Volunteers in Ghana should be at least 18 years old and speak English to at least intermediate level. Some experience working with children is preferred, as is a responsible, enthusiastic and compassionate attitude. Medical placements accept pre-med, medical students and professional medical practitioners. On all programs, initiative, self-motivation, and a willingness to help in many areas are qualities that are greatly welcomed.
Start & Duration
Volunteers who intends to come on Short Term ( less than 3 months) can begin their project placement on any Saturday of the month. Volunteers need to book their flights to arrive on the dates mentioned below.
Those volunteers who wants to come on Long Term (more than 3 months) can begin their project placement on any Friday of the month. Arriving over the weekend is always a good option as it allows time to adjust before starting at the placement on Monday morning.
Arriving over the weekend is always a good option as it allows time to adjust before starting at the placement on Monday morning.
Food and Accommodation
The volunteers in Ghana are very fortunate as they have the opportunity to live with a local family within close proximity of the volunteer project location. Getting to experience cultural immersion within a Ghanaian family makes one’s stay in Ghana uniquely memorable. The family will be on hand to help you and also show you around the local area. The host family provide breakfast and dinner (or all three meals if you are at your accommodation during weekends). At lunch breaks on working days, you can sample local cuisine at modestly priced cafes and restaurants.
The cuisine is flavoursome; if simple. The best known Ghanaian staple is fufu, which consists of a basic starchy ingredient such as cassava, yam, plantain or rice. You may also be served different types of stew, be it fish, chicken or vegetable. Fried plantain is another popular local dish.
On arrival at the airport volunteers will be met by a local representative. From there volunteers will be taken to their accommodation and introduced to their hosts. All newly arrived volunteers receive a full orientation to prepare them for their stay in Ghana, including an introduction at their project site and help with familiarization within the local community. The local team are available to help volunteers withdraw money, buy phone or sim cards, get used to using public transport, and to arrange weekend activities
A typical week
The structure of the week varies for different projects, but we aim to be flexible. Provided some notice is given, we will try to accommodate your plans. That said a typical week in Ghana for volunteers may look something like this:
Weekdays: Between 7am and 8.30am you can expect to have breakfast with your host family. At 8-8.30am you will head to your placement, depending on how far you have to travel. Expect to arrive at work at 9am, where you’ll meet with the local staff and plan your day. You will have a tea and lunch break during the day, the length of which will depend on the particular program. Most work finishes between 2pm and 5pm. At this point you a free to explore the local area, play with the kids (if you’re at a teaching or childcare assignment) or hang out with other volunteers. In the evening, you can have dinner with your host family or visit a local restaurant with friends.
Weekends: The weekends allow you an opportunity to visit local attractions or perhaps take a trip out of the city to some of Ghana’s beaches, the Digya National Park or the famous Lake Volta (the world’s largest lake by surface area).
Program fees are a necessary part of volunteering abroad. They help to cover costs associated with your stay, as well as supporting the local organization and projects. Below is an approximate cost breakdown to show you how your program fees are used when you choose to join a volunteer program in Ghana.
NOTE: The above graph is intended to be used as a guide only. Actual cost allocations may vary slightly depending on the program selected and the length of stay.
The Role of Volunteer
Under this program volunteers would have the chance to work with women and NGOs working towards the upliftment of these women. Volunteers are involved in teaching, providing awareness on women rights, reproductive health, land rights, domestic violence and more. You would also get a chance to help the NGO with work on projects, IT related work, such as website update, social media, typing and maintaining of records.
While you would be mostly working with women to teach them, you can also spend time in teaching them skills such as sewing, painting, cooking, computer and other skills which can help them in their daily lives.
Volunteers teach the women and girls English and provide skill-oriented training by assisting in workshops. Ultimately this helps to improve their standard of living, their self-confidence, and encourages them to be independent and generate an income. This is a hugely rewarding program, and input from volunteers can be clearly seen translated into real life-changing skills for the women this project supports.
Volunteers are required to have a good level of English, as very few of the women on this program speak English. Having sufficient knowledge of either language to effectively communicate will be an advantage for the volunteer, and will be extremely beneficial for the girls and young women.
Welcome to the Land of Sunshine, also referred to as an ‘Island of Peace’. Ghana is one of the thriving democracies in Africa, inhabited by the world’s friendliest people.
Ghana at a glimpse
Government: Parliamentary democracy
President: John Dramani Mahama
Capital city: Accra
Population: About 25,000,000
Ethnic Make-up: Akan 45.3%, Mole-Dagbon 15.2%, Ewe 11.7%, Ga-Dangme 7.3%, Guan 4%, Gurma 3.6%, Grusi 2.6%, Mande-Busanga 1%, other tribes 1.4%, other 7.8% (2000 census)
Language: English (official), Ewe, Ga, Twi (widely spoken), and many more.
