnosed already. Within three days and with medication that will make you sleep all day, it's just like having bad flu in the UK. You can happily return to work for the majority, if you seek help as soon as possible.

2. Patience will be a practice you have to become accustomed to. All volunteers will have fruitful ideas and directions for the project. With our 5 Ghanaian volunteers and 5 UK volunteers we set rules for us to follow to safeguard an open forum of discussion on all decisions, to which allows every individual an equal say. Unanimous agreement is the only way to organise yourselves and keep productivity among all volunteers. This comes with a hefty time cost. Amongst extensive debates and endless discussions.

3. It's all about the people you know. Volunteers from the area you are based become invaluable! You will find that Ghana is very much broken down into from the south to the North of Ghana, the regions (upper east and upper north, etc) and further by the communities within our city of Tamale. All are vastly different, and although there may not be a physical separation of each community, they encompass different dialects, mannerisms and etiquettes to differentiate themselves. Thus-forth the in-country volunteers who are knowledgeable and who are well known ensures a smooth community assimilation. 

4. Ghanaians are inherently friendly. Greetings are a common sign of courtesy which is required every time you cross paths with someone. Learning the local language for such greetings creates a great bond and reputation for foreign volunteers. With very receptive responses amongst the locals. Every impression you make is remembered and talked about amongst the community. For our UK volunteers it may be intimidating to talk to everyone, even if it's a simple good morning but you will soon realise that those who look like they want to mind their own business change their whole demeanour once spoken to.

5. You will soon realise the hustling nature of the market. If you look foreign (inclusive of Ghanaians from a different area); be prepared for comments we have received, such as: 'you are white, you must be a billionaire?'. This therefore leads to being offered significantly higher prices than its true price. The biggest advice is to learn the value of taxi rides and products. Brush up on your bargaining skills. Most Ghanaian individuals are opportunists (do not be offended) and will charge higher prices due to your lack of knowledge as well as the presumption that if you are foreign, you must be wealthy. 

6. A small note for the food. Do NOT underestimate the spice. We have several spice lovers from the UK who have, quiet literally bitten off more than they can chew. Very much to the amusement of the in-country volunteers, who are very much comfortable with their understanding that some spices are just too much. It's all about the quantity size of a spicy sauce-to compliment the dish. Eating with your hands will be a skill you will have to acquire. There is a knack to it, when you do find out, please let us know

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