Kenzie Lane - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I had a real rough couple of years where I didn't know what I wanted to do exactly. I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but I didn't know how I could use my passion to really make my life special. I've always loved helping people, it's something that will forever be in my blood. I've been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for quite a few years now, and currently work in the medical field. After recently traveling to Ireland, I fell in love with traveling and learning about different cultures. I knew the day I arrived home from the trip that I wanted to do more. I've always wanted to travel and see Africa but didn't know how I could help, so I had looked up medical mission trips for quite a few months before I decided on IVHQ. I fell in love with Africa, and then with Ghana.

Why did you choose International Volunteer HQ?

After looking for programs for quite a few months, International Volunteer Headquarters Ghana really inspired me to look into the culture more and want to explore. I've never met friendlier and happier people in my whole life. The staff at IVHQ were not only friendly and helpful, but one even accompanied us on our weekend trip to Cape Coast, and I've never had a better experience. I can't brag enough about how much we all love the staff, especially Evans! We all became such good friends.

What was your favorite part about Ghana? 

Hands down, my favorite part of Ghana was the people. Every single person would wave to you, and make you feel welcome. I would walk down the street where I was volunteering and children would scream our names and come up to us. It made us feel so loved. My second favorite part was the history of the country. On our trip to Cape Coast, a couple volunteers went to the castle and learned about the slave trade. It was mind blowing and chilling to hear the stories of how a church was on top of the dungeon, and the parishioners could hear the screams of the people below.

What made your experience abroad unique? 

I can honestly say that my trip was a once in a lifetime experience. Between the friends I've made with the other volunteers, the place I worked with some of those volunteers, and the things we did together, I couldn't replicate it if I tried. Each and every one of us brought a different element to the table, whether it be funny jokes or quirky antics. I loved everything I experienced with them. I can truthfully say that they helped make my experience volunteering so much more valuable than I could've ever imagined.

How did local IVHQ staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff were SO friendly and helpful through the duration of my stay in Ghana. They were there if we had any questions, if we wanted to do anything or go anywhere. They helped arrange our tro tro (taxi) to the Adenta Border, to meet up with the rest of the volunteers to go to Cape Coast. On my last night in Frankadua, we all had a farewell bonfire together. All the people from the clinic I worked with, local staff, and the neighborhood children came.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I honestly wish I would've stayed longer. I only joined the program for a week, but had a lifetime of experiences. I can't imagine if I stayed longer, what I would've experienced, and what new part of the country I would've seen. I could've spent more time with the local children, or visited somewhere new on a weekend. I really wanted to go to Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

We would wake up and have breakfast around 7:30 a.m. After breakfast I would get dressed and walk about a mile to the local healthcare clinic I was volunteering with. Once we arrived at the clinic, we would go with the nurses and do local outreach in the villages. We would administer vaccinations babies needed, weigh them, and help record everything in their book. On days we didn't do outreach, when we would arrive at the clinic, we would help do phlebotomy, or vitals and triage. Around midday, we would walk back to our house and eat lunch. After lunch, we would walk back to the clinic, and volunteer there until about 4:30 p.m. I learned how to roll toffee candy with the nurses on our down time at the clinic. When we would return to the house where we were staying, we would relax and play with the kids, or go to the local market. We would have dinner at 6:30 p.m. and afterwards we would all prepare for the next day.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

During my free time, I loved playing with the children and walking around the town. The children even took me to a local soccer practice one day, where they were training for their next game. We got to sit and watch how amazing they were. I also got to relax with some of my bunkmates as well and just talk about our lives back at home, how happy we were to be there and experience what we had experienced. I would also journal my experiences on my down time as well.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it? 

Our accommodation in Frankadua was right in the heart of town. I loved that within five minutes, we could really walk to wherever we wanted. Our house was fairly big and spacious. We had three different bunk rooms where we slept, with three different bunk beds in each room, and we still had room for our luggage and other things we had accumulated over the course of our stay. The children all knew where our house was as well, so every day they would come play with us. 

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Everyone should know that when I went to Ghana, I came back a changed person. Everyone lives so simply there, and everyone is so happy. I've never met friendlier people in my life and I wish I had stayed longer. Be prepared for rewarding experiences throughout your time there, and get to know everyone. If you go with an open mind, and an open heart, your life will be completely different leaving.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Everybody asked me this question after returning home, and all I can respond with is that my trip was phenomenal. I wish everyone was able to experience everything with me. When I was flying to Africa, I had no idea what to expect. Leaving Africa, I left with a lifetime of memories, and friendships with people from countries I never could've imagined. I loved every single minute of everything I experienced there. I wish I could take all the children home with me.

Volunteer carrying a young Ghanaian child
One of my favorite pictures of this trip

Would you recommend International Volunteer HQ  to others? Why? 

I will recommend this trip to everyone I know. I hope that everyone goes over there and has as wonderful an experience as I did.

It's something I will cherish and remember forever, and I can't wait for my return trip back there.