Report from Ghana by Steve Pickett

Back in February we blogged about Steve Pickett and how we were sponsoring his trip to Ghana We delighted to tell you he has safely returned and below are his thoughts and photos from this amazing trip.

On the 14th of April 2014 my journey to Africa began.

Me and a group of students that were almost complete strangers to each other, assembled as a team, as part of a volunteering effort to complete the build of a secondary school in the Ashanti region of Kumasi, in Ghana.

Here we all are anxious to board the plain departing from Gatwick to Accra Airport from where we could make our way to the project site.

We awoke the next morning ready for the long drive from the city centre, excited about our arrival on the project site.

During the coach trip, in a rather sticky environment, Fred who was to be our amazing guide for the week filled us in along the way. I remember being told that the Ghanaian concept of time was very different and that five minutes is usually a ‘big five minutes in Ghana’. Meaning our drive could take anything between 5 to 12 hours.

Smiling faces and waving hands soon put to bed all the worries I had built up over the last 6 months as our minibus came to a halt. The children quickly made us all feel at home giving us local names; chosen according to the day that you were born. I was ‘Kwabena’.

How better to break the ice than with a bit of street football.

That same evening we were invited into the Chief’s home where they performed cultural dances to welcome us as guests.

Little did I know that I would soon be part of it! After a few traditional routines, even us guests were encouraged to greet the chief and his elders with a short dance as a mark of respect and good manners – one of the most surreal moments of my life to date.

Also, as part of the celebration, our plans for the project were explained to the chief where he then thanked us for travelling out there and assured us of our safety whilst his sons proceeded to dance and play drums.

Here is a photo to laugh at:

Dancing at the welcoming ceremony.

In terms of project work we managed a lot in such a short space of time. No day was the same, although working through sweltering heat and being deprived of sleep was a common factor.

Maybe the fact that we shared a rather sticky bed between four fully-grown adults didn't help.

Tasks included pick-axing trenches, carting dirt, mixing cement, carrying large bricks by hand, painting, carrying large buckets of water (on our heads of course!), entertaining the children so they stayed off-site and even a little bit of teaching here and there.

Mixing a little cement to concrete the classroom floors and pathways.

Carrying water onsite.

Painting in a classroom while the others rest.

Pick-axing a trench.

Painting the walls with some of the girls.

Concreting the classroom floors.

My time in Ghana was absolutely mesmerizing. Living and adapting to an entirely different culture opened my eyes to many issues in today’s modern world.

Seeing such poverty and poor living conditions, put in contrast with all the smiley Ghanaian characters we met along the way just shows how our contributions can make such a difference.

It should definitely be mentioned that yes, compared to us they don’t have the same richness in material possessions but what they do have is just as valuable; there is an overwhelming sense of community, of family values; children play together in the streets and there is a hell of a lot of singing and dancing and a real sense of hope.

In Ghana, happiness wasn’t about the things you had, it was the about what surrounded you.

Everyone was so giving, even though they had little to give. Nothing was rushed and time was never an issue. I WANT TO GO BACK SOOOOO MUCHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

It was so sad to leave. I met some really inspirational people from whom I have learnt so much from and I have made so many great friends amongst other volunteers whom I share many amazing memories with.

A big thank you must be said to everyone who supported me with equipment, advice and sponsorship.

Your money stretched a long way and not only did it fuel this project but our partnership company has agreed to continue to work with the community and with the remaining funds they will soon be supplying the school with computers which will improve the level of education in the community.

Your help has made such a difference!

Thanks for reading,

Steve x

Below are some more photos of some of my best memories!

The Ghana team on our last day.

Photo after the closing ceremony with the drummers.

After volunteering we decided to push back our flights and visit some places, Mole National Park.

Heading to Kintampo Falls.

Selfies with the locals.

Absolutely bricking it 30m high above the rainforest floor at the canopy walkway in Kakum National Park.

Me & Christie in our Ghana tops.

Wrestling a croc.

Photo with the tribal dancers.

Tribal dance show.

Thank you!