Why volunteer abroad?
Being a volunteer requires you to give up your time and money to help those less fortunate than yourself. Despite these sacrifices most volunteers leave their experience having gained considerably more. It sounds like a cliche, but we constantly hear phrases like “life changing experience” – and that it is!
By making the choice to volunteer, you unlock a whole dimension to yourself that could just lie dormant and untested your entire life. You get to experience life in another country. There are gains that will vary from individual to individual in terms of discovering depths of respect, understanding, compassion, maturity; inevitably, it leads to a re-appraisal of oneself and what is truly important.
In our opinion (and those of most of our volunteers), to get involved at a grassroots level is infinitely more helpful and far more rewarding than a simple donation.
Why volunteer with GHV?
GHV was set up to provide an affordable, safe and exciting way to volunteer abroad. We offer non-profit program fees and work directly with local organizations who know the local community. By doing this we can offer the lowest possible fees, while making sure the money goes to the right place. We can also ensure that you are immersed in the local culture and are actually making a difference! For more great reasons, see our ‘Why Choose GHV?’ page above.
How do I volunteer with GHV?
GHV has more than 100 programs in different regions in Ghana, and with so many options we know it can be hard to decide what program is right for you. The first step is to consider which country and program would be most suitable based on your reasons for volunteering, your skills and interests etc. With so many options we’re sure we will have the perfect program for you.
On each country page you will find program descriptions, requirements, accommodation details, country information, and the associated costs. Once you have decided on a program you can click on the “Apply Now” button to start the application process. We’ll be back in touch within 48 hours letting you know if your application has been successful and giving instructions on paying the registration fee, which allows us to get the ball rolling.
If you’re still unsure simply send us an email or give us a call.
How do I know that GHV is nice and safe?
GHV have solid relationships with various NGOs around the world. We are recognized by various volunteer associations and are a registered organization in Ghana. If you would like to connect with past volunteers you can join our Facebook Group and Page.
Why should I pay to volunteer?
Good question! A lot of people are surprised when they realize they have to pay to volunteer. However, the cost of volunteering includes accommodation, food, and transport and in-country support staff. When you consider the costs you might incur at a hotel or eating at restaurants, the costs are minimal.
Plus, as GHV offer non-profit program fees you know that every penny of your program fee is going to the local organizations and the people you have chosen to support. Our local partners are grassroot organizations that, in many cases, are solely funded by volunteer fees and for the concept to work fees are essential. Ultimately, it is a decision of where your money goes… to a hotel, or to a local family. We know which one we’d choose.
Are there more expenses once I arrive?
Although the program fee includes your accommodation and some meals you will need additional money for buying snacks and souvenirs, eating at cafes or restaurants, socializing with other volunteers and locals, transport and weekend travel.
Other costs include your flights, travel insurance, visa and vaccinations, departure tax and buying a local sim card.
Once you’ve arrived you may need to pay for local buses to and from your project, which can cost around USD 1-2 per day depending on your destination and program type. You may also need to pay for bottled water and wifi but this is usually very cheap.
How bona fide is the local volunteer organisation?
GHV only works with trusted, established partner NGOs. All of GHV partner organisations have been fully vetted to ensure that, not only does a genuine need for assistance exist, but that the environments that we place our volunteers are safe and of a high quality. Transparency is a high priority and their credentials can be checked out. GHV ensure that volunteers have access to local support 24/7.
What skills or qualifications do I need?
This is totally dependent on the program you choose, and specific requirements are detailed on each program description.
Some specialized programs such Healthcare/Medical/Architecture/Media and others, require that you hold relevant qualifications and/or experience within that field. In these cases, you will need to provide a current CV/Resume and/or proof of qualifications. Other Healthcare programs will simply require you to be undertaking some form of study in the field. Please note, these programs tend to be more ‘observatory’ in nature, but the experience can be hugely beneficial to students.
A decent grasp of English is generally required for all programs, and mandatory for all Teaching English programs. Whilst some programs specifically require you to have at least a conversation level understanding of the local language, we strongly recommend that you at very least learn the basics, so that your time volunteering is both productive, and enjoyable. On many programs we can arrange for you to join language classes in addition to your placement.
Aside from specific requirements, all programs share a common prerequisite. That is above all else, volunteers are open-minded and have a true and honest desire to help, no matter the situation. Having the ability to adapt and use your initiative will be the single determining factor in the success of your volunteer placement.
