Hi there! My name is Sally Greenwood, I am twenty one years old and live in Derbyshire. In February, I will be volunteering in Ghana for six months!
I am a recent graduate from the University of Nottingham where I studied human geography. Throughout university I enjoyed volunteering and working with young people; from e-mentoring and helping in a local primary school, to becoming a mentor at a local secondary school. Towards the end of my second year I became fixed on the idea of going to Africa but realised I would have to leave this until after University. I spent three-weeks in Romania during the summer teaching English, and found this such a mix of challenging, terrifying, wearying, amazing, hilarious and just so, so rewarding to work with children in this manner that I just knew I would regret not seizing the opportunity and volunteering in Africa. So, I began to warm to the idea of a long term volunteering project, and sometimes I still can not believe that I managed to convince myself to do this!
I consider myself truly fortunate to have discovered the charity Inter Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE for short!). ICYE-UK is a great ethical volunteering charity that sends volunteers of all ages to a variety of countries to assist on a variety of projects. In my opinion it is the youth exchange factor of ICYE that is the best feature of the charity; and ultimately the aspect that attracted me to it. As any interested individual will quickly realise, there are quite simply millions of organisations that send volunteers abroad accessible at the click of a mouse! (which, I might add, are totally overwhelming for a prospective Gapper!) However, very few also host volunteers themselves. ICYE-UK believes strongly in the idea of reciprocal exchanges and inter-cultural learning; the ICYE Federations enables volunteers from all countries to be able to experience living in another culture. Every country ICYE sends volunteers to has an ICYE office, so I know I will never be alone whilst I am in Ghana!
In June I spent a great weekend in Essex where I met all the other ICYE-UK volunteers of 2009/10. This training weekend truly prepared us for our experience, and also got me more and more excited and truly raring to go! It was awesome to meet all the other volunteers who, despite so many differences, all had a common enthusiasm to volunteer abroad. Over the weekend we covered numerous topics from intercultural understanding to coping with some of the problems we might face. Over the weekend we also met, chatted to, and played games with the international volunteers who had been volunteering in the UK. This was an amazing experience and further deepened my enthusiasm for ICYE! In fact, I came back and couldn’t help wishing a tiny bit that I had decided to leave in August! My time will come…
But actually, if I am totally honest with you, Ghana seems such a long time away. I am at home, working, and fundraising, working some more, and even though I know it is close it still doesn’t seem real. I alternate between being really excited and wishing I was going for a year, to thinking why oh WHY am I doing this again?!?!?! Fundraising is a constant slog, and such a challenge. Saying ooh I have to fundraise all this money is actually easier said than done… but I am trying to stay positive. I power walked 10km in June wearing a cardboard safari car (the making of which was the most stressful few days I have ever had!)
And last weekend I organised a barn dance that was really good fun just knowing everyone was there because of my efforts was so rewarding. The money from Hazel’s Footprints has also been very well received and I am so grateful for this.
I have short listed three projects in Ghana, and I will find out which project I will be on a few weeks before I go! This is really exciting, but also makes my experience seem less real, as I still can not say with any certainty which project will be mine!! However, I can say that I will be working in an orphanage, and that I will be working with children and I really cannot wait for this! I really hope to do some teaching when I am in Ghana, as well as basic care for the orphans and helping with the day to day running of the orphanage. One of the projects even has a school farm!!! My main worry really is that I will arrive at my project and truly be at a loss of what to do.
I worry that I may struggle to find something that I really want to get stuck in to especially if there are other volunteers who are already at the project. On the other hand one thing I am really looking forward to is getting involved with a host family, and ultimately the community. After my training camp I realised that I really did want to live with a host family, and chose the projects to co-incide with this. Obviously there are so many things that will be scary with this, but also really exciting too. Just thinking about all the opportunities I am going to have whilst I am in Ghana just fills me with a feeling of true excitement.
Well, this report is getting longer and longer by the second (apparently I miss writing university essays more than I realised!) so I’d better leave it here.
So, here we go. The countdown OFFICIALLY begins here.