Showing posts with label Ghana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ghana. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Hey Obruni! One month into GapBreak Ghana

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work

We've made it to the one month mark! And what a crazy, awesome and interesting month it has been.

We have definitely all settled into orphanage life. During the week Maddie and I make the trek from Tina's Care to Helping Hand everyday, where our kids go to school. We get to say "hey" to the other girls and sometimes help look after the younger kids, before heading back for lunch and to hang out with our littlies. The kids are beautiful, and there is most definitely never a dull moment!

On our second weekend we decided to head to Winneba, about 20 minutes away- for a few nights to experience a festival. Massive crowds of people rushing through the streets, kings and queens, cross dressing and multiple invitations for friendship were just a few highlights. We also spent a lovely morning at Sir Charles Beach, which was extremely beautiful, despite resulting in some extreme sunburns.

Skip ahead two weeks and we found ourselves at Wli. We travelled all day Friday to arrive at the gorgeous little village surrounded by mountains. Wli hosted the incredible experience of swimming under the tallest waterfall in western Africa. To describe the waterfall: wow. To describe the feeling: imagine standing amid the craziest storm you can picture.

The second day we travelled out of Wli to visit a monkey sanctuary. Yet another awesome experience.

So that is that. We have settled into Ghana life, yet are still amazed by all this country has to offer. I think it is safe to say that we are used to the heat, jam packed tro-tros, random power outages and the phrase "obruni", but we still say "aww" whenever we see a cute little baby goat.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Ghana - sweaty, hectic but amazing!

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Sophie Bisset
Week one complete!

From day one we knew we were in for an adventure, a legitimately bumpy ride, and a whole lot of laughs. We stepped off the plane and into the heat and humidity of Ghanaian life, full of colour and noise.

Our first few days in Ghana were a whirlwind of lessons on the country, trying new foods, getting used to having a few near-death experiences everyday due to the bumps, holes and lack of speed limits on the roads and hoping Jess would never stop making us laugh at anything and everything. So far, we've mastered the art of buying things off people's heads, saying no to people who try and pull us into their shop, telling us that their goods are different to the persons next door and whether to trust the things we buy out Tro Tro windows.

From Accra, we moved to Swedru, to our placements in Tina's Orphanage and Helping Hands. The moment we drove up the road to Tina's we were greeted by the faces of 27 smiling, laughing and excited kids, singing a song to welcome us to their home and thanking us for helping them. The same goes for Helping Hands, we got out of the car and kids were clinging to us, asking us what our names were, asking us what their names were, and if they could play with our hair (even if we said no they'd do it anyway).

Maddie and Robyn went back to Tina's, and Kiya, Jess and I stayed at Helping Hands with Gladys and 44 kids aged from fourteen months, to fourteen years old. Our days are a mix of washing clothes and dishes, tidying rooms, and playing with the kids. After three days, we knew we were going to have so much fun with these kids, it's going to be hard work, but such an incredible experience.

For the weekend we went on a two hour Tro Tro ride to Cape Coast, to Kakum National Park where we walked 40 metres above the jungle on quite a wobbly bridge (a beautiful yet terrifying experience). After that, to a Monkey Sanctuary owned by a Dutch couple where we got up close and personal with very sweet monkeys. And finally to beach to lie on. While we enjoyed the weekend of relaxing, we're all keen to get back to the kids and into the work we came to do.

In five words, our first week in Ghana was hectic, overwhelming, sweaty, random but amazing.

Love from,

The Girls in Ghana
(Robyn, Kiya, Maddie, Jess and Sophie)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The secret life of the Australian Swedru-lites

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Eloise Davidson

Our last week has gone by in a blink of an eye it seems. On the weekend all of us girls headed down to Winneba to enjoy some beach… the day it was actually stormy and overcast. Travellers tip: check out Summerland vegetarian café for some awesome Ghanaian food and juices. Whilst we were enjoying the glorious weather. Maddy and Alex were sauntering about Accra enjoying the finest steaks at Cuzzi Bros and exploring more of the market.

Monday came and then Laura and Isobel began their project of painting their classroom whilst Alex, Madeleine and I got our donations ready. Our last three days were spent again on the hospital wards seeing different cases present themselves and the nursing characteristics of Ghana to go with it.

Monday and Tuesday were intense days for Isobel and Laura; both painting days were kicked off at 8am and on Tuesday they didn’t get home till 7pm. They were not leaving until those walls were full of colour and the room walls dust free! Luckily, the students and some other local children insisted upon “helping” the girls clean up the dust and paint. Apologies had to be made to the teachers when multiple mini handprints were found on the schools outside walls… thanks kids.

However, nobody cared about the rogue paint because all the staff could not get over the animal illustrations on the walls (Thank you Alex and Laura) and the brand spanking new whiteboard.