Will I be useful?
In your day-to-day work you’ll be helping impoverished people. Ultimately, though how useful you are depends on you! The volunteers who are willing to accept that life will be different, and won’t always go to plan, are usually the ones who have the most successful placements. Likewise, those who can use their initiative, will both give the most, and in return gain the most from the experience.
Many volunteers choose to undertake additional “side projects” while working. If you see something missing or not working correctly while volunteering, make it your mission to fix it while you’re there. It doesn’t need to be huge! Maybe it’s a leaky tap, a broken gate or a chicken coop that needs to be built. Whatever it is, it will be your legacy after you’ve left!
There are so many ways to contribute; something that seems very small to you is likely to be life-changing for the person you are helping. A small act of kindness goes a long way.
Will I be working with other volunteers?
Generally, yes, but this depends on the location and time of year. Some of our programs are busier than others so please let us know your preference and we will make some suggestions.
We have found that some people prefer to be around fewer volunteers, as this is a great way to become part of the community and to be fully immersed in the local culture. Other volunteers prefer to be around more international volunteers, which is a great way to make new friends and means you will have like-minded people to plan weekend activities with.
Which countries do volunteers come from?
We have volunteers from all over the world, but most of them come from Germany, North America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Korea and Japan. Volunteering is a great way to meet other like-minded people from around the globe.
Can I come with a friend, or as a group?
Yes, we welcome individuals, couples, families, small and large groups, students and professionals to join our programs. We don’t have an age limit and we know from many past experiences that everyone has the capacity to make an amazing contribution by becoming a volunteer.
Ok, what about my visa?
While GHV’ pre departure packages include information on visa requirements each traveler is responsible for checking and confirming the visa requirements for their specific type of travel. The best way to do this is to regularly look at the following sites:
Other countries have their own sites.
As well as the most recent information on visas, passport requirements and work permits (if required), there is a lot of information available on these sites including addresses for embassies and consulates, health and vaccinations, drivers licences, laws and Smart Travelers enrollment programs.
There are some basic general principles:
- You will need a current passport and it is recommended that you travel with a passport that has at least 6 months validity.
- You should make sure you have at least 2 free pages for visas.
- Always check that for any country that you are making connecting flights through (refer to the above websites or your airline) to see if you need a transit visa.
- Always travel with your passport and documentation available to you, plus have a copies in your bags and available to you through your email account.
It is the responsibility of the traveler, not GHV, to make sure that the relevant visas and/or permits are in place.
What are meals and accommodation like?
Accommodation and meal types can be very different. Every Host Family will have its own distinct ‘flavour’, not only regarding the food, but the accommodation as well. Where possible, we have deliberately sought out accommodation offering volunteers a ‘traditional/local’ experience, including the food that is provided at meal time. We feel strongly that immersion into the local culture is one of the fundamentals of successful volunteering.
In short, the accommodation and food you will experience meet our own requirements. That is to say, we wouldn’t mind bedding down there for a few weeks ourselves (and likely already have). That said, you need to remember that some locations will be lacking certain amenities you may be accustomed to at home. Hot water for instance … so no bubble baths after a day’s work, sorry! Also you may also not have access to certain foods that you may prefer, or brands that you recognize, so once again, it is important to be flexible and open-minded.
Ultimately, the specifics of your accommodation and meals will depend on the location you choose.
Can I get my own room or do I need to share?
Most of our accommodation is based on host families who often have twin or single rooms available. The number of other volunteers will also be a factor, but please indicate your preference during registration and we will do what we can to accommodate you.
What can I do when I’m not volunteering?
There will be plenty of time to relax in the evenings and weekends. We find that volunteers often spend their free time together, and tend to visit local attractions, plan excursions or weekend trips to nearby areas, or simply relax at home after a busy week of volunteering.
Our local team can often help to organize weekend excursions and will have some great suggestions. These will incur additional costs, but we recommend making these arrangements once you are in-country as the costs will likely be much lower than booking in advance.
What about Malaria?
For travel to Ghana you are advised to make sure your doctor knows exactly where you are traveling so they can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Malaria prevention medication should be taken according to your doctor’s instructions before, during and after a visit to affected areas. Malaria is a serious tropical disease, which is spread by night-biting mosquitoes which transmit a parasite. Avoiding getting bitten is important and usually the most effective means to prevent the disease.
