Written by: Lilly Bess
The Twi-word for welcome is “Akwaaba”. This is a phrase I have heard many times since I arrived in Ghana. And probably it is because of this warm atmosphere that I already feel comfortable after this short period of time.
OK, but let’s start at the beginning.
My name is Lilly, I’m 18 years old and I live in Nuremberg, a city in Bavaria in the south of Germany. After finishing school I decided to take a gap year and spend the following year doing voluntary work abroad. After doing some research on possible organisations and countries I quickly decided to try my luck with AFS. And I was lucky enough to be accepted into the program. I knew I wanted to go to Africa because I wanted to experience a completely new environment and see what this continent is really like. My non-existent French skills limited my pool of countries and I soon had my top 3 three English speaking countries. The first one was Ghana which thankfully in the end turned out to be the final choice.
So after some preparation camps in Germany, doctor appointments, paper work, packing and a visa application my journey could finally start.
On the 25 th of August my family took me to the airport and guided me through the whole check-in process. Without them I would have been completely lost as it was my first time flying. After a sad goodbye, I was soon able to focus on something else because I had a few challenges at the security check-in. However, after this was settled I boarded the plane and sat down in my window seat. We took off with a slight delay and the view and the feeling was terrifying at first, but then beautiful.
At Amsterdam airport I met up with the rest of the volunteers and we walked to the next gate. I still remember exactly how excited and giddy I was.
The view from the airplane window alone proved to be that this will be a breathtaking year.
Six hours later we finally arrived in Accra. As soon as we stepped off the plane you could feel the warm and humid air which smelt quite different. Some AFS staff greeted us and helped us to get on the bus.
After a long drive through the city and the first time experiencing the traffic and the bumpy roads we finally arrived at the hotel where our arrival camp would be.
The next week was packed with different seminars and activities to get to know Ghana better. We tried fufu and banku for the first time, both traditional meals eaten with your hands. Another thing we definitely learnt was the GT (Ghanaian time) which is always being 10 minutes to 2 hours late.
On the first of September we met our host families for the first time. My host father picked me up at the AFS office and we drove to my new home. On the way we bought some fried rice and pizza.
My host mother gave me a warm welcome and we ate together first. They showed me the house and my room which I share with my host father’s niece and let me unpack my luggage. The following weekend was a chilled one with me trying to adapt to the new environment and getting to know their routines. What shocked me a little bit was that even on the weekends they never sleep past 6.30 am. On Sunday we went to church together and it was a totally different service than in Germany. My church is a charismatic one so there is a lot of dancing, singing and praying. All three with a lot of volume. The most fascinating thing to witness was the pure joy that all the people in the church felt.
I also experienced my first trip alone in the trotro. I was really nervous at first but in the end there was nothing to be afraid of. Google Maps was my constant companion to track the routes and to be able to exit at the right places. It was particularly confusing when the drivers took ‘shortcuts’ to avoid the traffic. But I never had any major problems during these rides.
The following day was the first time I went to my project. Unfortunately, my host father’s car had a technical issue and combined with the traffic I arrived late at the office. Luckily, no one was angry and they gave me a briefing about Fafali. They also gave me an itinerary so that I could visit each project and then decide which ones I want to support. I visited almost every program, from the Happy Arts Club to football practice. In the following week Fafali launched the 2-classroom complex so there was some work where I could assist. The first week was a bit boring but the warm atmosphere in the office totally made up for it. But the more I understood what Fafali was about and how it all worked, the more ideas I had and the more I wanted to do something.Therefore I was really excited when I finally decided to revive the Need to Read project with another volunteer and join the Fit4Fun athletics program. I’ll also be assisting a teacher at the Unity Baptist School.
Now in the mornings I do my research on various points and look for fundings. Soon the Literacy Class will start in the mornings as well. Twice a week I attend Fit4Fun training in the afternoon.
Generally, I have to mention that every day is different from the last. There are so many random encounters that brighten your day. In addition there are so many things to try and learn that you never get bored. Apart from the tasty and spicy food I discover something new every day. It feels like I’ve already experienced so much in just one month and I can’t imagine what the next 10 months will be like.
Some More Images
Thank you for reading!