Laura and Isobel

Our days at Calvary Methodist School were full on and really tested our university taught behaviour management techniques. We couldn’t have done it without each other – by the end of our placement we’d nailed the “good cop” “bad cop” routine. Our days were divided up by three sessions which we decided to split up between the two of us. We struggled through teaching religion, managed with natural science, breezed through maths, had a laugh in English, and managed to incorporate singing or drawing into every lesson.

The kids went crazy over the white paper and coloured pencils we bought them. During our placement there were some amazing days where we saw the students really connect with our teaching and take everything in, there were also days we got home and crashed, but every day we cherished our time with these amazing kids. Each and every one of the students brought something different to the table, and each and every student made us laugh and smile until our cheeks went numb. We left with very heavy hearts and promises to ourselves that we would return soon.

The female ward I will miss the most, my mentor Linda was the most lovely 'ombibini' to be around. Between both of us we taught the first year students how to take accurate vital signs, get an IV set up, remove cannulas, wash and reapply wound dressings and how to correctly document patient case notes and care plans. They were thrilled with the amount we were able to give the female ward. Whilst it may not seem like a lot it will go far and today improved tenfold using tourniquet instead of IV lines.

In paediatrics were Alex and Madeleine; who started the week off with the donation presentation with the doctor and matron. They spent the next two days spending quality time with the inpatients and decorating the ward with pictures, postings and colourful streamers for the children.

I’ve been teaching at Central Lyceum School based at the local ICGC church and I’ve very much become part of their little community. At first I was quite overwhelmed teaching a class of four and five year olds on my own but quickly figured out that drawing time was also a big hit with my kids. The school was quite small so I got to know pretty all the kids there which was great. The teachers were also all so helpful which made the 7 hour day manageable.
I was also lucky enough to be able to experience one of the church services at the school. It was quite funny showing up at the church and recognising a lot of the faces after being there for three weeks. Meeting some of the school children’s parents was awesome!

As Wednesday crept up on us it was time to say our goodbyes. With tears in our eyes we said goodbye to our lovely staff and made the journey to the orphanage. The orphanage was more than we expected I presented my donation to the orphanage which I’m hoping will help the kids with their learning. We had lots of cuddles, plenty of pictures and stayed till it was time to say goodbye. Some of us were lucky enough to receive letters and pictures from some of the boys there.

On Thursday morning we left Swedru in our rear-view for the last time and road-tripped to Accra to spend our final night together at Big Millis before we go our separate ways.

First we say goodbye to Madeleine and Alex who are off on safaris lucky girls, Laura and I were second to leave for a week in Thailand (woohoo) and Isobel and Nicola make the trek back home to good ol’ Australia. Ghana has been then the most incredible experience for all of us, it’s amazing how some people live (no, none of us are white able to carry things on our head)! But we hope to be back sometime in the near future.

Till next time,
The January Ghana Group!


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Living life as a local - unibreak students settle into their new home, Ghana.

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Eloise Davidson

I don’t know the specifics - the who, the what, the when or how we all came to call Ghana home. These last three weeks have been so special, making most of us reluctant to leave. Perhaps we can dredge our feet into the sand and refuse to go?

Things such as roosters crowing, or the shouts of obruni (tourists) that follow you all the way home is just second nature to us now. After our weekend in Cape Coast we came back to a power outage. None of us were smart enough to plan for this so it’s exciting to say we survived.

This week Alex was in pediatrics she reports quite fondly of her ward and the experiences she has had with the friendly head nurse that likes to include her as much as possible – even outings to her home! Madeleine is in the emergency ward and she is completely speechless – apparently it's such a huge, busy place and demonstrates how lucky we are in Australia. I (Eloise) am in the female ward, the head nurse Linda is such an inspiring nurse to be around. She gives you the chance to not only experience Ghanain nursing where all is equally distributed between students and graduates but the opportunity to teach as well. This week I was able to show them some of my nursing skills and tricks that we use in Australia to remember certain points.

The teachers are hard at work giving their hearts and souls to all the kids, spending hours constructing lesson plans for the children while Nicola goes above and beyond for her students. They all seem to thoroughly enjoy teaching the children however none of them are prepared when the cane is pulled out.

The orphanage has become the place we all like to go to relax and cuddle, teach and play with all the children. It's a place we will all miss enormously. On Wednesday one of the older kids had somehow got his entire thumb infected so off to the clinic we marched! It is amazing to then find antibiotics cost three cedi. Three cedi for a whole course of antibiotics! It is a completely different world.

On Friday Laura, Alex, Madeleine and I went with Seth to Accra to purchase gear for the orphanages, teachers and nurses. We are all very excited for when Monday rolls around and we are able to give our purchases and plaster and paint rooms at the school Laura and Isobel are at!

