I want to write an inspirational blog about the women’s center in Banko. The place where I am physically 2 mornings a week, but on which I spend so many more hours a week. I want to write this piece because I want to let you know what a cool project Banko Women center is, so you will be inspired and want to help. With a donation or as a volunteer in Ghana!
But as it so often happens when I start writing a blog, my thoughts wander to a slightly different topic. Why does this project work, when so many projects fail? Since I’ve already written a lot about the women’s center, and quite a bit about volunteering, I’m going to wander off to where my thoughts take me. Will you join me?
Collaboration is about letting go of control
As you may know, I have over 20 years of Ghana experience and I have seen many projects fail and lots of foreign people come to establish themselves in Ghana, but who unfortunately have also left. Starting or running a project in Ghana is not easy. The culture and work ethic is completely different from what westerners are used to. One of the things that I always say is that I work together with the local authorities and with the other women in Banko women center. And I do. It’s a women’s center for the community, not for me. So that means I have let go of many of my beliefs, my beliefs are not the beliefs of the local women after all.
Since 2 months we have 2 training centers; the sewing center and the hairdressing center. 2 teachers and a total of 5 students. In the 2 months, I have only once seen all 7 women at the same time in the women’s center. For example, today I came and both teachers were not there, neither were the 2 hairdressing students and 1 of the sewing students was not there either. So who were there? 2 students in the sewing studio. 1 of them was sick yesterday, but was thankfully there again today. While I was chatting with them the hairdresser and 1 of her students came. And now an hour later the other teacher is still not there.
Punctuality in Ghana….
When this happens I can add all my beliefs; you have to be serious in your work, you have to be on time etc etc. But all that would happen is that I would get angry and frustrated. So I choose not to do this. Because when I go into the consultation with the teachers, my colleagues, angry and frustrated then I am not working together. Then I want to push my way and my beliefs. Not so conducive to the atmosphere… And not so conducive to the progress of the center either.
And despite the fact that they are not very punctual… The atmosphere is great, I can now hear the sound of sewing machines and see the hairdressers hard at work. The students are making tremendous progress. All products we sell in Moon&Star guesthouse the sewing students can make independently and they also make beautiful dresses. The hairdressers can do certain hairstyles independently.
And in the end that is exactly what it is all about!
Does this mean everything is going well at Banko Women center?
No, definitely not! At the moment the costs are higher than the revenues. Not so convenient when we want to be self-sufficient. We don’t have a good local customer base yet, and if we don’t sell anything at the guesthouse for Banko women center, there will be almost no money coming in. But we are primarily a training center, so we need to have learning materials available. And so we continue to dabble a bit in the margin.
And that brings me back to the inspirational blog that I wanted to write. Despite the fact that it is indeed super cool at the women’s center, not everything is hunky-dory. And we can really use your energy and help in Ghana!
Who, what, where, why, when, how and how much?
Who: A volunteer for at least 1 month who is enthusiastic, independent, patient, resourceful and who enjoys traveling, exploring, learning and sharing knowledge.
What: Help with fundraising, help selling products, making social media content, help developing products and help setting up a new training center.
Where: In Banko Ghana. You will be staying at Moon&Star guesthouse and commit to Banko Women center.
Why: Very soon we will start fundraising for the next training and we can really use your help and energy for that! At the women’s center, we all do what we do best. I am facilitating and I could really use your help and energy in doing so!
When: September to December 2022. In September we want to start the new campaign so as soon as possible!
How: Sign up using the form on this page or send me an email!
How much: The cost for 4 weeks is €410,00. Each additional week of stay costs €85,00. You don’t pay for volunteering, you pay for your room, drinking water and 3 delicious meals a day!
Are you not the person we are looking for but do you know someone who wants to help in Ghana? Please feel free to share this blog. Thank you! If you have any questions about volunteering, please read this blog with frequently asked questions. And did you know you can also make a free zoom appointment? Click here to go to my calendar!
This is a question I am often asked. And the answer is not so simple, but the love for this African country started from the first day I was here.
April 2001. Super nervous, had only flown once before, had never travelled alone, was stuck in traffic on the way to Schiphol Airport thanks to an Ajax soccer match. The nerves were coursing through my throat. What on earth am I going to do? Who came up with this?
I am going to Ghana for six months to do voluntary work. Of course, I thought that up myself… I stopped my studies because it was not the right choice after all. I started working hard at the supermarket so that I could take some time off. Because of an enormous romantic desire, I wanted to go to Africa since I was small. Now Africa is huge with its 54 countries, but at the time Ghana was one of the first choices for anyone who wanted to volunteer. So also for me. Safety, English and many organizations and projects.
