Back in the early winter Holly submitted a plea for support on Dorset Eye to help fund her visit to Ghana. The project was to help to renovate a primary school. Well she made it and here is some detail of her time there.
What I learnt and achieved and expectations and hope for future
The humidity from Africa’s climate hit me like it does when you open the oven after it has been on for half an hour at 200c! After eighteen hours of travelling including one coach and two plane journeys we arrived in Accra to be greeted by the really wild challenges team. From here we spent the night in a standard hotel to have a brief meeting on the upcoming details of our time working on the school and to get a good night’s sleep before the challenge commences.
It was 5:00 in the morning when we packed up our stuff and loaded the vans with our luggage to make our way to the village, called Insuta in Brong Ahafo. It’s a six hour journey to the village. Feeling the effects of the hot air circulating me, I doze in and out of sleep only to be awakened by the van driving over what they would call a pothole, what I’d call a crater! As I looked up still half asleep, I could see through my blurred vision a collage of brightly coloured clothes and a sea of people glaring into the van with mesmerized faces. The environment that surrounded them was rural and earthy, with trees, dusty grassland and buildings of a shed like design. I thought to myself ‘this is Africa’.
Travelling down a bumpy, dusty road we arrived at Insuta. Feeling tired, hot and sweaty we clamber out the vans. Our accommodation for the next ten days was tents, first task, making our homes.
Our bathroom consisted of a few planks of wood screwed together, inside had five cubicles to shower in and three cubicles with two holes in each to be used as a toilet. We were provided with plastic buckets to wash ourselves with. The village had a water supply in the form of a well with a pump. This is what we used to fill our buckets with and carry back to camp. The local children would often collect water for us and fill the large tubs in our bathroom. We had three set meals a day which included sugar bread, eggs and occasionally beans for breakfast. Dinner was mainly chicken or fish with rice, plantain and yams. Everything was cooked fresh every day. For snacks we had mango, papaya, water melon, avocado coconut and oranges which were all picked locally.
During my time on the village I experienced just a little insight into their way of life. Everything they owned was grafted for, built, made and grown by them. The people of Ghana receive no welfare and in this village particularly no charity either (Well until now). The people of Insuta had never seen a white person before, for this reason we were the centre of attention especially with the children. I learnt that the people of Insuta feel they will die a happier person having met a white person in their lifetime, they believe white people are magic and make things happen in terms of careers and education.
For the next ten days I used my body and strength like I have never done before lifting, mixing, cementing, digging and painting. We worked on the nursery and the primary school. The nursery consisted of only a wooden frame and a barn like roof. The primary school needed total refurbishment. It contained three classrooms which each had a black board, desks and chairs. In and around the school it had holes in the walls and the steps to the classroom doors had half crumbled away.
I worked 9-10 hour days. We were usually put into three groups to work on different tasks. There was barely any equipment. I carried heavy bricks one by one across the bumpy ground going over ditches in the road. In a day’s work I mixed cement and carried buckets of it were needed at the nursery or school. The children were with us throughout the duration of our stay from morning till night. They were full of energy, laughter and smiles. In Ghana learning English is part of the curriculum from a young age. So they knew some English. However we often communicated just by playing with them and having fun, especially dancing, their traditional dancing was called Azonto.
The children were often in their yellow and brown school uniforms, ripped, stained and of different design. Although there was never a teacher in sight, as they lived in the city and rarely came to the village. Secondary school education cost around £400 a term, which is 1,120 cedi (GHS) in the Ghana currency. Therefore children often did not reach secondary school. In England we have the privilege to receive free education throughout the duration of school. Because of this expense families could not afford to send their children to school. £400 to send children to school for a term would be expensive even for England, a developed country, let alone Ghana. Insuta for example the average wage they earned was 0.33p a day. People of Ghana rarely benefited from education especially in the rural parts where they had less equipment and resources. Therefore children from an early age would begin work on farms and other means of making money in order for them and their family to survive and live some sort of life. However education is still expressed as an important part of life in Ghana.
When my stay at Insuta was drawing to a close, I reflected on my time there. I’d never experienced so many different emotions at any one time in my life. These were feelings of happiness, sadness, fear, nerves, inspiration, the list goes on. How they live and work without any help from any authority or anyone is inspiring. Fear of being so far from home and at risk of becoming infected with Malaria as well as deadly snakes being present in our area! Happy, to be the first people to give Insuta hope for the children’s future in education but sadness in the realisation that some of them may never leave the village or go on to higher education.
We successfully managed to re-build the nursery and school. In the nursery we each painted our hands and printed them in a line round the nursery wall to create a border. I hope that the work we done together will now provide the village with a more accessible environment to receive a good education and encouragement for teachers to teach there.
It has been the most amazing, challenging and unforgettable experience of my life. I believe I have made a positive impact on the village, the people and myself. There are a few faces I will never forget, who I made bonds with. The people I worked with on this challenge I had never met before, and I can say with confidence I grew a strong attachment with some of them, because of this, fears and nerves of anything significantly faded due to their presence.