That being said Laura, Nicola, Isobel and I are in Swedru for our last weekend looking forward to a quiet, relaxed weekend going to church with our host families and exploring Winneba whilst Madeleine and Alex explore a bit more of Accra. As the days count down and the sand falls from the hourglass it is sad to know we are left with less than a week.

Stay tuned,
The January group.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Ghana 2: Obruni's are us!

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Eloise Davidson

So after a few last minute changes we found ourselves headed to Takoradi instead of Busua beach. Cruising in our trotro for half an hour and then all of a sudden there is a huge crash. Jumping out of our seats Isobel and I look behind us to see a car smash into the back of us. As the police waved us through the drivers inspected for damage… which surprisingly was nothing. Thankfully our drive was fairly unexciting afterwards till we arrived at our location. The best western/Atlantic city hotel! Lazing around the resort we had a private car from the hotel drive us around Takoradi for the day, we went to the circle market, the harbour and finally the beach. I think all of us were happy to escape the heat for a couple of nights.

As the week continued Alex, Madeleine and I resumed our duties at be maternity ward which is ever so eye opening. By the end of the week the 40 or so beds in the ward were full so the women being admitted were sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor. Time allowed us to befriend some of the ladies on the ward which was a nice escape from the labour rooms! I think all of us have decided childbirth is not near our immediate future that’s for sure. We spent the week torn between the hospital and Abasa Orphanage spending a lot of our afternoons there with the kids climbing all over us. Alex and I were able to take part in some of the class activities.

Nicola, Isobel and Laura have found the week exhausting at the schools, they say the kids are so lovely and full of energy that by the time they get home its almost straight to bed. The schools are set up so they structure the lessons and help teach English, science and maths. Apparently the language barrier is pretty difficult so they are having fun teaching in more creative ways.

Most of us have now bought material for our dresses to be made for church so we are awaiting those eagerly as well as our trip to cape coast this weekend! Most afternoons we meet back at the internet café for an hour or so to let the real world know how we are going. The man at the internet café is always up for a chat or a suggestion or ten about places to visit. On Monday night we went out for dinner with the antics team were some of us were brave enough to try chicken gizzards! Which are extremely spicy for those who are interested.

As Friday came we eagerly scrambled to meet at the shell gas station. Bound for Brenu beach resort we set off shortly to be greeted by beautiful palm trees (with hammocks)!, a bar and restaurant on the beach and the resort not far behind. Amazed by the view we celebrated Madeleine’s birthday with perhaps a few too many drinks and the company of some German doctors who were visiting several health centres and hospitals in Ghana. Saturday passed by in a flash before we knew it we had explored all the canopies in Kakum National Park and patted crocodiles at Hans cottage! By the time Sunday rolled round we were up and at it for cape coast castle which left most of us utterly speechless. Definitely must see’s and if you can the monkey sanctuary is supposed to be great – we are still kicking ourselves for not going!

So that’s it for now!
Stay tuned,
The January group.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Operation Ghana

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Eloise Davidson

Maaha everyone!

The plane touched down on Sunday, January 5th. Excited to be able stretch our legs Isobel, Laura and I braced the steamy heat for the first time! Thankfully we all made it through customs and security in one piece to join our two other traveling companions, Alex and Maddy. It was the beginning of our journey to Fel Care hostel.

The ride was such an eye opener to just how different Ghana is. The car was completely quiet as we looked in awe at the way some people live. Men, women and children came up to the car as we were stopped to offer us goods and everywhere vendors filled the dirt streets. After a windy journey through rough backstreets, we finally made it to the hostel and met Tina our “big black mama”.

After we had settled in we had lunch – spaghetti Bolognese and pineapple (YUM!), followed by a few hours rest before dinner. During dinner we met other volunteers and compared stories and discussed our expectations for the trip. After dinner most of us passed out like a log so poor Nicola only got a grumble when she arrived a bit later!

Monday flew by as everyone’s sleeping patterns were still so muddled we were all up and talking by six AM. Bravely we attempted a sponge bath with the bucket in the shower (some more successfully than others) and figured out how to get the toilet to flush! However, we all managed to agree on “if its yellow let it mellow, if it’s a two – flush the loo”. Before we knew it we were having breakfast and being briefed on some do’s and don’ts as well as learning twi (Ghana’s local language)!

We then journeyed to the bank to change our money into cedi. Note for future travellers: bring some US dollars just in case the MasterCard or visa doesn’t work out! When we got home we had lunch, bean curry and rice with fried plantain which is a cross between sweet potato and banana! After lunch we were lucky enough to be involved in an African drumming and dancing workshop. After we had worked up a huge sweat we then went to the beach and went swimming and made several new friends.

As mad Monday came to an end Tourist Tuesday started! Starting at the markets we were able to browse the beautiful selection of clothes, backpacks and hand carved accessories. Some of us were even brave enough to try the local food fufu (eaten with your hands!). From the markets we headed to Independence Square.

