Share our mission

Volunteer Experiences

Alice Ling - Summer 2014

 

Finding out about UVO

 

   I first found out about UVO through a careers centre e-mail. I love to travel and experience new cultures so I applied for it straight away. I got through to the phone interview and although Alex was very re-assuring I did have a few concerns, not to mention the lack of running water. However I decided that what doesn’t kill you make you stronger, and that this opportunity was not one to be passed up for the sake of first-world comforts. 

 

  

 Above: Julien and Mark making fufu with the family, at Butuasi falls and my room.

 

Arrival

 

  To say I was nervous upon arrival at Gatwick airport would be an understatement. I had already messed up my flight dates and Christian, the director of UVO, had been waiting for me at Accra airport a day early. These worries proved unfounded as Christian proved extremely understanding, and even bought me Ghanian chocolate to eat on the bus ride to the village. After an 8-hour plane journey and a rather intense 4-hour journey to the village we arrived at Christian’s house in Kwahu-Tafo. When I arrived I was happy to see that there were 2 other volunteers, Mark, another St Andrews student, and Julien, a French volunteer, there to improve his English. At the house I shared a room with Mavis, a 15-year old girl that was one of Christian’s pupils, but lived with the family. She did not have very good English, but it significantly improved throughout the month I was there. On my first day we went to Butuasi falls, and I had my first taste of red-red, the tomato and mackerel sauce that I was to eat most of the days I was there. 

 

 

Above: the school and me with some of Basic 3.

 

The School

 

The next day I went along to the school and was thrown straight in to teaching. For the first two weeks I taught maths, English and science to all of the classes. I took the children a foam cricket bat and ball, which they loved to play with at break time, as they weren’t allowed football during school hours.  After my second week I was allocated my own class, basic 3, whom I was to teach from 8-3 every weekday. Basic 3 were a mixture of ages from 9-15. Basic 3 was comprised of 1 local girl and 9 boys who lived in the hostel, aged between 9 and 14. They had been bought to the hostel because they were very good at football, but they were skipping school so they could play it. At the hostel they were coached and allowed to played football at a high level, in exchange for them attending school every day. Basic 3 were a challenge as the majority of the children had very bad English, and were at the level of learning basic addition and subtraction. Classes lasted 2 hours, which proved a long time to keep children entertained.

 

   Needless to say it was massive relief when Ana, a Croatian volunteer who also fortunately was a teacher, came in my second week and split Basic 3’s teaching with me. Ana taught Science in the morning, then I taught maths after break, and we both taught English in the afternoon. The children were very excitable; Ana even struggled teaching them as they had so much energy! They were all very sweet, and we definitely developed favourites. We are both very proud to say that 9/10 children passed Maths and Science and 8/10 passed English. 

 

 

Above: basic 3 in class, messing around and Ana with some of the pupils.

 

Culture

 

  Towards the end of my trip, a couple of families invited us along to their houses, where we learnt how to make traditional Ghanian food. We also went along to the cultural centre and learnt Ghanian dance; Ana even got a chance to teach the kids some Croatian dances in exchange! Just before I left, the children at the cultural centre performed a traditional dance to say goodbye to me, and needless to say, a few tears were shed on my departure from Accra.

 

Above: making banku and the football field.

 

  Above: Julien and Ana at Boti Falls, Kakum National Park, and Elmina beach.

 

Exploring Ghana

 

  During my time at Kwahu-Tafo we went on many trips. The first weekend of my visit Julien, Mark and I went to Elmina, where we stayed on the beach and went to visit Elmina castle, the centre of the slave trade, before spending a night in the jungle at Kakum national park, where we made the mistake of enraging army ants. The second weekend Ana, Julien and I went to Boti falls, then to Lake Volta were we went swimming, took a traditional boat trip and hired a pedalo. Then on my last weekend Julien and I went to Kumasi, where we went to Kejetia market, the  largest open market in East Africa, and then on to Lake Bosumtwi, Bomfobiri wildlife reserve, and the Kente weaving town of Bonwire. 

 

 

Above: Elmina castle and Lake Volta.

 

       

Lucie Tvrznikova - Summer 2013

 

Lucie's Blog

 

Fabien - Summer 2012

   
Ivana Maltašić, July- August 2009. & June- July 2012
 
     In 2009.year, my friend Kristina ask me to go with her to Ghana. I didn't know where I was going and what to expect. As I didn't have other plans for that summer I decided to go with her. We went in July 2009. to Kwahu Tafo. Eric was expecting us at the airport. We came to Kwahu Tafo very early in the morning, tired, but happy that we are on our destination. As I am a doctor, I was helping and working in Kwahu Tafo clinic. It was great experience for me, cause I saw some deseases that I was learning in University as uncommon deseases in Croatia, like malaria. Kristina was helping in the school. After our jobs we were going to Cultural centre or we watched boys playing football. We didn't stay for long time, only 17 days cause we had to get back to our work at home. My time there was perfect.Spending time with UVO kids – in hostel, school, cultural, football academy was so great , at the end I was crying when I was going home, cause I didn't know will I see them again.
    But I was lucky, and come back in June 2012. It was my second time in Kwahu Tafo. That time I came with my other friend Branka.She was helping in the school, I was again in the clinic and in the school. My second time was even better than my first time, cause I knew where I was going and what to expect. I was so unpatient, I was hardly waiting to see them all again. I have connected more with my old friends and met some new friends. I am gratefull that Christian and Eric made Ultimate Voluntary Organisation, and had vision for volunteers from all over the world have oportunity to come there, to teach kids, play with them, and get experiences for whole life.
    Those days in Kwahu Tafo were great days in my life, I can't even describe how are my feelings now for those kids.Also I was traveling abroad – to Kumasi, Accra, Cape Coast, Kakum.....very beautiful places, with great nature. I didn't have time to see more, but next time maybe. 
    As time is passing I am more involved in life in UVO.Some projects  are going and I hope to go there again. Acctually I promissed to kids that I will come again and I never break my promisse!!! 
    My advice to future volunteers- go there and you will never regret, just spend more time with kids, explore nature, talk with people...One time when you go to Africa you need to go again!!! 
    Akwaaba to all future volunteers!!! 
    
