With its upbeat energy, fast-paced development, and surprisingly stable democracy, Ghana is one of Africa’s true success stories. This country is often misrepresented in the media with a focus on famine, wars, and ethnic cleansing, instead of the positive people, their thirst for life, and their welcoming attitude to international volunteers. Volunteering in Ghana will open your eyes and your heart as you fall in love with vibrant cities, historically rich coastal beaches, African wildlife, and the lives you touch as you make your positive impact.Get ready to hear: Akwabba! Welcome to Ghana!
This English-speaking country is one of the safest and most friendliest places to volunteer in all of Africa. It also screams diversity, from the people and cultural influences to the contrasting landscapes. Whether you are looking to balance your volunteer work with time getting lost in a big city, immersing yourself in history, or taking it easy beachside, you will find everything you are looking for, and more, by volunteering in Ghana.
From the moment you arrive in Accra, you’ll experience the constant bustling city life of Ghana’s beating heart and capital. Despite the nearly suffocating heat, volunteers will never be bored; they can explore the lively Makola Market, coastal fishing markets, and the flurry of shops and restaurants on Oxford Street. For an adventure, flag down a tro-tro, a 12-seat mini-van crammed with twice as many passengers. Don’t know where you’re headed? No worries! Tro-tro drivers can be heard all throughout the city, crying out their destinations. When you’re headed back to the city, be sure to hop in with the driver yelling “A-CraCraCra!”
For an experience that is both relaxed and historically rich, try volunteering on the Cape Coast. Originally called Cabo Corso by the Portuguese, Cape Coast was the former European colonial capital in Ghana. That’s right, this location was once the largest slave-trading center in West Africa. Today, volunteers will find Cape Coast to be an easygoing fishing town with an artsy vibe, where they can spend their free time surfing or relaxing on the beach. You will encounter ghosts of the past, as crumbling colonial buildings line the streets and fisherman nets in the beautiful waters where slave ships once sailed, but wake up with a smile every day.
If you are a lover of markets, head to volunteer in Kumasi. This former capital of the Ashanti Kingdom is Ghana’s second largest city, yet lacks the sweltering heat of Accra. With a semi-tropical climate, it is often called the “Garden City” because of the beautiful plant life it fosters. The heart of the city lies within Kejetia Market, where you will get lost beneath the tin roofs, scavenging through Ashanti sandals and batik. For an escape, head to Lake Bosomtwe, Ghana’s only natural lake, only an hour from the city.
Volunteer Programs in Ghana
There are many different types of volunteer opportunities in Ghana. In the north, the population is rural, mired in poverty, and predominantly Muslim, while the south is filled with bustling cities, diverse socio-economic statuses, and a Christian society. No matter where you volunteer in Ghana, you can be sure you’ll make a positive impact.
Many poverty-stricken areas of Ghana lack clean water and access to basic healthcare, so medical volunteers can lend a hand in local hospitals and clinics. Whether you are a medical school student or you’ve just entered pre-med as an undergraduate, working alongside doctors and nurses in Northern Ghana is an excellent way to make a difference, while gaining knowledge and experience in your career area. For already-trained professionals, it is possible to volunteer in Ghana and work full days in hospitals, administering medicines and vaccines, or leading discussions on health and hygiene with community groups.
While Ghana is an English-speaking country, many children lack the ability to communicate effectively in English. Therefore, volunteering in Ghana in the realm of education, in both rural and urban areas, helping street kids improve their language skills is a common choice for many international volunteers. Teaching volunteers will have the opportunity to teach solo, with other volunteers, or assist local staff in open-air classrooms. Most schools do not have chalkboards, books, or pencils, so volunteers will have the opportunity to be creative (calling all improv actors!), while incorporating music, math, art, and geography into their lessons.
Arguably, the most rewarding experience available in Ghana comes from volunteering with orphans. Orphanage volunteering in Ghana will provide the most visible impact too, as you’ll be able to feed, dress, and love children who have been left without families of their own, and they will love you right back. Volunteers can also help with cleaning the orphanages and with homework after school. Be prepared to hear some of the most heartbreaking stories that will crack you open and make you see the world in a whole new light.
Depending on the program you choose, you can volunteer in Ghana for anywhere from a week or two to several months. Some volunteer programs in Ghana, such as healthcare placements, will require a minimum of a month, while other programs will be much more flexible. Stay one week or six months, either way you will be making a huge difference!
Costs & Affordability
Ghana is the perfect place to volunteer abroad. Not only can the people greatly benefit from your help, but you will be able to enjoy all of the country’s wonders without making too much of a dent in your bank account.
This African country offers some of the most affordable volunteer programs, with initial program fees as low as $395, which will include everything you might need as a first-time volunteer in Ghana. From food, accommodation, and airport pickup to orientation, travel assistance, and pre-departure information, organized volunteer programs in Ghana will keep you covered!
While the cost of rent in Ghana is comparable to that of the United States, volunteers don’t need to worry about rent too much, because accommodation is often provided. Other costs, like transportation and food are cheap, so volunteers should have no problem exploring the areas by tro-tro and feasting on wonderful fresh fruit that can be found precariously balanced on the heads of street hawkers, delicious roadside roasted corn, or tilapia and guinea fowl. For an affordable night out in the cities, adventurous drinkers can try akpeteshie, a popular Ghanaian drink that is almost 100 percent alcohol; one drink and you’ll be good to go!
Even with the affordable prices in Ghana, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the funds to get you there. Check out sites like FundMyTravel for creative fundraising tips.
Accommodation & Visas
Ghanaians will welcome volunteers with open arms. Soon, you will have a new group of besties, all of them offering you helpful tips, showing you the hidden sights, and offering empty couches on overnight excursions.
Many volunteer programs in Ghana will provide accommodation through homestays, so you can experience their hospitality first hand while spending time with a local host family. This is the cheapest option, as well as the most personal and popular. Other volunteers may be placed in pre-arranged, verified hostels for the duration of their time in Ghana, or even in cheap hotels that will undoubtedly include excellent food.
You don’t typically need a visa to volunteer abroad in Ghana, if your program length is less than 90 days. In the case of longer volunteer placements, however, you will need to obtain a visa. Fear not; the visa process is much easier and simpler in Ghana than in many other African countries. Most volunteer program providers in Ghana will provide volunteers with visa assistance, but for more information, check out GoAbroad’s Ghanaian Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Heartbreak. There is nothing like volunteering in a place where the people are dealing with very real challenges, yet remain entirely positive. Whether your volunteer work in Ghana places you in hospitals, schools, or orphanages, you will undoubtedly meet people and hear stories that will bring you to tears. Drink in their stories and positivity, and go home more open-minded and appreciative of your own quality of life.
Africa’s Success Story. There are many parts of Africa that are true to the stereotype: war-ravaged, starving people, and genocide. While Ghana is still in need of international volunteers, it is the safest and most stable country in Africa. Often called “Africa for beginners,” volunteering in Ghana will give you a positive experience, without putting you in danger.
Becoming a volunteer in Ghana will surprise you and delight you. From the buzzing cities to the beautiful coast, you will experience a country full of energy and you will be welcomed in by people who are excited to have your helping hands. You won’t be able to change the world while volunteering in Ghana, but you will touch lives, and that makes all the difference.