Religions: Christian 68.8% (Pentecostal/Charismatic 24.1%, Protestant 18.6%, Catholic 15.1%, other 11%), Muslim 15.9%, traditional 8.5%, other 0.7%, none 6.1% (2000 census) Currency: Cedi (¢)
Places to visit
Accra , a savoury blending of big-city bustle and African ease: Makola & Kaneshie Market; James Town; Independence Square; Art Centre; Du Bois Centre; Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum; National Museum. Also Aburi botanical garden with exotic plants from around the world; and the Academy of African Music and Arts.
Kumasi, the ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom: National Cultural Centre; Asantehene’s Palace; Adae Festival; Bonwire for Kente cloth; Ntonso for andinkra cloth; Pankrono for pottery; Ahwiaa for Woodcarving.
Coastal Forts and Villages : Fort Good Hope (1706) in Senya Beraku; Fort Patience (1697) in Apam; Cape Coast Castle (1652) in Cape Coast; Fort Nassau (1612) in Mori; Fort William (1730) and Asafo shrine in Anumabu; Fort St Jago (1652) and St George’s Castle (1482) in Elmina.
Ghana, the gateway to Africa is situated right in the heart of West Africa . Its borders extend from the Gulf of Guinea covering a distance of about 672km from the south to the north, and about 540 km from the east to the west.
The country is bordered to the north by Burkina Faso , the east by Togo, the south by the Atlantic Ocean and the west by Cote d’Ivoire.
A narrow grassy plain stretches inland from the coast, widening in the east, while the south and west are covered by dense rainforest. To the north are forested hills, beyond which is dry savannah and open woodland. In the far north is a plateau averaging 500m (1600ft) in height. In the east the Akuapim hills run inland from the coast along the Togo border. The Black and White Volta rivers enter Ghana from Burkina Faso , merging into the largest manmade lake in the world, Lake Volta. Ghana ‘s coastline is dotted with sandy palm-fringed beaches and lagoons.
Ghana experiences two major seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. There are two main seasons of rainfall in the south starting from April to June and the minor rains from September to October. The northern region experiences a single rainy season from June to October. There is a dry season from November to April.
CLIMATE: Ghana has a tropical climate, hottest months March, April, 23-31ºC and the coldest month, August 22-27 ºC. There are relatively long dry season from mid October to March. Driest month January has a maximum rainfall of 15mm. There are two rainy seasons, from March to July and from September to October, wettest month, June has 178mm average rainfall.
WEATHER: The first thing you should know is this: Ghana is hot. It is always hot. What’s more, it’s always humid. Humidity usually lingers between 95 and 100 percent. The rainy season lasts from mid-June to mid-November – sometimes. The rain provides a little respite from the intense heat, but temperatures will still be in the mid-80s Fahrenheit. What to Wear There are only a few guide books on Ghana and West Africa, and we found that information on clothing they seem to offer is, well, a little misinformed. If you are male, shorts and t-shirts are fine.
You may want to bring along one nice shirt and pair of pants, and maybe a tie, for formal occasions like church and/or funerals. The most comfortable attire for women really is knee-length skirts or light dresses. Shorts are actually hotter than skirts, and skirts are more appropriate for teaching, working in a clinic, or just about any other volunteer duty you may be doing. They don’t have to be formal …there are lots of light-weight, comfortable and cute dresses and skirts out there that would do just fine. Of course, you’re welcome to wear shorts, and many volunteers also opt for hospital scrub-type pants and t-shirts, as well. Women, please do not bring tops that are revealing in the bust area, short skirts or short shorts (just above the knee is appropriate) because they may attract unwanted and/or potentially dangerous attention.
If you are coming during the rainy season, you may occasionally run into cooler temperatures. You may want to bring one or two warmer items of clothing to be prepared. Jeans are often fine during this time of year. Shoes should be lightweight and comfortable, as you will most likely be doing considerable walking. Flip flops are generally fine, but if you plan to visit Kakum’s rainforest, or if your assignment is one located in a rural area, you’ll want to bring along tennis shoes or even hiking boots. They offer good support and protection in the bush.
VEGETATION: Ghana ‘s vegetation can be classified into three zones (a) coastal savannah, tropical rain forest in the central part and the guinea savannah in the north. FAUNA & FLORA: The warm sun, the regular rains and the fertile soils join together to give exuberant vegetation. As a result, dense tropical rain forests have over the years being conserved and developed into game reserves and theme parks.
TROPICAL RAIN FOREST: Ghana used to share a virgin forest of about 85,000km², which has reduced to about 40,000km² due economic and human developmental activities. It is only in the extreme southwest with its wet climate that is left intact. Our deciduous and semi deciduous forests offer both economic and medicinal uses. THE SAVANNAH: The savannah, which is the main vegetation in the northern and certain parts of the south, is endowed with birds that are suitable for bird watching and other mammals.
