Written by: Jean Wilfried Konan

Hello, let me introduce myself. I am Jean Wilfried KONAN, originally from Ivory Coast. I graduated with a Higher Technician Certificate in Human Resources and Communication. Since 2021, I have been a volunteer at the NGO MESAD, where I hold the position of Head of Human Resources and Digital Communication.

Get ready to tempt your taste buds and expand your linguistic horizons as I recount the exciting journey I undertook with AIESEC as part of the Ghana Legon Exchange Program. From savoring mouth-watering Ghanaian dishes to mastering colorful local dialects and perfecting my English, join me as I dive into a whirlwind of flavor, language, and experience.

A few months ago, after returning from a volunteering experience in France through a civic service program, I began to feel the desire to live a new, enriching experience in one of my dream countries in Africa.

Experiencing the local tricycle life before taking up media duties

My choice quickly fell on Ghana, the sister country of Ivory Coast. As a former member of AIESEC in Côte d’Ivoire, more specifically the local committee of AIESEC Abidjan Sud, I knew that this organization offered international exchange programs. Without hesitation, I began the process and seized an opportunity with the Fafali organization proposed by AIESEC in Legon. The challenge was significant: leaving my comfort zone and traveling to an unknown destination without enough money, knowing that my level of English was limited. However, without setting limits, I began to prepare my trip to the land of the Black Stars, the birthplace of Queen Abla Pokou, who, according to history, saved and guided the Baoulé people during their migration to the Ivory Coast. Why this little story? You will find out more later. Just let yourself be carried away by my story.

Is it true that traveling requires a lot of money?

April 11, 2023, marks the start of my trip to Ghana. Despite planning my budget and making all the preparations, I had not managed to raise the necessary amount for the trip. However, being motivated and determined to leave, I decided to embark on this adventure without money, having only the transport fare from my residence in Koumassi to Noé. During the bus ride, I was still thinking about how to find the necessary funds to continue my journey. Arriving at the Noé border, I called a friend who granted me a loan, allowing me to continue my journey. Do you find this insane? Yes, I am a daring adventurer.

Once I crossed the border between Ivory Coast and Ghana, I heaved a sigh of victory; finally, I had just set foot on Ghanaian soil. I was already beginning to feel the warmth of Ghanaian hospitality. This is also where the real adventure had just begun.

The bus trip from Bassam station (in Abidjan – Treichville) to Accra took about 14 hours, including stops and changes. This adventure allowed me to appreciate the landscapes of Elubo, Cape Coast, Takoradi, and finally Accra. Despite my limited command of English, I was able to form bonds by sympathizing with my Ghanaian travel companions who made the journey easier for me. During the trip from Takoradi to Accra, an elderly man kindly lent me his phone so that I could contact the AIESECer who was to welcome me.

It’s Friday, April 12, it’s 2 a.m. I am finally in Accra, more precisely in the commune of Haatso, where the residence in which I am staying during my stay is located. I will finally be able to rest after this long journey. After resting well, Janaba Sakara, the Vice President for Incoming Internship Exchange (ICX) at AIESEC in Legon, came to pick me up to show me around the premises of my workplace. As soon as I arrived, I was warmly welcomed by a dedicated and passionate team. Ray Amezado, the founder of the organization, introduced me to the association and my future collaborators. My integration happened quickly.

A fulfilling moment with the kids in our environment club

I officially started my great adventure with Fafali on Monday, April 15. The first day of work was marked by everyone’s punctuality, followed by a time of devotion where we prayed, motivated each other, and set goals for the week. This routine was repeated every day of the week. Then I was introduced to the rest of the team. Selase, the Chief Operating Office/Volunteer Coordinator, gave me my roadmap. During my first week, I discovered various activities within Fafali, and I finally chose to get involved in two projects from two different programs. I opted for the Happy Art Club under the Education program and the Environmental Club under the Environment program because of my passion for this field. Given my limited finances, I could not commit myself further. My schedule was therefore flexible; I only worked three days a week: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. A well-established schedule for my various activities in the environmental program was put in place to more effectively raise awareness among young people about the protection of our planet through fun and entertaining activities.

Working with Fafali allowed me to develop professional skills while participating in inspiring and meaningful projects. The company culture, focused on collaboration and innovation, made each day enriching and motivating.

Working with the young beneficiaries of the Fafali program in these various areas was a real challenge for me. Being from a French-speaking country, you can imagine my level of English when I arrived in Ghana. Besides language difficulties, I also encountered financial problems at one point, finding myself destitute and hesitant to ask for help. Receiving money via mobile money was complicated, and I can’t describe how difficult it was for me for several days. My caring colleagues noticed the situation and immediately mobilized to assist me and facilitate my money withdrawals. Some gave me temporary subsistence loans. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of this exceptional team.

As my predecessor Akmel said, “It’s wonderful when you try to bring about the change you want according to your means and your abilities.”

This volunteer internship in Ghana allowed me to explore different aspects of life and to become aware of the importance of others. It helped me to know myself better, to face my fears, and even to push my limits, notably by improving my level of English. To quote this famous saying: “Life is not always as smooth as we would like it to be.”

Supporting as an umpire during the 72-Hour Campaign project organized by the Fafali Organization

During my stay, I fully explored the vibrant cuisine of Ghana. From spicy dishes like jollof rice to the delicious flavors of banku and tilapia, through fried rice and kenkey or “dokono”, each meal was a true culinary masterpiece.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to Fafali and its entire team for their patience and kindness. Their dedication and professionalism were invaluable throughout this project. Working with Fafali has been an enriching and inspiring experience. Their passion for their work and commitment to excellence is truly remarkable. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such an exceptional team.

I would also like to thank AIESEC Abidjan Sud and AIESEC in Legon for offering me the chance to benefit from this internship in Ghana and for hosting me. This experience was very enriching for me.

Engaging in service to others is crucial to accomplishing personal and professional goals. This commitment maintains determination in the face of obstacles, inspiring one to persevere even in difficult times. It promotes leadership development, which can inspire others to follow in your footsteps. This approach is also a way to build a personal and professional network. If, like me, you have an ounce of madness in you, don’t hesitate to let it shine through captivating and enriching adventures.

Merci!! Thanks!! Medaase bebree!!

Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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