Long sleeved shirts and trousers should be worn in the evenings and insect repellent can be used in areas with mosquitoes. If the area where you are volunteering has mosquitoes, use a mosquito net at night. The most effective nets are those infused with an insect repellent like Permethrin.
With a little common sense and some precautions the chance of getting Malaria is very small. If you suspect you have malaria, see a doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms include chills, fevers, headache, nausea and vomiting.
If I have friends or family to visit can I get time off?
We make every effort to be flexible, but please be mindful that you are making a commitment to volunteer and the local people have made arrangements accordingly. Most of our partner organizations have their own guidelines for extra time off, but making the request with plenty of advance notice helps a lot.
Can feedback/comments by previous volunteers be seen?
Absolutely! We love receiving feedback from volunteers, and we’re regularly sharing new testimonials and photos on our website and our Facebook Page. You can find a testimonials tab on the individual country pages, or for a full list click here.
You can also ask questions of past volunteers on the GHV Facebook Group.
Will obtaining cash, e.g. from an ATM, be difficult?
As with internet access, the proximity of a good-sized town or city means that, generally speaking, banks are accessible if visits are timed to coincide with opening hours. ATMs exist in all the major towns associated with our placements, and we’ll ensure that you know of any local quirks regarding these type of services well before you leave (these details are included in the guidebook you will receive upon registration).
For some of the more remote placements, the nearest ATM may be some distance away, so we suggest carrying some local currency in between opportunities to withdraw funds. If you have any specific questions about withdrawing money/ATMs/Banks, just ask.
Is access to the Internet going to be available on a regular basis?
In the vast number of cases, the locations where our volunteers are placed are usually close enough to a sizeable city where internet cafes abound. Also mobile internet is quiet cheap in Ghana and depending on the region you might have fast connection internet available.
It is important to remember though, that the internet service in developing countries, as with many other aspects of life, will not be as reliable as you may be used to. Even when internet is available, it could be slow and/or intermittent. This is a factor that every volunteer will encounter at least once, and must become acclimatized to. The lack of ability to communicate with friends and family as often as you may like can often sound daunting at first, but you may also come to find that this non-reliance on technology can be a refreshing change!
Will mobile phones work, and will there be a signal?
Mobile phones are now widely used almost everywhere. Local mobile phones can be bought, or a SIM card purchased for use in an unlocked phone brought from home. Short term phone or data SIM cards are inexpensive and well worth getting, especially if you are volunteering for an extended time. If you have a smartphone, we definitely recommend the purchase of a pre-pay DATA SIM, as having access to maps and the internet can be invaluable. Just ensure that you go with a reputable local service provider.
The reliability of phone signals will vary of course, but the team at the placement will be only too willing to give advice regarding which networks function best and where on site to get the best signal. Equally, advice on phone cards to use in payphones is provided for volunteers. Lastly, depending on local conditions, the family with whom the volunteer is staying may well have a landline to which incoming calls will normally be welcome. If you wish to make out-going calls on a landline, please remember to compensate your hosts for this, as often the call will cost more than they are getting to feed you!
Do I need insurance?
While not all of our programs require insurance, it is highly recommended that all volunteers arrange travel insurance. Regardless of which country you are visiting it is important to be covered should something go wrong. You need to be prepared for all possibilities, which could include losing your luggage, dealing with flight interruptions or cancellations, and covering health and medical expenses.
I’m under 18. Can I volunteer?
Generally we have to say no to our younger volunteers. However, if you are with a group of over 18s and have someone who’ll keep an eye on you, we can often work something out. Your best bet is to get in touch with us so we can discuss your options.
Do I need to take/carry cash with me? How much?
A great question, and one that can trip up any traveler! The answer: Yes. We definitely suggest you carry some cash with you at all times, either in local currency or at very least in US$. When traveling in developing countries you may find ATMs are unavailable or temporarily out-of-service, and many places including taxi’s will not accept credit cards. We will assist you on your first day to change money, or to use an ATM machine to withdraw cash. In our experiences Master- and Visa-cards work well in Ghana even though some banks in Europe still suggest a Visa Card.
How much spending money will i need?
Some volunteers manage to live mostly on the program fees while others can spend $10-30 per day on extras. These extras might include socializing with other volunteers and locals, buying snacks and souvenirs, eating at cafes or restaurants, transport and weekend travel. Ultimately it depends on the person, but we would probably budget at least US$10per day on personal stuff.