Originally from New Zealand, Gina has lived in London for the past four years. Though Gina is settled as a teacher in London, she loves to travel whenever she can!Interviewed on - 2 July 2015
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad?
I have always wanted to volunteer and was looking for a new travel experience. At the time, I was between jobs which meant I could go for a decent length of time.
After some research, IVHQ seemed the most affordable and very straightforward. I was able to go to their “meet and greet” in London where I met past and future volunteers, as well as IVHQ staff. They answered all my questions and I left excited and ready to sign up.
Volunteering with IVHQ was my first time in Africa, and Ghana was an amazing place to be. Being in a small village named Senya Beraku, I liked the simplicity of life there (although this was also a challenge!). There was no running water and electricity was sporadic, but this was exactly what I'd wanted. To volunteer in a modern setting wouldn't have stretched me out of my comfort zone! Everyone in the village was extremely friendly, and when walking down the main street I felt like a celebrity as villagers would call out “obroni, orbroni!” meaning “white person”.
The thing that surprised me the most was just how relaxed everyone and everything was. I knew about this before I left, but coming from London, it definitely took some adjusting! No-one is in a rush, ever, for anything! This was both challenging and a welcome change of pace.
We were the only volunteer organisation like it in the village. There were other programmes run by IVHQ nearby though, and it was great to be able to meet up with these other volunteers and travel with them on the weekends.
The hardest part for me was not having running water. Once a week, we would take a taxi to a nearby beach to use the outdoor showers and would make the most of weekends away. It really opened my eyes to how much water we use, and how we take it for granted!
I wish I'd known more about specific items needed for the kids. Once there, sometimes I found it hard to access what was needed (e.g. the school had one duster, the kids needed shoes, etc.). In hindsight, I could have contacted the local rep and got a list of things from the current volunteers.
IVHQ have local staff in the area who visit you once a week, and you can call them if you need help or have questions. It's also easy to contact the office staff if needed.
Stayed longer! I stayed for a month and it would have been great to stay longer.
The weekends were great to explore more of Ghana with fellow volunteers. Also, every Thursday we would take a short taxi ride to a nearby beach resort that had outdoor showers we could use, which felt like a luxury!
We had a great volunteer house that had a large common area and three bedrooms with bunk beds. It had ceiling fans, which were great in the heat! The best thing about it was that it was just a few minutes walk from the orphanage and school.
I have really great memories of Ghana, a desire to see more of Africa, and I definitely appreciate a few of the smaller things in life.
Definitely! The process was easy, the communication was great, and I enjoyed sharing the experience with fellow IVHQers. It was a seamless and enjoyable trip.