Defying Expectations in Ghana

If somebody had told me last year that I was going to spend my summer working at a Community Rehabilitation organization in Ghana for 3 months, I would have laughed and told them that they didn’t know me at all, because I would never do anything like that! Somehow though, on May 15 I found myself vaccinated, packed, and on a flight to Accra with 5 fellow U of C students. It was the start of the biggest adventure of my life.

What’s the very first thing I noticed about Ghana? The heat and the people. What do I miss about Ghana? The heat and the people. Ghanaians are not reserved, or private, or cold. They are just about the friendliest people you’ve ever met, and are always willing to help a lost visitor. This came in handy on many occasions!

During our stay, we travelled the country trying to take in as many Ghanaian sites as possible. This included swimming at Kintampo waterfalls, walking through the jungle to spot elephants, and practicing our best dance moves at Blackstar Nightclub (In case you are wondering, these do not come close to the dance moves of actual Ghanaians).

When not travelling, I worked full-time at Presbyterian Community Based Rehabilitation, an organization in the small northern town of Sandema. Throughout my time here I worked on funding proposals for a new Disability Resource Centre and a Maternal Health Clinic. These were fantastic learning opportunities, both for proposal writing, and for learning about work culture in Ghana. I learned that community development does not need to involve massive sums of money, just a passionate group of individuals who know and love their town.

Ghana had its challenges as well, of course. The country is in a power crisis, and ‘Lights Out’ can last anywhere from 6-12 hours. Or it’s intermittent, which is worse. There’s no feeling quite like waking up when the fan goes off at 6am and knowing with certainty that it will be out till 6pm.

But you get used to sweating in Ghana and even without fans, life goes on. I got comfortable riding on the backs of motorcycles, the main form of transportation where we lived, and used to long bus rides. I also developed a taste for groundnut (peanut) soup, plantain, and TopChoco. I could eat these three things for the rest of my life, and be completely happy.

I got to run alongside kids whose energy levels scared me, and saw their parents complete the back breaking work of planting fields by hand. I was also treated to hospitality like I’ve never experienced and which I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay. At this point, I don’t know when I’ll be back again. I am only sure that I now have a Ghanaian path on my journey, and this has made me incredibly happy.

Occasionally, I am still surprised that I went to Ghana, but if I could give past Amy a high-five I would for sending me on the adventure. If you are considering a trip like this I would recommend it 100%. The country is beautiful, the people are great, and I will definitely return someday.

This opportunity was made entirely possible by Universities Canada, and its Queen Elizabeth Scholarships. For more information about my trip, you can check out the blog posts I wrote while I was there at https://findamyhere.wordpress.com/  or attend my presentation on campus on Nov 18th: https://www.ucalgary.ca/events/calendar/agumchaab-lets-unite-sharing-our-qes-internship-experience-ghana   

Submitted by Amy Bruce

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