First Blog Post
So this is my first blog post about my year volunteer in Ghana with Project Trust. It is hard to believe that it’s almost December already, meaning we have survived nearly 3 months away from the comforts of home! I apologise for the lack of blogging so far, we’ve had several issues with getting internet connection and even when we do, it is extremely slow. The past 10 weeks in Ghana have been very challenging but also amazing, and now a year doesn’t feel like such a long time. This first post is just a general update on what our life is like out here, hope you enjoy!
So for those that don’t know, Project Trust is an educational charity that sends volunteers to various 12 month projects in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Project Trust is based on the Isle of Coll, where each volunteer has to travel for a residential Overseas Training course. After applying online and attending a ‘Selection course’ on Coll, in April 2013, I found out that I had been selected to volunteer in Ghana at a brand new teaching project( meaning we’re the first pair of volunteers at the project).
The next step was just to fundraise £5600! Raising this amount of money was no easy task but thanks to all friends, family, family-friends, trusts and businesses, for not just their donations but there encouragement and support too! So for those that are reading this, thank you again! Already I know that this is proving to be the best decision of my life and hopefully after reading this I’m sure you’ll begin to see why!
So Rosie( my Project Trust partner) and I are living in a rural village called Atidzive (ah-tee-jay-vay) near a town called Akatsi (ah-cat-chee) in the Volta Region of Ghana. Atidzive is an amazing community and it has been fascinating observing the rural African way of life. In general, Atidzive is a very poor area and most of the villagers are subsistence farmers of mainly cassava or maize.
The village consists mainly of small buildings and mud huts, with the exception of our accommodation! We are staying in the local MP’s house which was extremely bizarre at first because we had been told to expect very basic living conditions. Bernard is the MP of the Akatsi-South District and grew up in Atidzive. This meant that after he was elected, he built a huge, fancy house in the village, and has now offered it as our accommodation.
The fanciness and decor has proven to be a bit of a false illusion however! We have had no running water for 2 weeks now and have a power cut every day, and we keep finding cockroaches in the bathtub! So not living in luxury exactly!
There is no kitchen in the house so we get our evening meals cooked for us by relatives of the MP, called Mama and Wisdom. They are a lovely couple who have played a huge part in helping us settle into the village. Mama of course does all the cooking, not many men in Ghana know how cook, and she is determined that go home very fat! This means we have had to adjust to the traditional Ghanaian food pretty quickly! Although it was a bit of a shock to the system at first, I now really enjoy the food. The meals consist of a type of carbohydrate, either fufu (yam and cassava), bunku, akple, yam or plantain and is eaten with various types of soup. You eat with your right hand (its rude to touch food with the left) and use the fufu or whatever your having to mop up the stew.
Although no-one seemed to know why we are here initially, the village have been extremely friendly and welcoming towards us. We have managed to pick up small pieces of the local language, Ewe, and the locals, especially the elderly absolutely love it when you greet them properly in Ewe. The small kids still follow us around shouting ‘yavoo!!!’ whenever they see us, which is Ewe for ‘white man’ but we have slowly been persuading them to shout ‘Madam!’ instead, as its slightly less offensive! The most challenging part of the first weeks in the village was feeling that we didn’t know anyone but as time passes people are getting used to the two ‘white girls’ in town and we’re definitely starting to make some friends.
Akatsi is the closest town to the village and we tend to go twice a week for the market and to visit the internet cafe. It is a 15 minute motorbike journey away ( we have finally purchased helmets!l) as there are rarely cars coming in and out the village. Akatsi market is amazing but unbelievably hot and busy so we try to get in and out as quickly as possible. We normally just go to stock up on fruit, the pineapples, bananas and papayas here are delicious! Will try to get some pics of Akatsi for my next post.
So Rosie and I are teaching in Atidzive Roman Catholic Basic School, just a 2 minute walk from our house. The school’s catchment area is literally just our village and then a couple of smaller ones nearby. I am teaching at the priary school and Rosie at the secondary school, and there is around 250 pupils enrolled.
The first week of term in September was pretty non-eventful and disorganised, and the pupils spent the time cutting the football field with cutlasses, even the primary 1s! The second week however, was extremely stressful as lessons began. I am the primary 6 teacher, which means I am in charge of a class of 31 pupils almost all day, every day, which at first, was extremely difficult to handle! All the kids are very nice but can also be pretty noisy and mischievous when altogether!
The staff at the school are all lovely, especially the headmaster, but you cannot help but get slightly frustrated at times with the Ghanaian Education system! It sure does have its flaws, the main problem being the corruption within the government which means there is very little money being provided to the basic schools. Last month, there was a 2 and a half week long teachers’ strike, due to the government refusing to release the funds for salaries and pensions. During the strike the primary school was completely shut but Rosie and I were allowed to continue teaching at the senior school, to keep us busy.
For the most part, I absolutely love the teaching and still getting used to being called Madam Myrtle everywhere I go! Although some of the pupils are very bright, the majority of them can barely read or write English and so this has been the obvious place to focus on. We are extremely lucky to have a library in the village. Last year an organisation from Canada came to build the library and fill it with donated books so I take the class almost everyday for attempted ‘silent’ reading.
Project Trust expects each volunteer to set up a secondary project whist overseas, which just means they have to do extra voluntary work outside teaching hours. Rosie and I have decided to open the library in the evenings and on Sundays to give the kids opportunity for extra help and reading classes. This has also been a really good way of getting to know the villagers and the pupils better.
We are beginning to feel pretty comfortable at our project, but the last couple of months has been pretty challenging trying to settle in, and trying to overcome various issues that we’ve come across. Thanks everyone for the messages, emails and letters, it really is nice feeling like I’m keeping in touch with everything back in the UK! I have days, especially when its been a hard day of teaching, that I feel pretty homesick, so its always nice to hear from you. I hope this post has given you a bit of an idea about what I’m up to, I feel I’ve only mentioned a fraction of the things I want to share, but didn’t want to make the post to long and bore you! I intend to get the next post up before Christmas so will let you know!
Hope you are all well and thank you for the support!