 
Kat Kehrt - February 2008 & June 2009
 
    Kwahu-Tafo is a special place. The buildings are small, the people are poor but the atmosphere is incredible. Infact, the town is so special to me, that I have been their twice. My name is Kat Kehrt and I am from the US. I took a year off between high school and University and in February of 2008 I set off the Ghana. I knew nothing about what I was getting myself into. The only I could tell my friends in the US was that I was going to volunteer in a small town 3 hours north of Accra. I knew sporadic details about a Culture Centre and a Football Academy and a local school, but nothing in great detail. I came into Tafo on a Thursday, having 6 weeks of volunteering in mind. By Sunday, I was emailing my parents, begging them to extend my stay until June. Besides volunteering at the Culture Centre and Football Academy my four months were filled with exploring the town, learning the language, and tasting Ghanaian food. While I was there, I got to plan the start of the UVO School. Unfortunately I left right before the opening of it.

When I was leaving Ghana, I was already making plans to come back. Coming back was indescribable. The friends that I had made the first time were all still there and being Ghanaian, incredibly happy and welcoming towards me. June of 2009 was filled teaching, volunteering and just being back in my favorite place in the world. This time I got to teach at the UVO School!

Ghana is amazing. The people are welcoming and go out of their way to be your friend. The food is delicious. When I was there, both times, I grew a very strong love for banku. Banku is fermented corn dough served with either fish or meat.  The kids in the organisation are wonderful. I made friends with a lot of them the first time, who I talk to a few times a month, through letters, phone and email. To this day I am still friends with them. I would HIGHLY recommend UVO to anyone. I still tell anyone who will listen all about Ghana.

 

    
 
  
Edward Willis - May 2009

    I spent 6 weeks in Tafo in May and June 2009 and will remember my stay for a long time.  The project provides schooling, football coaching and cultural activities for its children, and is a wonderful home to many of them. I divided my time between teaching in the ‘Ultimate’ School, and coaching and playing football with the boys, whose energy and good humour never failed to amaze me!

 I arrived late one night, not knowing what to expect and a little nervous. Christian and Eric quickly made me feel welcome and at home though, as did Tommy, the other volunteer who was there at the time. The boys at the hostel are so friendly and enthusiastic, and somebody is always laughing about something!

     I quickly got into the routine of going to school after breakfast, and then playing football from about 4pm until 6. The kids were great to teach, always eager to learn and have fun. Volunteers can teach anything from English to Science and suggestions on how the curriculum can be improved are always welcomed by the teachers. I spent most of my time teaching science, which was a challenge, not having looked at a science book for years! But it was good fun and rewarding to see the kids learning and taking pleasure from it.

    After school we would head to the pitch for football, which was clearly the highlight of the day for the boys. There are some really talented players at the project and most of them dream about becoming professional footballers. They love their football, and I remember thinking the U12s would happily have played all day long if they had been allowed! One of the highlights of my stay was watching the U12s playing against a team of much older and bigger boys, and coming out with a 2-2 draw.

    I also took the opportunity to see some more of the country, taking a 30 hour ferry to Mole National Park in the North, and visiting Cape Coast in the South. Ghana is an incredible country. The people are friendly and hospitable and have a generally positive outlook on life. Christian needs volunteers to keep his fantastic project running, and I would recommend UVO to anybody!

    
Alex Drewett - end of 2009
 

    I spent 10 weeks at UVO at the end of 2009 after graduating from University.  I went not really having any real expectations just knowing that I wanted to live in a new place for a bit, give something back and hopefully learn a little bit about myself.  I can say now that it was, while not always without its challenges, the best thing I have ever done and I have absolutely no regrets.

    I will never forget first arriving in Accra and thinking what on earth am I doing here. Thankfully Kwahu-Tafo is nothing like Accra, the people are extremely friendly and welcoming; it was always nice to return after travelling around Ghana.  Kwahu-Tafo is a smallish town so you should quickly feel at home and a part of the community. If you haven’t been to Africa before it may take a while to get used to the way of doing things though, i.e. very slowly and often inefficiently!

    The project has three main areas; the Ultimate school, football academy and culture centre. Most of my time was taken up teaching in the school. I taught most subjects and all ages but you can do whatever you feel the most comfortable with. Teaching at the school is a real challenge but very rewarding. You will need to use a bit of ingenuity to make up for a lack of equipment and make the classes interesting.  As a volunteer you can offer something that the local Ghanaian teachers cannot and the children appreciate the volunteers’ enthusiasm.

    I took about 2 weeks out of my 10 to travel around Ghana, this is a great way to meet other volunteers and get away from Tafo for a bit.  Ghana is by no means a tourist hotspot but there is plenty to go and see; I certainly had a laugh travelling.

    UVO is still a very young organisation and so you can really get involved and have a say in how things are run, we are completely dependent on volunteers to help move things forward.  You can do as much or as little as you like, but the more you can put in the more you will get out.