Updated: Apr 5, 2018
Who am I?
My name is Emma, I am a 20 year-old Youth Work student and I come from Adelaide, South Australia. As part of my fierce passion for humanitarianism, I volunteered at Ryvanz-Mia Childcare (Orphanage) for 23 days in December 2017.
I always wanted to experience what life is like for those who aren’t as privileged as the average western white person living in a developed country. Thus, I travelled to Volta Region, Kpando, Ghana in West Africa, to spend 3 weeks with an orphanage family.
What was my experience at Ryvanz-Mia Childcare (Orphanage)?
As part of my volunteer program fee, the orphanage provided me with three tasty meals a day and accommodation at the orphanage itself. Something I really appreciate about staying at Ryvanz-Mia Childcare (Orphanage), is it gave me the feeling of experiencing an authentic Ghanaian lifestyle. I didn’t stay in one of Ghana’s fancy hotels with air-conditioning and room service; I didn’t stay with a wealthy Ghanaian host family. Instead, I slept in a basic room with a basic bed, a mosquito net, and a fan. It was sufficient, I was an equal, and it was honestly all I needed.
During the day, I participated in daily activities whilst the orphanage’s kids were at school. This varied from tie-dye activities, peeling plantains, de-shelling peanuts, hand-washing clothes to cleaning, and preparing food. All activities are the orphanage’s way of earning money to pay for their cost of living, as well as maintaining the orphanage itself.
When the kids came home from school, I helped them do their homework, observed the kids who struggled, I then focused on helping them one on one, and I encouraged the other kids to help them, too. I also read to the younger children, doing my best to improve their English skills. I played games with the kids, danced with them, sang with them, and I took advantage of the fact that I could be affectionate toward them: the kids love hugs. The children were also very open and excited to spend time with me, so it was very easy to feel welcome and get to know them. They are honestly beautiful kids who deserve just as much, if not more, than the average privileged white child in a developed country. I was also very lucky to have two volunteers from Barcelona, Spain stay for a few days and, together, we worked, and are still working on projects to help the orphanage.
I had the opportunity to not only volunteer at the orphanage, but to also get involved in the Kpando community. I did this by volunteering at the school - walking distance from the orphanage, and St. Patrick’s Hospital - a short taxi ride. At the school, I was able to participate in classroom learning, and got to know the teachers. At the hospital, I provided moral support to patients, observed nurses and doctors assisting patients, and was able to socialise and learn about the many health problems Ghanaian people face.
What else did I do in Ghana?
During my travels, I also went out adventuring the many beauties of Ghana. I began with visiting the local markets, experiencing Kpando’s culture.
I went to a Sunday morning Anglican Church service, I hiked through a jungle-like environment to see and swim at Wli Waterfalls in Hohoe, and I went to Volta Lake and travelled by boat to a poverty-stricken community on an island surrounded by water. I later visited the monkey sanctuary and fed monkeys bananas; I went to a sacred prayer location full of religious statues, and on my way home I checked out the Art Centre in Accra; that was my favourite in tie with the falls.
I was also privileged with attending a church wedding where I met many people from all over Ghana whom I then built friendships with and I still talk to. I also experienced Kpando’s version of “going to town” where the bride and her friends taught me how to dance like a black a woman. That was an interesting experience.
What did I learn about Ghana and myself?
The people in Ghana are incredibly friendly. Most want you to feel safe and they are eager to know who you are and where you’re from. 71.2% of Ghana’s population are members of various religious denominations and, in Volta Region, many of them are superstitious. Thus, as a volunteer I felt very safe because many locals believe that God will punish them if they steal from you. There is no doubt that volunteers will find Ghana to be a learning experience. Not only will you learn about the country and its way of living economically, socially, and politically, but you will also learn a lot about yourself. I certainly did.
Why volunteer at this orphanage?
As a volunteer, I highly recommend Ryvanz-Mia Childcare (Orphanage). It is a welcoming, safe environment that provides you with an authentic Ghana experience and an array of rewarding, yet challenging, but worthwhile emotions. It is a significantly cheaper way of volunteering in a developing world compared to many popular volunteer programs and it truly gives you a life learning experience that will change and challenge your way of thinking.
You will develop many connections and friendships with locals whilst enjoying the beautiful landscape of green mountains and many trees. It’s almost like staying in a community surrounded by a jungle. You will be loved and appreciated by the orphanage’s staff and children and you and the children will never forget each other. They will care for you and you will care for them and, most importantly, you will be safe.