The first weeks I was totally overwhelmed
The heat as soon as I stepped off the plane, the smell. So strange but also nice, now this is a smell of recognition. The capital Accra is huge, with so many people, so many cars and minivans, and such chaos. Everywhere you look there is something to see. People with huge loads on their heads. Street vendors with a very wide range of products. From food and drink to small furniture and massage rods. Goats on top of trucks, huge cows in the middle of the street. But no matter how overwhelmed I am, I feel fine and safe.
From the city to a village in Ashanti
The drive from Accra to Kumasi was and still is wonderful. When you leave the city behind you and the green, sometimes hilly landscape appears. The main road goes straight through villages and towns. In the villages, everyone seems to be selling the same thing along the street and I find out that it is not only chaos in Accra. I only found out much later that it is very organized chaos. But you really don’t see that in the beginning.
My final destination is the village of Banko. About 45 minutes from the main road between Accra and Kumasi. After we get off the main road, the scenery becomes even more vast and when we pass another chaotic larger town, the beautiful mountains take my breath away. May I be here for six months, wow!
To be quite honest, the first weeks in the beautiful village of Banko are not easy. I am a sight to see with my white skin and everyone calls me obruni (white) and they tell me whole stories in the local language. I don’t understand a word of it. So sometimes people speak louder, but that doesn’t help. Even when people do speak English, communication is difficult. It takes both me and them time to get used to each other’s accents.
Everything is different from what I am used to in Ghana
The food, the toilet which is a hole, the people, the language, the transportation, the weather and so on. While sometimes I have a really bad day due to a lack of communication, but at the same time I enjoy the peace that comes over me. I sleep super well, write a lot and learn to just ‘be’. And that in a beautiful environment with very sweet Ghanaian people around me.
I learn to appreciate the ‘strange’ food and enjoy my host family. I learn to laugh at the ‘annoying’ things, like asking me where I am going every time I pass by with a toilet roll. Or worse when I have to go to the outside toilet at the night and overcome my fear of lots of bugs.
A journey of discovery through the rest of Ghana
In my spare time, I have the opportunity to discover the rest of this beautiful country. Elephants, heat and dry air in the north, waterfalls scattered throughout the country. The beautiful coast with the terrible history of the slave trade and the special Volta region. All of this by local transportation. I am learning that the road to something in Ghana can already be super special. Great conversations with fellow passengers in the tro’s, enormously helpful people everywhere and the views are magnificent.
I don’t want to go back to the Netherlands after my six months in Ghana
Despite the fact that I sometimes dream of some Dutch dishes and that I miss my family and friends, I don’t want to leave Ghana at all. Why this is, I can’t explain even in the year 2022. As you may know I moved permanently to the village of Banko in Ghana in 2010. Why? Because of everything I have described above and especially my feeling of being at home here.
Since I’ve been living here, this feeling has only grown stronger. A house of my own, a beautiful garden and the chance to live with nature. I am surrounded by butterflies, birds, and wonderful people and I can pick and eat fruits and vegetables from my own garden.
In the meantime, I have been able to receive and guide many volunteers in Moon&Star guesthouse and I see the same thing happen to them very often. The first weeks of getting used to it, and then the transition to feeling completely at home in the guesthouse. And just like with me, it’s an indescribable feeling for them too. No worries! Not every volunteer ends up emigrating 😉 Click here to read Cecilia’s story about volunteering abroad.
Is it safe in Ghana, is one of many questions that people ask before travelling here. In this blog post you’ll find the answer to 5 very frequently asked questions.
Is Ghana a safe country to travel in?
There’s this general perception that African countries are not safe. You can’t travel alone. You’ll be robbed or worse. People will take advantage of you, trick you and overcharge. And of course, there are African countries where it’s not safe. But on this huge continent, there are also many safe countries. Ghana is one of them! Of course, the above-mentioned things can happen, just like everywhere else in the world… But Ghana is politically stable, people are friendly in general and they are very proud of the peaceful state their country is in.
Follow these guidelines for safe travels in Ghana
Listen to the locals, for example, the hotel staff.
When they say you should/shouldn’t do something, they say it for a good reason
Preferably don’t travel in the dark and certainly don’t travel alone in the dark
Beware of pickpockets in the cities, especially in busier places such as markets and stations
Don’t be too gullible
Ghanaians are usually very helpful, for example when travelling on public transport. It is always smart to make contact with your neighbour while travelling
Avoid overcharging by asking someone you can trust how much an item or taxi should cost. Or check at different selling points for the price
Which language do they speak in Ghana?
There are many languages in Ghana. Check this Wikipedia page for a full list. The official language in Ghana is English, but that really doesn’t mean that everybody speaks this colonial language. There are many different tribes who together form this West African country. The borders were also formed in colonial times and the colonialists didn’t consult the tribes on how to form the borders or which language to speak. This results in many languages across the country, which is a reason why English is still the official language. Basically, the government sponsors 11 local languages, which are also being taught in schools in the regions. The language that is most widely spoken is Twi, only in the Volta and the Northern regions you won’t get far with this language. There you should try Ewe and Dagbani or Dagaare among others.