PEOPLE: The Ghanaian hospitality is legendary. In this peaceful and loving country, all visitors are received warmly and sincerely regardless of race, religion, nationality or sex. Ghanaians are often referred to as ‘ Africa ‘s Friendliest People’.
POPULATION: Ghana has a population of about 19 million based on March 2000 population census. It is made up of 75 ethnic groups who speak 46 languages and dialects.
EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM: Ghana ‘s policy of liberalization has been extended to private sector participation in education. The country’s literacy rate is about 50%. The educational system provides nine years of Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education, FCUBE, which is followed by a 3 year secondary / technical/ commercial and vocational education. The tertiary level consists of teacher training colleges, Diploma and degree awarding institutions. There is also specialized management; technical and vocational institutions responsible for human resource development that ensure an immediate availability of skilled and trainable labor force as well as technical and managerial personnel. In addition, there are special international schools, which follow the curricula of some foreign schools examination syllabi. Below are the number of institutions by level and type. Ghana has 10 polytechnics in all regions, several teacher training colleges, nursing training colleges spread all over the country by choice as well as 5 government run universities in the country. These include the Universities of Ghana, Legon, founded in 1948, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, KNUST, Kumasi founded in 1961, University of Cape Coast, UCC founded in 1962, University of Education, Winneba, founded in 1992 and the University of Development Studies, Tamale, founded in 1993. There privately funded universities. These are primarily run by religious organizations. As part of efforts to increase literacy rate, in Ghana , which stands at 53%, functional adult literacy programme have been put in place and illiterate adults are taught to read and write in their local languages. Achievement of these programmes was to help them understand government projects, political process by making informed decisions, understand population growth issues, agriculture practices, use of insecticides, improved seedlings, as well as appreciation of technology among other things.
HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT
History: Formerly known as the Gold Coast because of the abundance of gold, the name was changed to Ghana after attaining independence from British colonial rule on 6 th March 1957.The country is named after one of the ancient Sudanese Empires, which flourished between the 4 th and 10 th centuries. Subsequently, the area was divided among several kingdoms, of which the most important were the Fanti, who occupied the coastal region, and the Ashanti , whose territory was further inland. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the late 15th century.
During the next 300 years, the Gold Coast became a major trading centre, mainly in gold and slaves. From the beginning of the 19th century, an increasingly assertive Ashanti kingdom drove out many of the European colonists. The important exception was the British who, allied with the rival Fanti kingdom, defeated the Ashanti in 1874 and took control of the whole of the Gold Coast. The Ashanti-controlled interior was subjugated over the next 15 years and converted into protectorates’, locally ruled under British supervision. The colony’s lands were supplemented in 1917 by parts of neighbouring Togoland which was formerly under German control. Together, these formed what in 1957 became the independent state of Ghana – the first British territory in Africa to be decolonised. Three years after independence (1960) Ghana became a Republic with Dr Kwame Nkrumah, leader of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) as the first President.
Under Dr Nkrumah, Ghana made rapid and remarkable progress in education, industrial and infrastructure development and in the provision of social services. At the same time, the country played a leading role in international affairs – especially the United Nations and Commonwealth – in the struggle for the liberation of other African countries, most of which were still under colonial rule. However, Nkrumah’s growing dictatorial tendencies at home disaffected many, especially in the armed forces, and in the end it was they who in February 1966 overthrew the CPP Government in a coup led by Colonel Emmanuel Kotoka. One of the most prominent figures in recent Ghanaian politics is Jerry John Rawlings, a former Air Force Flight Lieutenant, who first came to power as the leader of coups in 1979 and 1981. On the political front, President Rawlings and the ruling party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) introduced a new constitution in 1992 before submitting themselves to the verdict of the electorate and winning both the presidency and a huge majority of legislature seats. Both Rawlings and the NDC were re-elected in 1996. In December 2000, a closely-fought election pitted Rawlings’ former deputy John Atta Mills, standing for the NDC, against John Agyekum Kufour, leader of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and several minor candidates. The contest was dubbed ‘the battle of the bores’, acknowledging the failure of either main candidate to match the charisma of the outgoing Rawlings. However, charisma is not an essential qualification for governing a country and Kufour won the run-off against Mills and took office at the beginning of 2001. The NPP also replaced the NDC as the largest party in the Ghanaian Parliament.
Government: Ghana practice a multiparty parliamentary democracy based on a constitution. The Fourth Republican constitution, accepted by refendum and came into force in 1992, provides for a unitary state governed by a president (and cabinet ministers) and a unicameral National Assembly. The presidency has a four year term and an incumbent can serve a maximum of two years. The Parliament has 230 seats and is elected for a four year term. The Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice at the apex of the Judiciary constitutes the third arm of Government in Ghana . The legal system is based on common English law, where the courts are bound to develop the notions of fairness to an individual. The constitution also makes provision for continued recognition of traditional Chiefs and customary laws.
