My Project experiences and hopes:
My overall experience here was filled with ups and downs especially at the early stage of my arrival- joy, warmth, fascination, and a little frustration because most things were totally new for me but did well to overcome them. GCS and its staff were incredibly accommodating, responsive, and consistently concerned with my well-being and happiness. This made me feel safe and comfortable throughout my stay and I am so grateful for that aspect of my time there. I was especially impressed by the atmosphere of trust and open communication which was established from day one and which made me feel able to voice concerns, suggestions, and thoughts constantly to them in everything from designing my program to communicating with my host mom. The 24/7 support I got from the GCS team made all the difference! It is indeed real and very organized as many good organizations here in the States.
Akoefe-Avenui, the village I stayed in for all three weeks, was an interesting place to volunteer. It is safe and filled with warm, curious people who mostly live through subsistence farming. Because there is no secondary school and the general attitude towards education is not as enthusiastic as in some other villages (such as Akoefe-Gadza,) Avenui provided me a challenging environment to work in. On the one hand I think this is very useful because compared to some other villages, it is more in need in terms of education and income-generation. This is incredibly complicated because I believe we should try to help those that are most in need. However, when the support mechanisms are not very well established, it is difficult to achieve very substantial goals in such a short amount of time. In addition, although I believe education is in need of serious help in Avenui, I am not confident that the residents of the village feel the same way. As a volunteer I never wanted to impose my own values or assessments on the people, especially as I was completely new there! But I also believe there is more room for improvement.
I appreciated the openness and flexibility of my volunteering with GCS. Rather than imposing a program on me, the team gave me the opportunity to observe the community and assess my options in helping in whichever way I could. This made me feel that I was in control of my time and able to change certain aspects of my program which I felt did not work well in the beginning (such as teaching Math and English when I felt that the teachers at the school could do much better by mixing Ewe and English and also by knowing their own students better than I did.) I think switching to computer classes was much more beneficial to the community because many of the teachers don’t know how to use a computer and therefore are unable to teach the ICT classes effectively.
I was so inspired by the warmth and hospitality of the residents of Akoefe and in Ghana in general. This aspect of the country – especially noticeable in rural areas – provided me with hope and enthusiasm even in situations where I felt somewhat helpless to elicit meaningful change within such a short amount of time. I think that Samantha’s suggestion of trying to figure out some way to consolidate the schools in Akoefe is very valuable. With the lack of resources (such as exercise books, reading material, visual aids, etc.) and low motivation from some teachers, the children in Avenui are not learning in a good environment. If they went to school with children from other villages, the resources for all the villages could be pooled and an environment of competition/interest would be better stimulated as children from different villages come together. I think this should be a long term project for GCS and I would be interested in helping with this in whichever way I can once I am back in the US. My time here has been incredible and I’m thankful to GCS for all its support. Although I outlined certain things that could be improved in GCS, my overall attitude towards the organization is very positive. I plan to stay in touch and would like to come back one day. They’ve been wonderful to me! And I thank them so much!
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