How do you say hello in Ghana?
The answer to this question is a bit difficult with about 80 different languages in the country. But also… People do not really say hello. They usually greet a bit more polite with good morning/afternoon/evening. The English hello is something that teachers and preachers say to make sure that the listeners are actually paying attention. The response is a collective Hi!!! When you enter a house and want to say hello you can say agoo!
What is Ghana famous for?
Where to start… It’s diversity… The beautiful beaches… The hospitality of the Ghanaians… The beautiful nature… Peace…
I wrote a blog post with 10 reasons why you should spend your holiday in Ghana. I also added 7 places that you shouldn’t miss during your trip.
Ghana is by far not the poorest country on the continent. According to Statista in 2022 3,1 million people in Ghana are living in extreme poverty, they live from less than 1,90 USD per day. The biggest part of these people live in rural areas.
MY subjective opinion is as follows. There is a lot of money in Ghana! Big cars, big houses, luxurious products. And no this money doesn’t all belong to expats, by far not! But the gap between rich and poor gets bigger and bigger. In some areas you can really see extreme poverty. Sometimes heartbreaking, especially in the cities. This is a bit contradictive to the figures provided before, I know. When people are poor but live in the village, most of the time they can get some food from the farm. Also, the extended family system is working for them. The poorest in smaller communities are less likely to be hungry because there are always family members to count on for some food.
Can you drink tap water in Ghana?
No, I wouldn’t drink water from the tap here. The water from the water company contains a lot of chemicals. When the water is from a borehole it might be a different story. This water is usually tested. You can buy drinking water in sachets and in bottles. When travelling there are some lodges who have thought about all this plastic waste and who offer filtered drinking water.
What about Wi-Fi and internet in Ghana
This is another frequently asked question about Ghana. I recently explained everything in a separate article. Click here to read it!
Let me know in the comments if your question is still unanswered!
I am Patricia and have been living in Ghana for over 12 years, with lots of pleasure most of the time.
I write regularly about my life, Moon&Star guesthouse, Ghana coach and Banko Women Center.
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I have 21 years of Ghana experience and have lived in this West African country for 12 years. A simple conclusion would be that travelling to Ghana would always be a good idea according to me. Often that is indeed true, yet in this blog you are also going to find reasons why you don’t have to come to Ghana.
But let’s start with why this African country should definitely be on your bucket list.
Ghana is a fantastic destination for a vacation
Beautiful nature, easy to travel, very diverse, beautiful beaches, friendly people. Ghana is therefore called Africa for Beginners. If you’ve always wanted to travel to this continent, and you don’t want to join a group, but enjoy independence. Then definitely come! I have written a blog for Moon&Star guesthouse about the Ghana top 10.
Another very good reason to come is a solo trip. You can travel around here just fine on your own. Of course you have to use your common sense, but that’s a good thing to do everywhere in the world…. Also as a female feel free to come to Ghana alone. For sure you’ll get a lot of marriage proposals, but there are good ways to deal with that. Just be clear and use a bit of humor in your rejections.
A pleasant country to stay for a longer period of time
If you want to get away from it all for a while, consider Ghana. There are many projects you can join, but also when you want to travel and get to know the culture, this country is highly recommended. Ghanaians are very social and accept you very quickly into their lives. So as a traveller you should not be surprised when you suddenly find yourself at a funeral or wedding of a stranger. If you make friends with, for example, a store owner, you can spend days watching the daily Ghanaian life.
No mass tourism
There is no mass tourism here. You can actually decide if you want to meet other travelers during your trip, or not. There are places where you are guaranteed to meet other travelers, like Busua, Mole National park and the popular backpackers hostel Somewhere nice in Accra. But there are also beautiful off-the-beaten-track destinations where you hardly meet other travelers and where you have the chance to really get to know beautiful Ghana.
Decent internet, so you can work or study in Ghana
The Internet is generally pretty good and reliable. It does depend on the location where you are staying. Not all networks are equally good throughout the country. There is some occasional disconnection, but my father complains about that regularly in the Netherlands as well. I recently wrote a blog about internet and Wi-Fi in Ghana. Click here to read it!
Should you be thinking right now, how cool! I am coming to Ghana soon! That’ s great! Did you know that I have written an E-book that helps you to travel more easily through this beautiful country, which helps you to prepare and is full of practical tips!
“A wonderful workbook! Very useful to prepare for your trip to Ghana ✨ (but even if you don’t have any travel plans you can learn a lot from it and expand your world view)”
As mentioned at the beginning, Ghana is really not suitable for every traveler. I’ll give you 3 reasons below to avoid coming in the first place.