Local Government: A decentralized central government administration has been fostered at local government level where there are 10 regional co-coordinating councils, 110 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies which serve to involve grassroots participation in the formation and implementation of government policies and general development of their area of jurisdiction.
Head of State: President John Dramani Mahama since 25th July 2012.
Ghana is a peaceful and welcoming country; Ghana satisfies one’s appetite for both modern and traditional life. Its wide valleys, low-lying coastal plains, and thick rainforests resound with the beat of traditional rituals, while her cities glow and vibrate with all the bustle of the modern world. The Ghanaians are the friendliest people in West Africa: warm, proud yet humble with a contagious and calming sense of funniness.
Ghana is hot. It is always hot. What’s more, it’s always humid. Humidity usually lingers between 95 and 100 percent. The rainy season lasts from mid-June to mid-November – sometimes. The rain provides a little respite from the intense heat, but temperatures will still be in the mid-80s Fahrenheit. The south of the country experiences the heaviest rainfall during September.
Ghana is truly a multi-cultural country. As a volunteer you should strive to examine, listen and learn the culture of your host country. Thus, you should always linger vigilant and non-judgemental. ‘’Akwaaba obroni’’ (welcome white person), you will often hear this word or other words of welcome when you are in Ghana. Ghanaians are welcoming in nature and among the world’s friendliest people. Currently, urbanisation and westernization are breaking down many ancients’ beliefs and practices; on the other hand, Ghanaians are still maintaining their traditional African culture with great pride from ancient times to the present.
There are many traditional festivals in Ghana. Most festivals in Ghana are for purification, thanksgiving, dedication and reunion. They are also considered symbolically as maintaining the link between the living and the dead. It is dedicated to the honour of the spirits of the ancestors believed to be a guiding force in all human activities. Some of the important traditional festivals in Ghana are:
Odwira: A festival celebrated by the people of Akuapim
Kotoklo: A festival celebrated by the Krobo people
Akwasidae: Celebrated by the people of Ashanti and Kwawu,
Adae : Celebrated by the people of Akim and Ashanti Akwambo: Celebrated by the Fantes of Agona, Ajumako, Enyan, Ekumfi and Gomoa.
Bugum: Celebrated by the Dagombas of the Northern Region.
Kundum: Celebrated by the Nzema and Ahanta Homowo: Celebrated by the Ga people of Accra.
Aboakyer: Celebrated by the Efutu people of Winneba.
Nmayem: Celebrated by the Krobo people Hogbetsotso: Celebrated by the Ewe people of Anlo.
Ohum: Celebrated by Akim people Damba: Celebrated by the poeple of the Northern and Upper Regions of Ghana. Especially Dagomba and Wala. Kwafie: Celebrated by the Dormaa in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Kobena: Celebrated by Dagaare/Wale Oguaa Fetu Afahye: Celebrated by the people of Cape Coast.
Kadetefoo: Celedrated by the Gonja people
Ghana and Humanism
Ghana is one of the first African countries to have an incipient humanist movement. Like most African nations, Ghana was formerly under European colonial rule, but it was not widely settled by Europeans because of its
inhospitable climate. The northern part of the country has long been Muslim, but Christians, who arrived in the 18th century, now outnumber Muslims two to one. Fortunately, Ghana is free of the tribal conflicts which afflict many other African countries. It is one of the most economically progressive African countries and could be the starting point for the humanist movement in Africa.
Basic Cultural Principles You will be embarking on a typical cross-cultural experience in which you will be exposed to different ways of thinking, speaking, and interacting. There are certain principles that will help you to enjoy a positive experience and evade some of the possible misunderstandings that can occur in cross-cultural settings.
Cultural and Cultural Shock
It is apparent that you are entering a new environment where very little is familiar. You will most likely be bewildered at the start. Some people call this “culture shock”, experts have suggested that there are four stages of culture shock:
• Initial euphoria
• Irritability and hostility
• Gradual adjustment
Almost everyone experiences culture shock to some degree. It can be wearisome, and perplexing, but there are positive steps that can be taken to lessen the collision.
• Realise that this is normal and that you will live through it.
• Be open-minded and ready to learn. You will come to realise that there are different ways to do things and that’s okay.
• Research your new culture. You can begin today, reading as much as you can about the Ghanaian culture that you will be experiencing.
• Look for rational reasons for behaviours in the new culture that you may find odd. With a little scrutiny, you may find that these diverse behaviours don’t seem so odd at all. Primarily, flexibility, humility and open-mindedness will be your most valuable traits. These may have even been the key qualities that led you to volunteer in the first place, so it should not be complicated for you.
Individual conduct is seen as having impact on an entire family, social group and community; therefore, everyone is expected to be respectful, dignified and observant in public settings and in most every aspect of life.
