My previous experience on African continent (you can read also about here) showed me different aspects of African life (I didn’t include in those articles my experience in North Africa which I separate it because of so many cultural and historical aspects).
The sign: “Africa for beginners” on Ghana travel guides made me smile ;) and by saying this “promotion motto” to all the Ghanaians I met for sure they all smiled even more but in the same agreeing with it-myself as well after spending some time over there!
First time in Africa? – You can start with Ghana! Is a very easy going country, with peaceful and very friendly people, where you feel secure and not so much in the “zoo syndrome”. People are quite used with white people and have a very open and calm attitude towards life and other cultures.
Some of the reasons for what stated before are the following points
Ghana is the country of NGO-s and international volunteers! You will be surprised how big is the level of knowledge and awareness of regular Ghanaian people about volunteers (there already see them as a different category of people that are in their country: "are you a tourist or a volunteer?"). In every city and region of Ghana are hundredths and thousands of NGO-s and most of them are working with international volunteers. At the moment i can just dream to make people in Romania or even Turkey (where I lived so long) so aware and acknowledged about the civil society and international volunteering.
Of course to volunteer there means mostly to pay from your own money for accommodation and food and maybe some taxes to the people that are managing your local project but you can choose a very broad area or work : from helping build a school to deliver workshops for children or adults!
I even met some American friends that travelled and explored 14 African countries before deciding to develop a branch of an international NGO in Ghana – because is the most easy going country in terms as well of paper work.
I meet some of these NGO , some of them planed, some of them just in the bus , or on the beach (because I told you they are at every corner) and some of them exist only through international volunteering, sometimes with no local volunteers at all and in my perspective this is not sustainable at all and also not valuable for the local community.
For sure on such a good public opinion and huge network many things can be build – a base exists – the will is missing at the moment!
Ghana is the country of churches! Yes it is! And not only of churches, I think is the country of love for GOD! First , at every corner of every city you will find a different church (Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Anglican, Protestant, Baptist, Lutheran, Muslims, Charismatic Church, New Age, etc – and I am really sorry for not recalling all but for sure are much much more). I think for every 50 people is another church? I was in a village of 1000 people and they had 8 different types of churches .
Every Sunday everybody is on the roads going to various churches for the mass (some of them starting in the middle of the night in fact with the services)
As I said is not only about the churches, is about the love for GOD, almost every shop has a title related to some divinity actor: Jesus loves shoes! GOD loves you shop! Clothes from Jesus! Etc. etc. (I think i didn’t see any shop that didn’t have a divine title!
Obroni! Means "white" in some of the local languages and people will address to you by using this title : something like: YOU , white one ......! It can be fun at times, and annoying at other times , especially when you realize that for some people you are just a colour and not more ; they do address each other with friends, sister, brother (without even knowing each other) but they will not address to you like that! Maybe the most disturbing thing is that children learn that from small age, shouting to the white people on the streets: obroni, obroni, obroni! And their take cares are not explaining, telling anything to them! Is a different experience when you go in villages, where sometimes children will be terrified by you because you are white, speechless and curious – as a difference from cities where they have a lot of “superficial” contact with white people.
Non-formal education! I experienced and play with various methods with some NGO leaders and with some girls from a girl high school! None of these groups were familiar with non-formal methods, they were expecting lectures and one way information giving. For some of them was strange to ask them to involve in various games and exercises.
I had a very interesting and fascinating experience , and indeed growing for me as a trainer. Using the circle of stereotypes (where everybody has to show with they body – as statues various concepts and words) proved to be a very different experience then in Europe. With the groups I worked with in Ghana the concrete thinking was prevalent and the abstract one was a lower level. I tried to use same words like i do in Europe (some of them concrete: man, women, volunteers, American, villager, etc or more abstract: change, power, will, etc) and the results were most of them showing the concreteness of their first thoughts on those concepts.
Another interesting part was when i asked 4 groups of girls to create a small sketch where to show an ideal school. And all of them performed violence made by the teachers, strong discipline towards the students and between them. All the groups said that this indeed how they imagine an ideal school : with even more discipline and firm and tough teachers!!! Once again I was reflecting on the fact that I am just facilitating a process and not their results. Their lesson in that day from my workshop was that each of them are responsible for the discipline in their class!
Don’t imagine socking beautiful nature or safari opportunities ...Ghana doesn’t have to much of that ...the beauty and easiness of travelling around is coming from its people!