Eilidh Lamont: Initial report

Me and my sister Hannah, I'm on the left!

Initial Report- Eilidh Lamont

On September the 7th 2013 I am moving to Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, to volunteer on behalf of Project Trust. I’m leaving my home, my family, my friends and my bed (probably the most worrying part of all) for 12 whole months to teach a range of different subjects in an African village- it’s safe to say it doesn’t really feel real yet.

During my year in Ghana I will be based in Lolobi Ashiambi, a small village in the Volta Region of the country. Lolobi Ashiambi has a population of over 2,000 (so it’s really rather tiny, a nice contrast to living in the city of Inverness) and is predominantly a farming community. It is 6km from Hohoe, the nearest sizeable town- hopefully this means I won’t be too far away from the internet and consequently, a means of contacting my family. The village is quite a poor community and is basic in terms of infrastructure and amenities (although I’ve heard I’ll have an inside toilet…phew.) My time will be divided between three small schools: the Primary School, RISE preparatory school (pre-school age) and the Junior High School, so I’ll be working with all age groups. In the Primary and JHS I will be teaching a combination of English, Math’s, Science and ICT (I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me, time to get my nose in my old school books I think.) The RISE preparatory school is privately run by Eunice Owusu, a lady from the community. This school started in 2008 with just 17 children and 40 Ghana Cedis (£13). The school now has 99 children, including a number with learning disabilities. All are the children of farmers in the community and this school acts as a day-care centre where parents can leave their children from 7am-5pm for 20 pesewa per day (6p). At this school I can teach English and Math’s or just spend time playing with the children- sounds good to me!

I have been told that I will have the opportunity to continue projects set up by previous volunteers including reading groups, individual tuition and debating clubs, but also have the opportunity to set up my own extracurricular activities. The latter part of this especially excites me. I hope to use my love of sport and the outdoors to really get involved in the project and leave my own personal mark.

During the school holidays I’ll have the opportunity to travel around and see more of this vast and beautiful country with the other seven Project Trust volunteers based around Ghana. I’m excited for the experiences this will allow and I’m sure the maxim ‘live and learn’ will gain a new meaning throughout the year.

The thought of leaving the support and love of my family for such a long time terrifies me. I’ve always depended on them one way or another and becoming totally independent, in this rather extreme style, scares me. Although it’s also the most exciting part to all of this. I can’t wait to learn more about myself; my strengths, my weaknesses, what I’m good at and what I suck at. As everyone tells me: “You’ll come back a different person!” and to be honest I think they’re right! I believe living and working with one other Project Trust volunteer (who I haven’t even met yet!) in extremely basic living conditions in the middle of Africa for a whole year will teach me things I could never have learnt if I went straight to uni. I think the nature of this rather intense experience will allow me to become self-sufficient in a way that’s not possible if I were to stay at home. I can’t wait to learn about another culture, see new things and visit places I’ve never been before. Apart from the odd tearful moment when I realize I won’t be around for Christmas, or my sister’s birthday (nor will my family be there for my 18th…ahh!) I’m generally really pretty excited for the year ahead. Since receiving my placement back in October 2012 I have spent all my spare time fundraising for my project. At first it seemed like a massive, almost inconceivable task, but over the last few months I’ve learnt new skills which have equipped me better to complete the challenge, met new people and worked really very hard and now…that’s me finally at my target. During my fundraising I’ve done things I never thought I would do (like walking around shops in the town centre asking for freebies) learnt more about myself and my skills set (it turns out I’m quite good at getting freebies…although I learnt my public speaking needs working on) and ended up accomplishing something (raising over £5400 in a matter of months) that I never thought I could do. All of this has helped me feel confident and ready to take on the year ahead. I know there will be tough times- where I’ll just have to buckle up, hold back the tears, and carry on- but I also know there will be amazing times- times that I will never forget for as long as I live. And in a weird way, I can’t wait for either.

When choosing my placement I only asked for one thing in particular- that I could live somewhere I could easily contact home if I needed to. This hasn’t changed in the year I’ve been preparing for my 12 months in Africa; in fact it’s only grown stronger and more poignant. I’m more than happy to live in a mud hut, go bare foot and live of rice, but I can only do this if I know my mums only a Skype call away…even if I do have to travel on a run down mini bus to get to the nearest computer.

Eilidh Lamont

Project Trust volunteer, Ghana 13/14