Volunteering in Africa - A Life Changing Experience
Isabel Estrada-Tank had always dreamed of going to volunteer in Africa. And when she got some free time she applied and never looked back. This experience turned out to be better than she every imagined and she enjoyed a life changing journey. Here she shares her experience.
What Organisation Did You Apply With?
When I started researching options for my gap year online I saw there were so many different destinations and opportunities available. I started searching for volunteer programs abroad and set my heart on going to help in Africa which had been a long time aim. I decided to apply with Volunteers Partnership for West Africa who offer a range of projects in Greater Accra, Ghana. There is the option to join programs for 2 weeks to 1 year. It costs 400 € per month (includes accommodation and 1 meal a day).
Can Anyone Apply?
To be eligible you must be 18 years old, have a yellow fever card and be eligible for a tourist visa.
Aim of the Organisation
Volunteers Partnership for West Africa is a local NGO working for underprivileged communities, outside of the capital city of Accra. Its aims are to promote culture, education, health and employment. This NGO is member of the United Nations Volunteers and it also obtains support from international volunteers and business sponsors.
What Did You Do
I was involved in so many different activities including teaching English at rural schools, organizing events, promoting microfinance, reducing illiteracy, medical help at hospitals, child support projects, among others.
Activities of VPWA
The schedule was like a normal workday back home. It is a must you are prepared to work hard as there are so many different areas youc can be helping including:
- Children’s Center: helping at an orphanage children’s center which VPWA supports and which provides food, accommodation and education
- Teaching English: it is a group of 20-30 children
- Microfinance Office/Empowerment for Women: select and train candidates, making available to them the basic materials to start a business. Once they start, you accompany them in the process
- Medical: in the hospital, doctors and nurses will be needed to help staff on medical electives
- Street Library: it is a project to obtain the donation of books from national, international and local publishers, to increase literacy among the people in the towns around Accra
- Construction: building volunteer project a new children’s center
Top Tips for Future Participants
- When you get to the airport, get someone to pick you up.
- Bring basic school materials (pencils, paper, color sheets, scissors, paste, pens, markers, crayons, drawings); clothes; English books; medical materials.
- Bring malaria pills and an emergency kit. The first days you might have stomach problems, getting used to the water and new foods.
- Don't be afraid of local people - in Pokuase (where the international VPWA house of volunteers is located) is very safe and people even know you and will say hello to you.
- Just enjoy the experience and get involved with everything!
I was lucky to see a lot of the country, it is so diverse. The places you must go when you are in Ghana are: Kakum National Park, Cape Coast, Wii Falls, Ho and Hoe, Bojo Beach, Kejetia Market in Kumasi, Ada Beach, Tamale National Park, Lake Bosumtwi (stay at the Green Ranch, a B&B owned by a French woman and her Ghanaian husband).
I was very happy working for the NGO and living in the country - it was such an eye opening experience. I ended up volunteered in Ghana for six months and I participated in different projects, such as planning, the Street Library Project, the Children’s Center and teaching English at a local school. It really was a life changing experience and I couldn't recommend to anyone reading this to go and do something similar.
By Isabel Estrada-Tank
If this type of experience appeals to you view our volunteer programs in Africa.