I volunteer with a charity in the U.K. called Book-Cycle (that is a story in itself), but in short they send children’s books including school books from our ever changing curriculum by the container load to Ghana to build libraries. As a former British colony English is the official language and it is a rule that English is spoken in schools.
Now my scene is set, I will continue.
I was fascinated to learn about the library project and jumped at the chance to travel to Ghana as a volunteer with Book-Cycle volunteers.
I travelled with a group aged from 15 to over 70 (I was 56).
We had been told that if we would like to visit other projects we would be able to.
Turkish Airlines permit a second large case for free, which we filled with clothes for a special needs project and an orphanage.
Our flight was like any other until the wheels touched the runway in Ghana. Cheers erupted as people showed their gratitude for a safe flight (something we tend not to do anymore….. Like we never clap at the end of a good film in the cinema like we once did)
Once through security we found ourselves in the arrivals Hall. The crowds of locals around us offering to carry our cases or escort us to the taxi rank (for a tip). We had been told to politely refuse and tell them we were being met by someone, which we were. I suppose it was a little daunting but it didn’t last long.
We had arrived at about 7pm in the summer but it was already dark as Ghana is quite close to the equator. We were taken to a hotel for the night as it was a couple of hours to Kumasi.
The hotel was ‘interesting’. A notice on the back of the bedroom door promoted safe sex (HIV risks) so the ‘condoms for sale’ sign pwas quite prominent.
The room did have a comfortable bed with fresh linen. The rest of the room was more of a glamping experience which included the cool only shower (cold water isn’t very cold).
The tap water in Ghana is only fit to use even for tooth brushing after a sustained boil so you are encouraged to only use purified water in your mouth. Water is sold in 500ml poly bags and is very very cheap (but is supplied by Enliven Mama for free while on your trip as is three meals per day).
Hotel breakfast brought back memories from my childhood with toast, jam…. and, wait for it….. Blue Riband Margarine! This was going to be a pattern as brands lost to the U.K. were seen in the shops…. OMO washing powder (which is actually the same formula as Persil).
The next day we travelled to Kumasi (base) in modern air condition coach. A couple of hours or so but a great way to see just a little of the country.
Our accommodation was, as we expected, simple dormitory rooms, but as i had travelled with my wife we were given a private room.
Still a little like glamping inside a building but we were all comfortable on the foam mattress. We had been told go take a quilt cover to sleep in and a pillow case. The bedding was adequate but I do agree that it’s nice to wrap yourself in something from home.
Food was provided. Simple Ghana food (they like their chicken and rice).
The projects on our trip were building libraries in schools and supplying the books. The moment the children see you arrive you can only feel like a movie star or pop star. The experience of the joy is something which will stay with me until my last breath.
We built 5 libraries in disused school rooms including painting the walls, building the bookshelves, benches and chairs.
We visited a special needs project and delivered clothes there. Having some of the lovely children sat on your knee and seeing their faces light up was worth the visit…. But something else. We could see that we were having the ‘Diana Effect’ (when Princess Diana held the hand of an AIDS sufferer) , we could see that as we accepted the children, as we were interacting with them and played with them that locals who may shun special needs would warm to them. (some still consider special needs cursed or possessed).
We did a little farming, we went to a ‘Spot’ (a night club), we visited the largest market in the Western Africa (Kumasi) .
Enliven Mama is mainly about women’s empowerment but it diversified where the need is. Cosmetic manufacturing, beekeeping, hygiene projects, mushroom farming….. And who knows what next!
You have opportunities to safari, to walk along the canopy of the rain forest, visit in villages that would not look out of place in National Geographic Magazine. And of course the beaches of Cape Coast (formerly known as the Gold Coast).
One thing people often do when they travel to far flung places is buy the ‘Lonely Planet Guide Book’.
Well, they simply don’t have Ghana one!
Ghana contrasts from animated giant billboard posters and new roads to mud huts with straw roofs. Bottled Evian water to buckets of water carried on the head of a child.
We had a few power cuts.
The mini bus driver gave us a few thoughts about our mortality and the people were friendly
Ghana catered for some Vegan friends.
If you want everything perfect and expect everything handed to you on a plate then Ghana isn’t for you. If you want an adventure, and can laugh when things don’t go to plan then then it is for you.
Enliven Mama Africa is a charity registered in the U.K. It is not a holiday company but has experience with its sister charity of providing experiences for students. Taking on a group of older people opened up thoughts of a new income stream for them.
Ghana is considered to be one of the safest African nations. It’s one for the bucket list.
I’m going again!
So, How much does it cost? Flights can vary from a little over £400 to around £800 (book early). You’ll have to need a visa, injections, malaria tablets. Then there are optional trips like safaris etc. A package this year is £250 which, when you see what is included is amazing Value.
Last of all, your stay in the Enliven Mama project base with the transport and food. This can vary because it can depend how many people are going. A group is best but you could could possibly join another group if you travel alone.
Think £1000 as a rough figure if in a group.
This is no luxury trip but for £2000-£2500 all in, the experience will take some beating.
“Visit Enliven Mama webpage”:http://enlivenmamaafrica.org