Recently, I was lucky enough to travel with some other Sporting Opportunities volunteers out to the truly amazing country that is, Ghana! I like to think I am a well-travelled guy, but having never been to Ghana I really was in for a treat.
Even before arriving in Accra, but during my 6 hour connecting flight from Amsterdam, I had already met a new best friend in Charles, a Ghanaian university lecturer working in Norway. I had heard rumours that Ghanaians were a friendly bunch, but did not expect to be getting offers for somewhere to stay in Accra and to come and meet Charles’ family!
I have to admit Ghana is a bit of a crazy, but loveable place, which was evident from the off, with what seemed to be half the people in the airport trying to offer me a taxi to my destination, even though (as I was trying to explain to them) I was being pick-up by one of the Sporting Opportunities team. Even when I got into my pre-arranged taxi I had offers flying through the window at me “Hey Obruni, where you want to go? I will do you good deal my friend.” Obruni is something I would continue to hear throughout my stay and should not be taken as a term that is meant with any bad feelings or to cause offence, it is simply the word for white person in the native language Twi. It was hilarious to say the least!
I spent my first long weekend in Ghana travelling along the southern coast taking in the sights and occasional beach party along the way. I was able to take on the Canopy Walk at Kakum National Park (a real challenge for those not keen on heights!), and also soaked up a bit of history and culture at Cape Coast by visiting the old Slave Castle (a truly awe inspiring and thought provoking tour – one not to be missed!). I had to travel from each location by car, and if there was one thing that stood out from my car journeys, it was the quite comical driving by many of the local Ghanaian’s. You certainly have to keep your wits about you, with vehicles of all shapes and sizes coming from all angles, no matter whose right of way it actually is.
I was in Ghana to experience life as a volunteer, and as a keen rugby player, and having done some coaching before I thought this would be a great opportunity to share my passion with some of the local kids.
My rugby placement was a fantastic experience, working with a cracking group of kids that were so keen to learn. Even though some of them struggled with English, and were complete newcomers to the game, the sessions that myself and two other rugby coaches lead gave me a real insight into rugby at a real grassroots level in Ghana (I say grass, we trained on a sand pitch in a school playground, that was full of stones!). Although the conditions were not ideal it certainly did not hinder the energy that the kids had, and I can tell you these kids really do not mind getting stuck in!
I was able to check out a range of our sports coaching projects, with lots going on from rugby, cricket, boxing, and of course football. Football in Ghana is like a religion, I was lucky enough to be there during the U20s World Cup, and when it was match day the streets were dead. People were huddled around any sort of TV they could find, and even in the airport on my return back to the UK, the customs staff were non-existent until the end of Ghana’s crucial knock out game. The World stops turning for football in Ghana!
As well as joining the sports projects, I spent time each morning at the local underprivileged children’s centre in Labadi. The centre is amazing, giving local children the much needed education they need to progress in life and into secondary schools. I worked closely with some of the kids, focusing on one-to-one tutoring, which in most cases ended up with me becoming a climbing frame for each and every passing child! It was really humbling and I loved every minute of it.
It is so true when people say that Ghana is the friendliest country in Africa. All of the people I met during my stay were unbelievably friendly, and the kids I got to work with during my rugby coaching placement, and during my free time when I volunteered at the local underprivileged children’s centre, combined to make this one of the most inspiring and heart warming countries I have ever visited. I look forward to going back there again soon!”