New Plan! After discussing my placement with my family, my Dad made contact with a colleague he knows in Accra, who works in infectious disease at the University of Ghana. Originally, the plan was just to meet him, and have a contact in country (which, is always a good thing!). But, after some thought we decided it would be a great opportunity to work there. After all, my prior training and other passions lie in the health sciences, and at risk of sounded even more like a gigantic nerd…I honestly miss both the lab bench, and academia quite a bit. So I jumped at this fantastic opportunity! The details have yet to be fully worked out, but I have been approved by the department head there. So, it’s a GO! This of course, greatly changes my plans. And while I would love to volunteer my time with building sites-and maybe I can during any spare time I have? But, I couldn’t pass this up. I’ll update as I know more.
I’ve made my decision. It’s a compromise. I’ll be spending about half my time on a building site in the Akuapem Hills, just outside Accra (Ghana’s capital city). The other half is up in the air, and I’ll decide after spending sometime in country. I’m working with a new organization: Projects Abroad. They look great, and instead of living in a communal volunteer house, I’ll be living with a host family in whatever village I’m working in. This is something I’ve never done, and am very excited. I have a feeling this will be a bit more immersion than previous ventures. Lima was great, but I felt a constant disconnect from people I was working with, hopefully actually living with them I can learn/experience a bit more about the culture. Can’t wait!
It’s a question I’ve been asked a fair number of times. It’s also I question I find difficult to answer. In searching to articulate what drives me to volunteer, specifically, abroad I find a multitude of reasons. But I struggle to explain, fundamentally, why. I went to Africa for the first time for mostly selfish reasons. I would be lying if I said otherwise. Yes, I wanted to help, and to contribute in some capacity to those who were in need, but really I wanted to help myself. Specifically, find myself. I had grown up with a clear directive. Medical School. When I began to question my motivations and desire to be a physician my world was for the first time, completely uncertain. My goal, was to live abroad, to remove myself from the familiar, which often acts as a shelter-from ourselves, as well as the world. I wanted to get to know myself. This is what I thought anyway…
I’m having a bit of trouble deciding what to do once in Ghana. In the past, I’ve volunteered through major international companies. The main problem with this is the cost. Program fees can run (for a month) into the $3,000 range. I was lucky to have a huge discount in Peru, this time however, that won’t be the case. There are many smaller organizations, operating at a fraction of the cost, but obviously have their own drawbacks. OR, I could just land in country and decide then! Thinking back to my time in East Africa, I would feel entirely comfortable just showing up and figuring it out. BUT, I don’t know West Africa, and it is less traveled, so meeting other travelers not tied to volunteer organizations is much harder. I DO need to figure it out soon though, 60 days is fast approaching and a very common cut off point.
If anyone out there has any advice, or suggestions, I would LOVE to hear them!