In Ghana, there are about ninety  languages with about thirty-six  of them taught and learned in school. Each language is very intricate and adequate in its particular setting. Many Ghanaians speak several different languages, demonstrating a linguistic skill that is entirely nameless to most westerners. You will do well to attempt to learn as much of the local languages as you can. Ghanaians are very encouraging of this and feel privileged when you show this level of respect and concern. You will find that the English spoken in Ghana is quiet different in tenor, pronunciation and vocabulary from English in other countries such like England, America, etc.
Family is a very strong bond in Ghana and is the primary source of identity, loyalty and responsibility. Family obligations take precedence over pretty much everything else in life. Individuals achieve recognition and social standing through their extended family.
An interesting cultural variation among the Akan, to be precise Ashanti and Fanti people, is that affiliation within the clan is through women. Mothers have a higher status as in their point of view people get their blood from mothers.
It is important for Ghanaians to maintain dignity, honour, and a good reputation. The entire family shares any loss of honour, which makes the culture a collective one. In order to protect this sense of face there is a need to maintain a sense of harmony; people will act with good manners at all times to ensure they do not cause anyone embarrassment.
Ghanaian society is hierarchical. People are respected because of their age, experience, wealth and/or position. Older people are viewed as wise and are granted respect. In a group one can always see preferential treatment for the eldest member present. With respect comes responsibility and people expect the most senior person to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group.
Spiritual Values Religion is very basic in everyone’s life in Ghana, and the spiritual side of life is regarded as the most significant. Everything is seen through a gridiron of spiritual values and actualities. This gives for a very receptive ambience and optimistic climate for spiritual work and interaction, yet, as in all cases, takes time to listen and learn.
Basic Rules of Etiquette in Ghana The subsequent are some of the basic rules of social conduct in Ghana. Ghanaians are very liberal and forbearing, especially with foreigners, and will frequently not point out mistakes. Yet, repeated mistakes and felonies will create an uncomfortable ambience with negative grades. Just memorize the old saying: when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
It is unacceptable for women, particularly young foreign women, to wear clothes of a revealing nature. Female clothing which would be acceptable in the West (shorts, low-cut strapped tops, etc.) are not socially acceptable in Ghanaian society. Similarly, it is unacceptable for foreign men to be shirtless in public and also unacceptable for Ghanaian men, to a lesser degree. Ghanaian social norms are sometimes difficult to establish, as younger adults are generally much less inhibited about wearing revealing clothing or being shirtless, while older Ghanaian citizens may find such apparel on Ghanaians and foreigners of any nationality or race to be insulting. A general rule is to dress conservatively unless in the company of people either of your own gender and/or your own age, or with whom you are well-acquainted.
Drinking alcohol and smoking in public are serious clanger among Ghanaians and should be avoided, both by Ghanaians and foreigners. Public intoxication to any degree is generally viewed with extreme disapproval. Such activities, though, are perfectly acceptable in a local bar (“spot”). When drinking alcohol, it is a common custom among Ghanaians to pour the last few drops on the ground as a libation for the gods. People who decline from drinking alcohol may accept an alcoholic drink with gratitude, raise it to their lips without drinking, and pour it upon the ground. Raising the glass to the lips signifies gratitude and thus pouring the drink away is a socially acceptable alternative for those who do not drink (this predominates in central and northern Ghana, where local populations often contain a higher number of Muslims than in the south, and this custom permits non-drinking Muslim Ghanaians to join social events without offending those present by refusing a drink or without breaking their religious laws).
Taking photographs of people unknown to the photographer must be conducted with the same level of consideration in one’s own country. Most Ghanaians are happy to ‘pose’ for pictures as it is considered polite.
In public, it is not normal to find people of the opposite sex holding hands. If one should find the same sex holding hands, it is often a signifier of friendship. Social reaction to public display of affection differs: it depends on social class, education, exposure and other factors. Generally speaking, it is viewed upon as something private and should be kept that way. Homosexuality is a no-go topic simply because people just do not know how to react to such. Often some just resort to moral and biblical reasons for objection to homosexual relationships.
Homosexuality is neither condemned nor condoned by Ghanaians. Male hand-holding is sometimes less prevalent in large cities.
Ghanaians are more indirect communicators. This means they take care not to relay information in any way that could cause issues, whether that be giving someone bad news, turning down an invitation, refusing a request or any other such matter. Ghanaians always want to protect their own and others’ face as well as maintain harmonious relationships.
As a result they tend to use proverbs, wise sayings, analogies readily. This allows ideas or messages to be convened in a manner that does not seem so blatant. In fact people who are viewed as wise frequently speak in proverbs.
Silence is a common means of communication. If someone is uncomfortable with a question or do not think the askers will appreciate response, they will say nothing rather than make the other person uncomfortable.
