Hello from Ghana!
I have been staying with Akwaaba Volunteers for four days now. Here’s a little update on what I’ve been up to in Accra, Ghana.
Akwaaba Volunteers is a not-for-profit volunteering scheme run by Jordan Palmer and King Boateng. Volunteers like me from overseas come and stay in the volunteer house and work in various placements around Accra. Upon arriving, we were given a tour of the local neighbourhood, which is a lovely quiet area with lots of friendly neighbours, roaming goats and chickens. The smaller roads are all dirt tracks and have deep open ditches at each side.
After a morning of relaxing at the house, we headed to the beach. Getting a taxi is really easy and cheap (a 15 minute journey costs around £2), even if the cars have no seatbelts and all the warning lights showing!
The beach was quite an overwhelming experience. The natural beauty of the sea is undeniable, and everyone from street vendors to horse riders are determined to capitalise on it. The result was a sensory overload that gave you no option but to sit back and ‘relax’ as best you could to the bassy reggae music playing loudly from the bars. I tried my first fresh coconut – the guys use a machete to cut off the top so you can drink the water, which is very impressive to watch, if a little scary!
On Monday I started my placement in the public health department at La General Hospital. The department deals with vaccination and monitoring child’s health (such as weight), as well as visiting patients in their homes to provide treatment. I went out to the local schools with a nurse named Gabriel, and we administered the oral polio vaccine to children under 5, using the ‘purple pinkie’ to mark who’d had the vaccination. Ghana was polio free, however some cases are occurring in the north so the vaccination programme was carried out this year. The children were very interested to see me, I even got my nose squeezed by a very curious teenage girl! After visiting the schools we met up with some other nurses and went to a home for street children to give a talk on sexual health and prevention of gonorrhoea and syphilis. Apparently the nurses do these talks weekly, which is unusual for Ghana where there is very little sex education given by schools. The conservative attitude is that all should abstain from sex until marriage.
Back at the clinic I helped with weighing the babies to record their progress. Each mum arrives with their little one tucked cosily in a sling on her back, and they are undressed and put in a little purpose-made sling (made from old flour bags) to be weighed.
On Monday nights the volunteers go to the football grounds to host an after school club for the local kids. This consists of giving lessons to consolidate school work and playing games, as well as giving out donations of clothes and bags. The kids knew the volunteers well, and there was no shyness as they asked for help with homework, taught us dance moves or chatted with us. The littler ones were all vying for a chance to be carried around, and needless to say my arms were dead by the end of the day! They are such lovely kids, and by sticking together they can stay safer on the streets when they aren’t at home.
Some other highlights of my week so far include watching another volunteer working with the horses at the equine project. Most of the horses are stallions belonging to the military, so there’s a lot of attitude in those stables! Walking through the neighbourhood to the yard was lovely, as all the locals will say hello and wave. I also completed my first load of washing with nothing more than a bar of soap and a bucket. You can get surprisingly good results!
We are visiting the north this weekend to go to the national park, to see the elephants and monkeys. I am really looking forward to seeing the north of Ghana and comparing it to Accra.
By Isobel Hobbs