Ghana has no grand tourist attractions
Yes, you can go on safari in Ghana, there are beautiful waterfalls, beautiful mountains etc. But we have no Niagara falls, no mountain Kilimanjaro or the big five. When you come to Ghana set yourself up for extraordinary encounters, beautiful landscapes, amazing people and know that the journey itself is also an adventure, not just the final destination.
Getting rich quick/easy doing business
Ghana is really not a country where doing business is easy. Starting a business as a foreigner is very expensive. And even when you have started the business it is difficult to keep your head above water. The taxes, permits and bureaucracy scare many people. Living in Ghana can be quite expensive, especially if you want to live in Accra or Kumasi.
Stay home when you want to save the world
There are countless gap year and volunteer projects in this country. There are some really good ones among them, but there are also some really wrong organizations. I know some of you won’t like reading this. But you don’t have to be travelling to Ghana or any other African country to help the poor people, or to put a smile on the face of those cute little kids. That said, there is nothing wrong with volunteering. Just check very carefully what you are going to do! I highly recommend reading the following article if you are seriously thinking about volunteering in Africa!
What is your Wi-Fi password, many guests ask upon entering the guesthouse I run. I still find that surprising. It is very difficult to debunk stereotypes like all Africans live in huts, but at the same time, people expect wifi and internet in Ghana at all times.
In this blog post I would like to tell you how I communicated with the people at home 20 years ago and the huge development there has been in the field of telecommunications in Ghana. I also inform you about what the title promises; What about Wi-Fi and internet in Ghana. Click here if you want to read the practical part right away!
Will you follow me back to 2001?
Internet in 2001 was a bit different in the Netherlands than it is now;), remember the dial-up sound and the fact that you could first make coffee before you were online?
As mentioned before, in 2001 I was in Ghana for the first time to do volunteer work and I had to make an effort before I could communicate with the people back home. There were no phones in Banko and certainly no computers. The nearest town had a public telephone where you could use a telephone card to make a call, but it was always broken.
So almost every Thursday I traveled to the capital of Ashanti, Kumasi. The travel was the same as now. A shared taxi to Effiduase and then a tro tro to Kumasi. Only in those days there were only a few shared taxis available and when they were all in Effiduase and not filling up with passengers, then by 11 o’clock I might have to decide not to go to Kumasi after all….
Want to read more about public transportation in Ghana? Then click here!
Once in Kumasi, at least 2 hours later, I walked to the post office where there were at least 50 public telephones to call my mother. Also, I could then post the numerous letters I had written during the week.
After the call I usually went somewhere to eat some western food and to the Shell station which was heaven on earth. They sold some western products; Pringles and chocolate!
And then I went to an internet cafe so I could check my mail, write mails and when I was lucky someone was on MSN;).
When I first came back to Ghana on vacation in 2003, Banko had a real communications center. Which amounted to 2 turn key telephones on a desk. You could call and be called. When you received a call, someone from the communication center came to pick you up at home. The internet in Ghana was also better organized by then. There was an internet cafe in Effiduase.
What about the Internet in Ghana in current times?
Ghana has made huge strides in terms of telecommunications. Land lines never came on a large scale, but cell phones and smartphones are widespread. There is an extensive 4G network. You can buy a local SIM card. This SIM card you can top up and then you can buy an internet bundle from your credit. There are several providers and unfortunately they do not have the same coverage throughout the country. For example, when you visit me at Moon & Star guesthouse it is convenient to have a MTN SIM card.
Is there any WI-FI in Ghana?
There are hotels and co-working spaces with WiFi, but certainly not throughout Ghana. I hear complaints about the speed of the WiFi networks more often than not, and sometimes the WiFi is free, but the prices for an overnight stay are relatively high.
What I think is smarter to do is purchase a local SIM card and use Data bundles to access the internet. The costs for Data bundles are quite low. Especially when you buy a larger bundle. And when you travel with several people you can use the bundle together via a hotspot.
Where can I buy a local SIM card?
There is an office at the airport where you can buy local SIM cards. You can register these with your passport. Pay close attention to which brand you purchase. MTN has the largest range in Ghana. It is also the only network that works at Moon&Star guesthouse.
Is the network fast enough to work online?
This does depend a bit on where you are, but generally speaking it is. I have Wi-Fi these days, which is pretty fast. But even on my data bundle from MTN, I can work online just fine, watch Netflix and listen to Spotify.
Before you travel to Ghana you probably have countless questions about all kinds of things, such as what to bring, how does the transportation work, what kind of food is there, about the visa and so on. Of course you can read all my blogs, Google or ask questions in Facebook groups. But you know what you can also do? Buy my E-book! Click here for more information!