Things to Consider
Lodging and food are supplied with the placement. Weekend travelling and sight-seeing tours, however, are on your own, and expenses are not covered under the programme fee. Please bring with you any special food that you need. It may not be possible to find them when you are in Ghana, away from city centres. If you are on a special diet, have allergies or take special medications, please make sure this is known to both the RVO staffs and the host family; be prepared to find that your preferences or needs may not be accessible. Bring your medications with you!!! Inquire about matters such as allergies and special diets, before coming, and bring any special foods you will need.
When greeting people in a home, it is considered improper if the guest ignores any person present. Guests are expected to acknowledge and greet every person at a social occasion, including children and babies, by shaking hands (with the right hand only).
When shaking hands, it is appropriate for the guest to first greet the person on his/her right-hand side and work their way left. This ensures that the guest’s palm makes contact with the palm of the person receiving the handshake – touching the back of the hand instead of the palm is considered insulting or unlucky. Guests are expected to begin by greeting the most elderly person present.
The same ritual is expected to be observed upon leaving as well as arriving, and should be carried out until sufficient familiarity has been established, at which point the ritual becomes redundant.
When greeting dignitaries, such as village or tribal elders, this ritual is expected to be carried out by all persons present regardless of age or status.
At RVO, we want you to feel completely comfortable with your journey before you ever step on an aircraft to travel to Ghana – West Africa. It is important to know just what to expect before coming. Like any experience (and this is vital), you will get out of your volunteer experience what you put into it. The more open you are to new ideas, and the more willing you are to talk to locals and make new friends, the more you will get out of your time in Ghana.
There will, most likely, be no television or radios available. Internet access is available at one of several internet cafes within walking, or taxi, distance – when electricity is available. Electricity About electricity…. We tend to take electricity for granted in Western countries. In Ghana, however, things are different. Many places have electricity, but blackouts, or “lights out,” occur frequently. There will be days when electricity is not available at all. You will be surprised to learn how well you can function without it! You should bring plug-in adaptors for any necessary plug-in items, but also be sure to bring a surge protector. Electricity often comes in spurts, and it can ruin chargers, phones and other electronics. It is best to find solar chargers for phones, iPods, etc. They are available in many stores and online. Transportation If you have never taken a taxi or public transportation, you may be intimidated when you first arrive in Ghana.
Tro-tros and taxis are the most common forms of transportation. A tro-tro is a passenger van converted to a bus. As many people as possible pack into each tro-tro, and the driver will stop anywhere along any main route. Tro-tros are the most affordable form of transportation in Ghana. You can travel just about anywhere for very little money, but be prepared to cozy up to strangers, and don’t carry too much with you. Taxis are also very common. In Accra especially, fares can be very expensive by Ghana standards, although relatively affordable when compared to US rates. Always negotiate rates before you get in the taxi. You can choose a shared taxi, which is the most affordable way to take a taxi, or a “drop.” To drop means that you are the only passenger and the taxi takes you right to the door of your destination. If you drop, be prepared to pay more. Buses are also available. Consult our ground coordinator or someone local to find stops in Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast. If you are lucky enough to find a bus, take it! Sometimes they even have air conditioning and movies!
Ghana is one of the safest countries in Africa. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take safety measures to be safe. Do not undermine the threat of serious illness in Africa. Yellow fever immunizations are required for entry into Ghana, but it is not the only threat. Malaria is widespread, and you should bring mosquito repellent containing DEET to minimize threat.
Many other immunizations are also recommended by physicians. Visit a physician who specializes in international travel at least a month, if not longer, prior to your trip. Don’t travel alone, don’t travel at night, and don’t keep money and other valuables where they can be seen. Women should avoid carrying purses; instead, carry a travel wallet hidden around your waist, or around your neck, so that it can’t be easily stolen. Accra and Kumasi is the most likely place for pickpockets and thefts, but you should always play it safe — just in case. People are very poor in Ghana, and valuables and money can be very tempting.
Water Most places in Ghana does not have running water. However, clean, safe drinking water is readily available. Small polyethylene bags (much like baggies) of clean, potable water are available for sale at nearly every corner for five pesewa (about four US cents) each. You can purchase them in quantity, called a satchel, for 80 pesewa, so you can stock up for less than a dollar.
There is no need to purchase water filtration containers to bring; they will only take up room in your luggage! Bathing, laundry and the bathroom may take a little more accommodation, however. Bathing is done from buckets, and you’ll have a private area for this purpose. This may sound a little intimidating, but many volunteers comment on how refreshing a bucket bath feels after along, hot day. We can help you figure out how to do this, since it will, most likely, be a new experience! Laundry is done by hand in wash buckets. Detergent capsules are available through many nearby traders, so there is no need to purchase these beforehand. We can show you how to do this, as well. If you would rather have assistance with this, you can pay a small fee (the equivalent of $3-$4) for a local person to do your laundry.
