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Projects Abroad - Africa

Projects Abroad - Africa

Projects Abroad offer a variety of gap year volunteer projects in Africa. Here's a selection of Case Studies from 3 volunteers.

Care & Community in Ghana - Catherine Hughes, 25 was a recent graduate when she joined the Kwamoso Building project in Ghana as a volunteer with Projects Abroad

When I arrived in Ghana to start my Projects Abroad gap year placement I thought it would just be the physical act of building some classrooms for a local school that would benefit the community. Two months later, as I was coming to the end of my volunteering placement, I began to realize that it goes much deeper than that.

Yes, the volunteers provide welcome helping hands on the building site enabling the projects to reach completion before the rains come and wash any unfinished structures away, but the projects would not be possible in the first place without the money coming from volunteer fees through Projects Abroad. These not only help to supply tools and materials to the building site but extend beyond the building site into the communities we are placed in. For a rural family reliant on agriculture and market forces to make a living a steady income from taking a volunteer into their home can also make a real difference to their lives, as can the seemingly small amounts of money the volunteers themselves bring with them and spend in the community.

But it is more than the material and financial gains of taking volunteers into a community that have the most profound effects, it is a subtler cultural exchange that takes place. For so many Ghanaians that I met in the Akuapem Hills where I lived the simple knowledge that people from the ‘white world’, who in their eyes are rich beyond their wildest dreams, actually want to visit and support their community is more valuable than all the mud bricks we could ever make.

The exchange works in both ways. I had a fantastic time in Ghana; I met some lovely people and was constantly impressed by the friendly and ever helpful nature of Ghanaian people. Life was so much simpler than life back home, people were not stressed and certainly there was no such thing as the rat-race. Life itself was not perfect but it was precious and to be enjoyed. The children, although they often worked hard within their family unit, also had wonderful imaginations and loved to tell stories and listen to our accounts of lives in a world so different to their own.

As the classrooms we were building neared completion I felt I still wanted to give something more in return for all that Ghana had given to me. So when the Reverend (my host father and a local community leader) told me of their plans to build a community library I knew I had found my next project. At the moment I am back home in the UK running a fundraising campaign to try and raise the money to build the library and collect books to stock it. Already the foundations have been dug and concreted, but there is still a long way to go.

I hope to return to Ghana with Projects Abroad in July for a few weeks, provided I have raised sufficient funds, to help finish the library and see the books I am collecting delivered to their new home. I am really looking forward to going back out there, seeing my host family and all the children again and taking in some more of the Ghanaian culture. If you are still considering whether or not to do a volunteer project I would highly recommend it, then go out to your chosen country with your mind open to the new experiences and soak up as much of the experience as you possibly can.

Emma Dewe, 25, travelled to South Africa as a gap year volunteer with Projects Abroad to care for babies and young children for three months.

Although I was really excited about spending three months on a Care & Community gap year project in South Africa, it was the first time I had travelled alone and when the time came for me to fly out there I was also feeling very nervous. However, as soon as I collected my bags at the airport in Nelspruit and stepped through the doors to be greeted by Hlengiwe, the Projects Abroad leader, my fears disappeared.

After a long sleep and my induction the next day, I went to the crèche I was going to be working at for the next three months. The children were aged from around 5 months to 6 years and were all absolutely adorable. They were so pleased to see us each morning, rushing over to us and clinging to our legs as we arrived at the gate. Our main roles were leading the singing assembly each morning with all the children, teaching them new songs, supervising the toileting, playtimes and lunchtime and teaching the older children basic English. During our time there we also created a new classroom for the children and painted several classrooms at other crèches through the school holidays.

As well as working at the crèche we also had lots of opportunities to travel and I was able to visit the beautiful beaches of Mozambique, experience a music concert in Swaziland, spend five days in Kruger game reserve and also use some of my traveling time to visit Cape Town and the wine region of Stellenbosch.

My three months in South Africa were the most amazing experience of my life. I am so glad I made the decision to take the plunge and go there. The people in the township were so friendly and so grateful for everything we did for them, and seeing how happy people can be when they have so little is very humbling. I would recommend a Care & Community project in South Africa to anyone and I would love to go back there again myself one day in the future.

Harry Bradwell, from Surrey in England, had this to say half way through his Radio Journalism gap year placement in Senegal through Projects Abroad. He worked at Radio Fréquence Teranga, one of two radio stations that currently offer journalism placements to volunteers.

“Eight weeks have passed and I’ve written and recorded 40-odd bulletins of international news, broadcast about four times a day; needless to say, the St Louisiane population is getting quite sick of the voice of that incomprehensible English person.

My right bicep has had quite a workout at all the press conferences where I’ve been holding out a Dictaphone at arm’s length, jostling for position with the other journalists, mine the only little white hand among the mass below the chin of whoever’s speaking.

Teranga, one of the few words of Wolof I can translate, means hospitality and welcome, and that’s certainly what I’ve found here. At the station, I’m one of the family [which is why my Senegalese name, Assane Gaye Badiane Sidibaye Diagne, now has four surnames!] and every time the crowd of St Louis journalists flocks to a speech or a press conference, the same friendly faces greet me, the token Toubab among their ranks.

I’ve no idea what other strange things will happen over the next two months, but I do know that when I leave I’ll be pretty sad to go and I’ll have had the best work experience anyone could ask for, but forget “work experience”, I’ll have had a better “Senegalese experience” than I could ever have dreamed of.