Back in September I was blessed with the opportunity to visit our longest running programme in Takoradi, Ghana. Although I had been to Africa before, I had never experienced West Africa and I was struck by its magic from the moment I landed.
I was met at the airport by John, one of the programme managers over in Ghana. He gave me the biggest hug and immediately made me feel very welcome as we jumped in a cab and headed to the Pink Hostel for some food and much needed refreshment. All the students are taken here as flights to Accra inevitably arrive in the evening.
The next day we hopped on a bus to Takoradi where my adventure really began!
It’s a really easy ride from Accra to Takoradi and the bus was comfortable and air conditioned. The journey took about 4 hours which gave me a really good chance to chat to John, find out some local info and plan my week.
I got to the house, had a good old catch up with Fausty the Country Director and prepared myself for my first venture into town. As with all of our placements, students are taken on an orientation of the area so that they know where to find all the useful things such as ATM’s, Bureaux de Change’s and internet cafes. It really does help to be shown the ropes the first time round. Ghana centres round an area called Market Square and from here it is pretty straight forward to go anywhere and do anything. The central tro-tro station is nearby, as are some fantastic shops for the essential present shopping. You can buy anything here; from traditional African snacks and gorgeous material to phone cards and luggage (you will no doubt need a bigger case to carry all your souvenirs home in!)
The next day was hospital day! We work with a number of different hospitals in Ghana with the main one being Effia Nkwanta. During my tour I was introduced to all of the supervisors we work with. It was great to meet everyone and see for myself the enthusiasm held towards our students spending time in their hospitals. The hospitals themselves are quite an eye-opener and the treatment that is delivered really is amazing when you see how underfunded and under-resourced they are. I was lucky enough to be invited back into the hospital to shadow one of the students later on in the week but more about that in a bit.
Placements normally start at 8am and finish by 2pm when students head back to the house for lunch. The afternoons are then spent at a place called Africa Beach on the other side of town. Africa Beach is a gorgeous resort on the coast with a swimming pool and they very generously let Work the World students use their pool for a small fee – you can buy monthly passes for about £10.
We have recently restructured our Village Experience in Ghana so John and I went along the next day to check it out. As well as spending the week working in the local clinic, students also get the chance to meet the village chief and really get involved in day-to-day village life. You can help with the (not so) delicate art of pounding cassava and plantains into a Ghanaian meal of fufu, discover how to make palm and coconut oil as well as learn about traditional ceremonies such as the Puberty Rights that girls have to take part in to become eligible for marriage. The welcome that I got in the village was fantastic! I sat down for an official meeting with the chief and met the elders of the village before being given some red-red which is a fried plantain and bean stew and a tour of the village. I felt like the most popular person there as kids swarmed round me just to catch a glimpse of my strange red hair and freckles!
As I mentioned before, I was very luckily invited to join a couple of students on placement. It was so interesting to see exactly what their day consisted of as I donned some scrubs and observed the ward-round with one of the most fantastic and welcoming doctors I have ever met. He was so good at asking the students questions and testing their knowledge and teaching them some of his. While I was there, I got to witness two births as well – one natural and one caesarean in surgery! It was quite dramatic as they were not 100% sure that the C-section baby was still alive so to see it come out screaming was fantastic! One of the students I was with assisted in the surgery, helping with suturing etc.
While I was in Ghana I also wanted to experience some of the things you can get up to outside of your placement so that afternoon two students, Rosie and Jackie and I decided to venture out to Beyin and the amazing Nzuleso stilt village. We arrived early evening and stayed in a gorgeous resort on the beach before planning an early morning kayak ride out to the village. It was pretty spooky paddling through the inky waters but worth it as we saw the village materialise out of the morning mist in the distance! I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who gets the chance to do this so I won’t go into too much detail but I was so glad that of all things to do in Ghana, I chose this!
I was on a pretty tight schedule so after a quick lunch I left Rosie and Jackie to it and jumped on a tro-tro back to Takoradi. Ghana is a very safe country to get around and even as a girl travelling on my own; I didn’t once feel vulnerable or nervous. Ghanaians are wonderfully friendly people and went out of their way to help me if I needed it. I got back to Takoradi and couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the district where the house was (I was very tired!) and I seemed to have about 20 taxi drivers running round, scratching their heads trying to figure out where I needed to get to! I made it back eventually and packed my (new, big) suitcase ready for a last minute adventure to the Kakum Rainforest and its famous canopy walkway the next morning.
I was slightly disappointed not to have made the dawn trip to Kakum but it was still absolutely breathtaking! There are 6 walkways in all that take you through the tree tops and give you a unique view of the rainforest...my only advice? Don’t look down – it’s soooo high! It was such a highlight (literally) to end my Ghana trip on.
I then went to meet Fausty who took me to the bus station so I could catch the STC bus back to Accra. She bought me some plantain snacks, gave me a big hug and sent me on my way.
I had an unbelievably amazing week in Ghana and managed to pack so much into such a short space of time. It was also great to see how much the students were getting out of their placements. Some were frequent travellers, for others it was their first time abroad but they all created such a bond in the house and I’m sure they will be friends for life. Like them, I have well and truly fallen in love with Ghana and cannot wait to get back out there!