Cecilia has been working abroad for 5 weeks by volunteering at Banko Women center. Unfortunately, we are about to say goodbye, but first I got to interview her about her experience here in Ghana.
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about yourself and your choice to volunteer abroad?
I am Cecilia and 25 years ago I was born in Accra. After 3 years my mother left with the kids (including me) for the Netherlands where I was mainly raised. I now have a strong desire to know more about my roots. I am curious about the culture, the language and after 25 years I think it’s time to get acquainted with the traditional Ghanaian dishes such as fufu and waakye.
My goal is to really experience the culture in the three months that I am here, which in my opinion can best be done by slow travelling. As I am good at doing nothing and always have a strong urge to help others, preferably to empower and support communities, I soon knew that I would like to roll up my sleeves for a longer period of time in a volunteer project.
How did you end up with Ghana coach and Banko women center?
Since the purpose of this trip was to get to know the country better, I was looking for a project that was located far outside the city of Accra, which I already knew, in a totally different environment.
After some research on the internet and social media, I came across the Banko Women Center which is located in the small village of Banko.
I liked the fact that it was founded by Pat, a Dutch woman with over 20 years of experience in Ghana, so just like me, she has a bit of both worlds in her. By choosing the Banko Women Center, I knew that the e-book and course would give me a good preparation for the volunteer work.
In addition, I felt it was important to work on a project where there is a lot of focus on social sustainability so you can be sure that you are truly providing value.
More information about Banko women center, the project Cecilia has been working on
Banko Women Center focuses on improving the situation and empowering women in a local area, located in Banko, Ghana. We aim to achieve this by providing a reliable and safe place for women to meet, learn, discuss and sell.
Our goal: “The full and equal participation of women in political, civic, economic, social and cultural life, by giving them the opportunity to participate in open discussions, additional educational programs and local markets to sell their goods and services.”
To be more specific, we focus on: human rights, sex education, health, nutrition, exercise, business, savings, English and computer programs. While we try to openly discuss a variety of issues and adapt the programs listed above, we want to be a sustainable NGO. The products and services made in the women’s center are sold and the proceeds are used for operational costs.
What has surprised you the most in terms of volunteering abroad with this project?
Haha well to be honest I must confess that I was quite surprised by the fact that progress was made after each working day. In the past, I’ve often done volunteer work, also in developing countries, where I often questioned my role and contribution as a volunteer and to what extent you help people progress. Often the ideas were there but to actually implement them was often difficult or did not happen.
Here it was not like that. You could see that both Patricia and Lydia work with passion on the project and really believe in it. When you are together in the office it is catching. Everyone wants to move forward.
Which type of person is not suitable for volunteering in Banko?
If you plan to work a lot with children or really want hands-on support, this project is not suitable. The goal of this project is to make it a self-directed project which goes hand in hand with the social sustainability aspect of this project. How or why this is so important is nicely described in the e-book. As a volunteer, you really work together with the locals and interaction of ideas takes place. Your work is mainly organizational and not executive.
Besides the volunteer work, there is also a lot of space for free time. If you find it difficult to organize your free time independently, it is good to ask yourself if this is a good match. I also think it is important that if you are going to work as a volunteer in Banko that you are really open to a different culture.
What did you do in your spare time?
Although the village of Banko is very small, there is plenty to do and the beautiful surroundings where it is located never bore me. So I regularly went out for a walk or a hike to one of the nearby mountains, I strolled through the village or sought cooling in the pool on hot days which is within walking distance.
I also participated in a 3-day Ashanti tour where you are completely immersed in the culture. I (finally) learned how to make fufu, saw how the Kente cloths are woven, learned all the ins and outs of the cacao bean and visited beautiful waterfalls. As icing on the cake, I also saw the Asantehene during the Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi.
Besides the adventurous activities there were also plenty of days for relaxation. For example, I read a book in the hammock or stretched out on the outdoor terrace. The environment, both the guesthouse where you stay and the village, ensure that you can relax and escape from all the hustle and bustle. You don’t have to get bored because there is always something to do in or around the house. Finally, there are always two very nice kids who are only too happy to play with you.
What was not so great? And what was good about the overall experience?
I have not had any setbacks. In advance I had no or few expectations because I like to go with the flow and let everything come over me. Because I had no expectations, there were no setbacks. Or maybe there was one…. which was that I was disappointed at how quickly time passed. Five weeks sounds long but it goes by (much too) quickly!
What I was pleased about was that I wasn’t bored for a moment and that I felt very much at home from the first day. Despite traveling alone I never felt alone for a second.
And last, but not least. Do you have an essential tip for a next volunteer?
Don’t start with big objectives and approach the experience with an open mind and an open heart. This way there are guaranteed to be great experiences coming your way and you avoid disappointment for yourself. And above all: ENJOY! You will take this experience with you forever!
Is this exactly the kind of volunteer program abroad you’re looking for?
Then click on the button below to sign up! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send an email!