Can Volunteering Help Ghana?

Can volunteering help Ghana? It’s a big question for little old me to take on. Economics, geo-politics, and morality are all involved. But the only thing that I can go on is the personal experience, the one to one interactions and understandings between volunteers and individuals in the communities in which they work.

For the communities

Ghana has an interesting history. It was the first sub-Saharan country to trade with Europe. Unfortunately the trade that started with gold quickly became a slave trade with all its corrupting and malign influences. British colonial rule compounded Ghana’s social problems, but there was a further decline into corruption and economic mismanagement after independence in 1957.

While every day the people of Ghana, in its cities and towns and rural communities, live with the legacy of this history, they are often remote from the centres of influence so it has taken a long time for Ghana’s social recovery to take hold. Support now comes in the form of political clout from the United Nations, which understands Ghana’s twin problems of fighting poverty and protecting the environment, and from individual volunteers that work at grassroots level, making a difference every day.

Volunteering in Ghana

According to Projects Abroad PRO, which specialises in placing qualified volunteers in Ghana, volunteers have many motivations for choosing Ghana. For some it is a sense of righting the wrongs of the past; others simply see a country in desperate need of help from skilled workers and where their professional skills will make the maximum practical impact.

Volunteering in Ghana is not just about building schools and caring for orphans, although there is always more of that work to be done. These days volunteers are urgently needed across the spectrum of caring professions and in legal work, IT, and community development and social work. The idea is to support Ghana as it develops a modern infrastructure and self-supporting communities.

Things you should know

The main thing to know is that Ghana is not there yet. At every level of individual life, and community and social development there are challenges. This makes volunteering exhausting and exciting as every little achievement is a triumph to be celebrated and appreciated.

For me one of the most interesting things to know about Ghana is how child-friendly social attitudes are. In the west we are used to adult life and children’s lives being segregated, but in Ghana children and adults mix much more freely on a social level. Children play out in the streets, neighbours watch over each other’s children, it is common to see children out shopping or running errands for their parents or grandparents in a way that is impossible to imagine in the west. Many volunteers who are involved in community development and social work abroad see the positive implications of this and choose to take their children, particularly older ones, with them on short-term projects and longer volunteering opportunities in Ghana, so the whole family can benefit from a change of perspective and community involvement. And Ghana can benefit from the work of the volunteers.