There is a toilet in the volunteer room (which is quite a luxury). It is connected to a latrine. You will need to provide your own toilet paper, which can be purchased at very affordable prices nearby.
Sewers are open in most of urban Ghana, although they rarely smell bad. Also, there are no trash disposal facilities, so there is a very unsightly litter problem throughout all villages and cities. Particularly, water bags litter both sides of most streets and roads. In our rural projects, you will find that the streets and villages tend to be much cleaner. The tribal system tends to hold people more accountable for their own personal areas, more so than in the city, so things are much different.
Asking a person to a social event (e.g. a bar or restaurant) implies that the person offering the invite will be paying for everything. Inviting a person out and then expecting them to pay for their own drinks, etc. is considered extremely rude. When an outsider is invited to visit the elders and/or Chief of the community, the foreign guest(s) are expected to take a gift which usually a bottle of Schnapps or Kasapreko gin, easily available in all shops. It is very unusual for a woman to be seen in the public with unusual dress on.
Ghana Entry Requirement (Visa Information)
A valid passport with entry visa is required by all visitors, except for citizens of ECOWAS state. These can be obtained from the nearest Ghanaian diplomatic mission and consulates. A basic tourism visa for Ghana is valid for 3 months from the date of issue. The visa can be extended at the Department of Immigration in Accra, Sunyani, Koforidua, Kumasi, Tamale and Cape Coast. Citizens of certain nationalities can also get a visa upon arrival in Ghana, but it will cost more than getting it at their homeland.
Naming ceremonies, puberty initiations, marriage and death are all marked by family ceremonies. Seasonal festivals serve to bring a whole tribe or clan together in spectacular fashion.
If attending a funeral, women (including foreigners) must cover their heads with a hat or simple black cloth wound round the head. A man must not have his head covered. The same applies to church-going, weddings, and naming ceremonies.
Safety is Our Priority
In order to help our volunteers in the field or to find out their situations RVO has developed a “habitual field visit programme”. Under this plan our staff visits or call volunteer every day. In case of sickness or emergency, RVO is ready to help volunteers 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Please call us on our telephone number, and we will be with you as soon as possible.
Ghana has a reasonably good health service. All regional capitals and most districts have clinics and hospitals, and two teaching hospitals in Accra and Kumasi have facilities for treating special cases. Additionally, a number of religious organizations and private medical practitioners operate hospitals and clinics all over the country. Herbal medicine and psychic healing are also generally practiced, and there is a special government Herbal Medicine Hospital and Research Centre at Akuapim-Mampong.
The weather is hot and moist and slows everything down. It does rain often in Ghana during the period between June and September. Don’t expect to achieve as much in a day, as even small efforts tire you out and over-exertion can make you ill. Be careful of suntan. Tropical sun in enormously strong and can burn you very quickly. Always remember to wear sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. Watch out for traffic; Ghanaian road manners leave to be desired. Don’t swim in freshwater lakes and estuaries. You can catch Schistomiasis (also known as Bilharzias). It is a parasite that bores into your foot and lives in your intestines. Also on the coast, watch out for dangerous rip-tides and strong currents. There can be sharks sometimes as well.
If in doubt ask the locals if it is safe to swim. We recommend you ask your medical doctor for advice about vaccinations. If you have any sort of allergic reactions please let us know in the beginning of the programme so that we can control the proper setting according to your health condition.
Travel Guides for Ghana
The Lonely Planet Guide and Bradt Travel Guide offer cautiously researched and detailed advice on both Ghana and other destinations in West Africa. They are ideal for any traveller going to Ghana and include detailed descriptions and illustrations of the region’s wildlife, detailed maps and town plans, and boxes on cultural subjects ranging from mosque architecture to traditional festivals. You can also visit Ghana today/Ghana web for more information on Ghana.
About the food
Host families are responsible for providing the volunteer breakfast, lunch and dinner all days. In some instances, due to the distance between project site and home, volunteers go along with a lunch pack. The foods served are mainly continental dishes comprising rice, chicken, beef, tea, coffee, bread, eggs, soup, potato, oaths, fruits, fish, etc. local foods are served alongside and are made mainly from the above, tubers, beans and/or maize. We have to mention that it is very common for a volunteer to find a familiar dish in a restaurant in the cities.
Drinking water for our volunteers is an issue we take seriously and make sure that volunteers drink well treated water. Some companies are into the manufacture of such water that are well treated and hygienically bottled or bagged.
Generally, your host brother, sister or mother assist you with your laundry but it is not an obligation, learn to wash your clothing’s with your hands in several buckets, enjoy the sun drying your clothes and smell the African aroma in your clothes
You might find yourself washing clothes with your hands, cooking with a firewood and discussing politics or religion behind candlelight. It is a unique opportunity to become deeply immersed in Ghanaian culture. Stay in hostels and dormitories are organized for volunteers who so desire but in groups of not less than six working on similar projects.
