Akwaaba (which means ‘welcome’ in Twi, the native language of the Ashanti region)! I am anxiously awaiting my departure to Ghana on July 1, 2010 and in full swing with the planning and preparations…and there are certainly many things to plan and prepare for when traveling to sub-saharan Africa. I am going to spend one month in Ghana this summer as a volunteer at Esaase Christian School and Orphanage. Volunteering in Ghana has been on my ‘to do’ list since I boarded the plane home from Ghana my senior year of college. I was lucky enough to spend six weeks studying and conducting an internship with the Stop Aids, Love Life Campaign at Ghana Social Marketing Foundation through the Media in Ghana program at University of Oregon. Being in Africa was a life changing experience and I vowed to go back as soon as I a.) could afford the flight and a travel expenses b.) had the courage to potentially go back by myself in the event that I did not have a travel buddy c.) had a schedule that permitted at least a month of travel. Opting for a teaching career (with the perks of summer break, winter and spring break) as opposed to a journalism career (the reason I went to Ghana in the first place) makes travel easy. Not necessarily affordable…but easy.
Many people are asking me what program I am going through as a volunteer. Part of my return strategy was finding a volunteer position on my own, not affiliated with a volunteer organization that charged hundreds of dollars in fees just to find a placement. I spent a good six months researching where these expensive volunteer organizations send people who have the cash, and was lucky enough to find a school that had a strong volunteer presence and a website! Akwaaba Esaase is a group of dedicated individuals from Switzerland with a vested interest in seeing ECSO thrive. When I first stumbled on the ECSO website, I was impressed with how organized and straight forward the information was presented. The “volunteer” tab immediately caught my eye and within a few weeks, I was hired! No additional fees…just $425 USD to live in the newly renovated volunteer house and have three home cooked meals a day! When I contacted Mr. Boateng, the director at ECSO about volunteering, I inquired about their request for assistance in the computer lab. Mr. Boateng was very happy to learn that I taught computers in the U.S. and eager to pair me up with the computer teacher for training and to help her develop non-internet computer based activities for the technology curriculum. I was interested to find out more about the computer lab so I emailed an ex volunteer. Here is the reassuring message (insert sarcastic undertone here) I received back:
It would be nice if somebody could give computer classes in ECSO. The teacher does not really know what she is doing (if it still the same) and so you can give her as well some advice. The computers are really old school. The starting takes a while. The operating system as far as I know is Windows. The Internet access is really bad. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. Also only one computer has internet access.
And so I will prepare for the worst and ready myself to enter the time machine that will bring me back to the good ‘ol days of floppy discs and MS-DOS. I will attempt to update this blog as often as the “really bad” Internet access allows. When time permits, I will be on the first bus to the Internet Cafe………
Well, that’s all for now! Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to read my first post! I will be updating bi-weekly leading up to my departure and providing travel tips, historical and cultural tidbits about Ghana and will attempt to make the reading as interesting as possible. Feel free to comment!