Ever since I was little I have wanted to go to Africa, I don’t really know why but there has been something that has fascinated me about that part of the world. Andrew and I decided, when the time came to visit Africa, we would go there and volunteer so we could get immersed within the culture and community. I believe this is the only way to experience (most of) Africa. In Ghana, nothing is set up for tourists, there is only real life to see, the struggles, the poverty, the strong infectious spirits of the most beautiful people you will ever meet, and the only way to see this real life is by living there, not passing through.
We arrived in Ghana after a long 30 hour commute from Melbourne, we were tired and just wanted a shower to wash off that disgusting feeling that comes from traveling on a plane for hours on end. We waited outside the airport for Rev. Laud to pick us up and were both relieved when we saw him. He looked like this beautiful angle dressed in white coming to collect us. We had never met him before and only communicated through email so we really went there with our fingers crossed hoping this whole experience was legit and we weren’t about to go get ourselves into trouble.
Rev. Laud took us by taxi to his village and our new home, his home. He showed us our room, his room, the porch which was the ‘dining room’ where we spent all our spare time, and a room with a toilet and a place to stand where you have a bucket shower. When he was explaining how to use the toilet and how to shower, that was when it hit me, we were really in Africa. I laugh now thinking of how excited I was on the plane about having a nice hot pelting shower as soon as we were in Ghana. I didn’t wash my hair the whole time we were there, there just wasn’t enough water for that luxury and as a result I wore my hat all day and all night to cover the birds nest that was on top of my head.
People have asked me, what did you do in Ghana when you weren’t teaching and the answer is we didn’t do anything. We sat on the porch on a table with Rev. Laud and my beautiful boy Kwaku and the other 2 volunteers and enjoyed each others company. We listened to our neighbours singing, washed our clothes by hand, made and drank a lot of coffee, and hung out with the village kids. It was the most relaxing and most fun I have ever had on holiday, but not in the traditional sense. While there, I have never in my life been so dirty, so sweaty, so frustrated at times, yet it was so incredible.
Since we have been back people ask, was your trip life changing? I think it’s a bit dramatic to say, yes. Was it eye opening? Did the journey make me appreciate what I have in my life? Did I feel powerful changing the fate of so many lives? Yes, yes, yes. Would I go back to Ghana? In a heart beat, it was the best experience of my life. I now have an African brother, Rev. Laud, and the sweetest memories of children that I hope I can keep in touch with and continue to help and support so they can reach a future they deserve. It was a powerful journey and experience and I am so grateful to have had it and through this adventure it has made me feel so grateful for the life I have. The only difference between me and them is that I was born in the right country.
There is just something about Africa that gets inside your soul, the people and their spirit, the way they live their lives, that makes you put everything into perspective and allows you to appreciate the life you have. Be grateful for your life and all the opportunities and possibilities you have, don’t waste them, we don’t realise how lucky we are.
^ Our water for the week for the toilet, showering, washing and cooking. I found it difficult to watch people spend such an enormous amount of time and energy collecting water, it handicaps their lives. I still feel guilty every time I turn on a tap and just like that, there’s fresh water.
^ I used the bathrooms at the Accra markets and someone padlocked me in there. I had never screamed and banged my fists so hard in all my life, eventually after 10 minutes someone heard me and unlocked me…scary stuff!
^ Washing our clothes