Catherine Roy-Stanley’s First Report from Ghana

Catherine Roy-Stanley

After nearly two months in Ghana, I can safely say that the mad way of life here feels almost ordinary. Power cuts, taxis with doors falling off and the absence of any organisation are all quite normal. There are so many moments where I pinch myself, wondering how and why I never appreciated such luxuries like hot showers and toilet paper. Comfy beds and functioning kettles are things of dreams!

At first, everything was a massive shock. The difference in culture, people, values and norms make getting off the plane seem like getting off an air-conditioned spaceship.

For example, time, isn’t really a thing here. It is quite in the ordinary to turn up 2 hours late for a scheduled meeting, just because. And planning more than a day ahead is absolutely unheard of.

The stench of open gutters hits you right in the face when you least expect it, and I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing cows, goats and pigs casually roaming about the streets.

But gradually, things are becoming more familiar and I am settling into the swing of Ghanaian life more and more every day. Although saying that I don’t think I will ever adapt to traditional Ghanain food. ‘Banku’ is like a mush made from maize that you aren’t supposed to chew- you just grab some with your fingers and swallow it. No thanksssss.

I am living in a little area called Teshie- just outside the capital of Ghana, Accra. There are other volunteers that come and go every few weeks; most of them doing different placements to me (like teaching in the local schools, or coaching sport). Although I really miss them all when they leave, I feel so lucky to be able to have met so many amazing people.

The volunteers live in the same residential compound as the boys in the football academy I am doing my placement with (The Rising Stars of Africa), so I have gotten to know them really well. They range from 9-22 years old, and their characters certainly make the place a whole lot livelier! I love hanging out with them, chatting to them about their lives, what they are passionate about, and what they want to be in the future.

Me and another sports psychology volunteer help to organise meetings and workshops, where they can talk as a team and improve their cognitive skill set, which has been great experience. I have also started doing yoga and stretches with some of them which has been really enjoyable and at times absolutely hilarious when we all learn new poses.

My typical day starts with going to the boy’s football training at 7am- 10am. Normally we all pile into a mini bus (which needs pushing down the road to start the engine), to an astro-pitch (in the middle of a goat farm). If there isn’t afternoon training, I teach some of the boys English and visit an orphanage that is just down the road. Even though many of them come from such a traumatic and devastating past, the children are so lovely, kind and full of energy. Getting to know their individual characters and gaining their trust has been one of the most rewarding parts of my trip. When you walk in, you quite literally become a human climbing frame with little boys and girls piling on top of you!

We have also been on a few weekend trips too. On one we travelled by mini bus (on incredibly bumpy roads) outside of Accra to Volta Region, to see Wli falls and climb the tallest mountain in Ghana. The view at the top was just amazing, even if I nearly died getting up there!

Being here has really made me appreciate life in a way I never did before. On the shallowest level, things like hot showers, tarmac roads and wifi! But, this gratitude stretches far beyond material things. It’s for family, education, religious freedom, freedom of sexuality, marital freedom and political freedom.

Here, you can get imprisoned for 27 years just for being gay. Which is something I cannot begin to comprehend and makes me even prouder to come from such a liberal, loving place like Brighton, which takes pride in accepting everyone; celebrating and cherishing diversity of race, sexuality and culture. Being in a place where many do not have the freedom to be themselves and express themselves just makes me appreciate how important it is to challenge status quo, and continue to push for change, to bring equality to all.

But at the same time, in amongst all that it is a place where people are brought together, by faith, kindness, friendship and community. Even those with very little are so generous, and everyone is so welcoming and kind. It has definitely shown me that happiness is not found within vast material wealth, but in how you look at life. You can focus on all the things you don’t have, or appreciate those you do, like family and community.

I am missing my family and friends a lot, and some days I feel very isolated. But at the same time, I am so grateful to even have family and friends to come back to. Knowing they are safely living in comfort (with washing machines, kettles and good health y’all) and that I will see them when I get home keeps me going. Mostly I can’t wait to tell them all about all of my mad adventures, and how damn lucky they are to have free education, job opportunities, free healthcare (big up the NHS) and cockroach-free bathrooms.

Will report again soon!

Catherine

xx

 

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