Safety & Backup
This is an important part of the service GHV offers you. Your safety and security is our prime concern – so we have many procedures and systems to ensure you have the support you need to enjoy your placement with peace of mind.
Once you’ve been accepted on to our projects we will send you a pre-departure booklet which includes information about how to apply for a visa, packing lists, and cultural advice about Ghana etc. Our highly experienced Project Manager will contact you once you have applied and are always available to give advice and answer any questions you may have – both before you go and while you are away.
Before you go you will be allocated your placement details. These include addresses and numbers for your host family, and details regarding your placement and coordinator.
Contact between Staff and Volunteers:
Our staff regularly visit host-families, volunteers, and placements to ensure everything is running smoothly. We maintain a cycle of monitoring all volunteer accommodation and placements. On arrival, our staff will make a final check that your accommodation and arrangements for your placement are acceptable. Again, during the first week we shall be in contact to ensure all is satisfactory. After the first week, volunteers vary in the amount of contact that they need with local staff; however, we actively check on the status of every volunteer weekly – through direct contact or through the host family.
All accommodation is checked regularly by our staff. Accommodation is only accepted if it is clean, hygienic, and comfortable. We strive to have at least one member of the family be able to speak basic English, and the family will understand GHVs aims. They must also be interested in having an English speaker to stay. Detailed records are kept of every host family, and these are updated after inspection visits. Checks are made before and during volunteers’ stays.
Each volunteer, regardless of whether on a teaching, medical, conservation, or other placement is allocated a supervisor. The supervisor is not only responsible for enabling volunteers to carry out their work, but also for ensuring that they are happy and assisting them at their placement with any problems or concerns. From your first point of contact with GHV until the time you finish your volunteer program, you will receive dedicated support and service from us. Your GHV Project Manager is directly responsible for making your program arrangements and helping you to prepare for your experience. Once you reach your program destination, our coordinators will become your main point of contact until the day you depart your program.
Meeting on arrival:
We will meet you at the airport (or local place of arrival) unless you request otherwise. We use our own members of staff when possible, but in some cases we may use an approved transfer company to pick volunteers up from the airport. You will be met by someone carrying a GHV sign, who will welcome you with your full name. They will carry some form of identification that you can validate. It is also our responsibility to help you get back to the normal international point of departure at the end of your placement.
All volunteers have an induction in Ghana.
A Welcome information Pack with details of the local office and other volunteers, maps, and other useful information (such as banks, doctors, and public transport);
- A tour of the area on local transport that you’ll need to use regularly (such as tro-tros in Ghana);
- We’ll advise you on local customs and what to expect while you are away and help you feel confident in your new environment.
Health and Insurance:
All of our volunteers are advised to have a comprehensive medical and travel insurance before travelling to Ghana. This includes repatriation for certain cases. If a volunteer falls ill, our Staff we will be on hand to assist with hospital arrangements and insurance liaison, and will, of course, make sure that the patient is comfortable.
Ghana Volunteers Program Cost Affordability
Ghana Volunteers strives hard to keep costs low and offers one of the most affordable volunteer abroad programs. Compare our prices and services to other organizations and you would be surprised to see the difference. By working directly with grass roots organizations in Ghana where our projects are based, we are able to keep our fees low and ensure these go towards meaningful community projects and local employment.
Ghana – Program Fees, EUROS
€150 for each extra week
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What is included in my Program Fee?
The program fees listed above cover accommodation, food, orientation, transport, and in-country support staff throughout the duration of your volunteer placement. A small amount is also set aside for future program development. When you consider the costs you might incur at a hotel or eating at restaurants, the costs are minimal. Plus, as GHV offers non-profit program fees, you know that every penny of your program fee is going directly to the local organizations and the people you have chosen to support. Our organization is a grassroots organizations, and in most cases we are solely funded by volunteer fees. For us to be able to continue the amazing work we do, volunteer fees and donations are essential. Ultimately, it is a decision of where you would like your money to go… to a hotel, or to a local family? We know which one we’d choosen!
What other expenses will I have to cover?
Volunteers are also responsible for arranging and paying for their own flights, travel insurance, visas and vaccinations (if required), as well as any spending money they may require. We have formed partnerships with some amazing organizations in order to offer discounted rates for flights and insurance so please check our Resources page for information on how to get no-obligation quotes. Just another way GHV is making volunteering in Ghana more affordable!
** All transaction costs pertaining to online, bank or wire transfers are additional to the program fee and must be covered by the volunteer.
What are you Paying For?
24 hrs Assistance and support from Staff
Comprehensive Pre- Departure Information
Airport Pickup from Accra
First night hotel stay in Accra,if required
Food – 2 meals a day
What’s NOT Included?
To and fro transport from Accra to Project site
Return Airport Drop(Can be arranged at an extra cost)