What did I do in Ghana?

I had planned this blog post for a long time, and somehow I did not get to actually finalizing it. But here I am, with an explanation of what I actually did in Ghana and some stories about my time there.

So let me start with wishing you all a very (belayed) happy New Year. For me the past year has been fuller of travelling than it has ever been in my life before, and the way it looks it will continue that way this year 😀 The past year was also the year I started this blog and started giving you all a peek into my life. I really enjoy doing this, but there is also some room for improvement (such as a more regular writing rythm… 😉 ).

The purpose of my trip
The big question is now: what have I actually been doing in this beautiful country in West-Africa? As I never even properly introduced the purpose of this internship, let me explain real quick. For my study (Global project and change management) I was in Ghana to do research and develop a project proposal for the NGO UNiTED Projects. In the past few years UNiTED has carried out a lot of research on the attendance of skilled maternal care (SMC) (checks during and after pregnancy and delivery in hospitals and health centers). Factors like money and distance were huge de-motivators (I just made that a word, yes), but not so much was clear yet on the role of the stakeholders. That’s where I came in.

I have done many interviews and a few focus group discussions with husbands, parents, traditional birth attendants, health workers and so on, about what their knowledge, motivation and influence is. Based on that research and ideas of the participants I developed a project proposal for a radio show so these people can educate each other on the importance of attending SMC and supporting each other through on-air discussions. The program is supposed encourage conversation among all these different parties.

Lake Volta
In the sample (random people you choose to interview, to reflect the entire municipality) I also had two islands from lake Volta. I already wrote a bit about the lake, but it was a very interesting experience to go to the islands. As you can see on one of the pictures below, there is always one man sitting on the front of the boat, to ensure we will not hit any trees (felt a bit like titanic, only with a better ending this time). On the islands itself they do not have running water or electricity, however they do have mobile phones and radios ;). More than on the main land do people live in clay huts with straw rooftops. Fishing is one of the main sources of income for these people. I cannot imagine living like this and there was a lot of poverty, but the surroundings were beautiful.

Christmas
I had one of the warmest christmasses of my life in Ghana, and I don’t only mean that literally. We had gathered the whole family and closest friends for an improvised christmas dinner. We had coke bottles as candle holders and made a christmas tree out of twigs and green fabric (and lots of neon lights and glow in the dark stuff :P), but it was very cosy. Sharon had found a playlist with all the typical christmas songs and the women had cooked very lovely. As you can see on the pictures, after a while all the kids from the neighborhood started to get very curious and gather around. So even though it was far less fancy than I am used to in Holland, it was definitely a successful dinner.

On the first day of christmas we went to the childrens home (after a special breakfast delivery from our project managers! 😀 ), where the kids went totally crazy over the gifts they received and they played games the whole day. On the second day of christmas we had lunch at the house of our project managers. I have never been so happy with European food in my life 😉 Altogether it were a few really nice days and a christmas I will never forget.

Goodbye
To say goodbye in the end was of course difficult, but at that point I was also ready to go home. I have some memories and people that I will never forget, and I would definitely advise to get in touch with UNiTED projects when you want to do interesting volunteer work!

So what are your experiences? Have you ever been abroad for a longer period of time? What was your best experience?

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