So last July I went to Ghana to work with an amazing Non-governmental organisation (NGO) out there. This NGO is called: The Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI). I was only based out there for a month yet in that month I felt like I made a big difference to those I was working with. Whilst I was out there I kept a journal and since I have written a piece for my university’s student newspaper. Since I am now about to Graduate from my International Politics degree I thought I would set up this blog to write about my time out there working with GHEI, what I have been doing since with the charity.
(One of the farms in Humjibre, photo taken by Maria Grace July 2013)
For some people volunteering with companies like GHEI has been criticised for the work that they do. However, GHEI is not a classic ‘volutourism’ company where many students and graduates go and work in a village for a school as a teacher or on building project – where many of the volunteers are not truly suited for the task. Yet, GHEI is a grass roots organisation that has two bases. The first based is that of Humjibre (the village in which GHEI operates and works for). The second is the US where everyone who works for them is a volunteer and do so in their free time – this work team includes those, whom like me, volunteered in Humjibre. The team based in Humjibre is made up of local villagers (who are highly respected within the village) and a select few Westerns that are there to help train the villagers in the roles that they will take over once they have received all their education for the positions. By doing this GHEI’s main focus is to train and give the villagers the tools to improve their oppunitinies. To do this the NGO has a close relationship with the Village Elders to make sure they are providing the village with what they need and what they want. This makes a huge difference for the villagers as it allows them to help themselves instead of just being given it. By having the Western influence from the base in the US who organise who to hire for the short term parts of the projects and to help the fundraising side, it ensures that the organisation has a high level of efficiency and consistence.
This is what I love about the organisation. GHEI are there to help the whole village to improve. Whereas, some of my friends who have worked on different projects have felt as if they were not qualified to carry out the role that they have gone to do. On top of this, some have replaced the teaching staff at schools for the short amount of time in which they are in the country for. This leads to inconsistence forms of learning in which has lead to the mass debate on whether volutourism is a good thing or not. After the feedback that I have heard from some of my friends I can understand why. This has also made me grateful that I took my time and researched in to the company and projects that GHEI runs. And, to anyone looking to take part in volutourism this would be my top recommendation before signing up to any organisations.