JACOB OLSON (EAU, CLAIRE, WISCONSIN, USA)
After graduating in December of 2008 from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, I felt called to volunteer. I realized the opportunity was ripe; I had a small amount of free time before a prospective career, a little extra money, and a desire to help. Africa had been in my thoughts for only a short amount of time but never a serious consideration.
Upon searching the internet for ideas and expressing them to others, I had received positive feedback from my relatives about going. Their encouragement and promise of finances changed the possibility to reality. I wrote a letter of request to family and friends for support. Little by little I received money and additional encouragement.
While that had been underway, I continued my online investigations to find a credible organization that could directly connect me to the needy. I heard about some flawed organizations by way of volunteer responses to my inquiries. Through my investigations I was able to narrow my options of which organization to go with. Finally, I made phone calls and talked to Rachel Kay (another volunteer from the US). I followed up on internet replies of past volunteer experiences to guide my decision. Ghana was where I needed to go.
It comprised of both the education and orphanage programs as I wanted to be more efficient and effective while I was there. While teaching in the education program, I had both good, advantageous experiences but also negative, and disheartening ones. The best moment came when the kids were able to demonstrate their understanding of learned concepts. Typically, this was displayed in Mathematics since this was taught more than English. The disheartening moment occurred at first site of the area. There were three small huts and a mango tree where the “school” was located. The bus (van) that belongs to the home and school was in poor shape and the school supplies were heavily lacking. Many students had no books, or workbooks. Because of these factors the students’ learning experience had obvious hindrances. Additionally the teachers had little structure. They had heart, which was uplifting, but little motivation to keep an organized schedule. Finally, the meals for the kids were not real consistent -this too clearly made it difficult for them to concentrate. It is my hope that these issues can eventually be resolved or at least progress can be made to improve the condition.
Within the orphanage program (where I stayed) things were a bit more optimistic. The kids could speak better English. They were happy to see me as I came and they wanted me to be a part of what they would do everyday. No matter where I went everyone told me I was “welcome”, or that I was “invited” to share their food with me. Some of the great things I was able to experience included; reading them stories, teaching them new games, teaching songs, playing games with them, and sometimes going somewhere with them. Godwin was the man I got to know who directs the school and orphanage. He has a lot to do everyday which included picking up the kids in the morning for school and dropping them off at home afterwards.
Finally, I was able to experience some new cultural concepts. I learned how to fetch-and-pour (bathing), some Ewe (local language) phrases, Kente weaving, and traditional cuisines. While there I was able to meet many villagers, as well as the family of Godwin. Clearly a connection between them and I had been made.
Future Plans and Hopes:
I am focused on aiding the education program which goes hand in hand with the orphanage since the orphans go to that same school. However if I am able to help, I will do so by firstly expressing the experience I had to many people in the U.S. Secondly, I hope to raise funds in order to actually build a school someday which I have already started. Although this is not a promise, it is something I will and am trying to do with the understanding that it will be a long term project. I want this to happen in order to give the kids a real chance at education so that they can have a better chance at getting a job and having a future.
Finally, I wish that many people are able to help this idea. I would inspire organizations such as GCS to continue the work with Godwin. He is a hardworking man with a lot that he dreams to do. His burden is heavy to care for the poor and the orphans. It is my strong belief that helping this is necessary. GCS will also always be in my mind due to their uncharacteristic support to volunteers on their programs. The team is really organized and has one vision which is for the progress of the organization. In fact the coordination between higher authorities to the junior staff is wonderful and commendable; and they really know what they are about. -To factual the assertion, I’m now a full member of GCS and holds the position as the Foreign Ambassador. You are also welcome to working with us. …Please request for my contact and I will be glad to share more with you!