Later on Tourist Tuesday we were lucky enough to have a group of traditional drummers and dancers show us their moves. We were even invited to join in and shake our booty underneath the night sky.

Wednesday crept up and before we knew it we were on the road to Swedru. Once we arrived we were able to drive around town and visit the orphanage. So far it’s going to be hard to stay away. Alex and I are staying with our home mother Florence who is a nurse and has an actual shower! Unfortunately that didn’t last long – by the time the morning rolled around we were back to bucket showers!

Alex and I were then able to catch a taxi with our host mother Florence and meet Maddy at the hospital. From there we met the hospital coordinator and were shown around the hospital and all the different wards. From there Alex, Maddy and I made our way to the maternity ward where we were able to observe the midwives and nursing team and their roles during childbirth. Today we witnessed the birth of twins and a baby boy! Definitely an experience we will never forget!

The teaching team, made up of Isobel and Laura, were gobsmacked on their first day at the schools. As there is a festival on in Swedru at the moment there are no classes scheduled and they were able to play with the children ranging from 8-13years old for the day. Nicola shared similar experiences however she only dealt with 20 students ranging from 1-13 years old.

We have decided that our first getaway destination will be Busua Beach!

More to come so stay tuned, for now goodbye.

The January Group.

Friday, 10 January 2014

"T-I-A" - This Is Africa! Ghana, You Were Great!

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Shannon Briscoe

For our final weekend in Ghana we planned a trip to the historic Cape Coast to visit Kakum National Forest and explore the historic Cape Coast Castle. We left Friday morning via Trotro for a short ride to Cape Coast, where we picked up a couple taxis to take us to the Baobab hostel just opposite the Castle. They relentlessly tried to rip us off, but we held firm.

Shannon and Sara were both unwell in the morning and deteriorated as the day went on. So, Dan and Shonae accompanied them to the hospital for a check up. Upon returning to the hostel, Shonae, unfortunately became unwell, with Dan and Laura also not quite up to 100%. The remaining two hopefuls (Imogen and Grace) couldn't escape the contagious gastroenteritis and fell sick within the next 24 hours. So, there we all were sick as can be curled up in our hostel beds trying to comfort each-other as much as possible. We were surrounded by wonderful, reasonably priced places to eat with no appetite or ability to eat and keep anything down. As Shonae pointed out, we missed an entire weekend of eating!

Saturday morning, we were all determined to make the trip to Kakum. We had made it this far and no amount of sickness would deter us from our goal and desire to see the magnificent forest from the Canopy Walkway; a unique feature to Ghana as it is the only one in the entire African continent. At 40 m (130 ft) height, the visitor can approach the limits and view plants and animals from a vantage point that would otherwise be inaccessible to people. The canopy walkway passes over 7 bridges and runs over a length of 330 m (1,080 ft).

Shannon spent Monday in Accra with her host mother Florence, who works as a community health nurse in Swedru, shopping for donated medical supplies with money raised back home. The day was busy visiting multiple suppliers and negotiating fair prices. Supplies purchased included infant and toddler weigh scales, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, stethoscopes, etc...

Back in Swedru, the final week found some volunteers, unfortunately, home sick (Dan, Shonae, and Imogen). The hospital volunteers had a nice day on Thursday saying their goodbyes and donating their scrubs. Grace did have a wee fright as one of the nurses grabbed her and hugged her with a needle in hand - eek! As the group has grown fond of saying, "T-I-A" This Is Africa! The hospital staff expressed their thanks, leaving us volunteers with a sense of closure after 4 emotional weeks of challenging work with extreme highs and very low lows.

That Thursday night, Dan, Shonae, and Imogen's host family welcomed the other volunteers for a Christmas/farewell dinner of pizza and pasta. Seth picked up the group Friday morning and dropped us off back in Accra at the hostel coming full circle from the first night of arrival.

It is time for us all to pack up and depart Africa to go our separate ways, but as a group, this experience will bond us forever. We were told that no one will be able to understand the experience quite like our group members can and that really couldn't be more true. We often laughed together, sometimes cried, occasionally vented our frustrations, but always ALWAYS provided support for one another. We all stocked up on wonderful souvenirs but what we're really walking away with is the friendships formed and the memories forged.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Navigating the dusty streets of Swedru, Ghana

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Shannon Briscoe

We have spent one full week here in Swedru and it is amazing how quickly some of us have settled into the Ghanaian lifestyle. Navigating around town has been quite a challenge seeing as very few of the streets have street names, and if they do, there is no guarantee your taxi driver knows it! Therefore, directions involve something like, "Take a left at the woman selling bananas until you come to a purple building, the a DARK purple not the light purple one and turn right there...".

Grace and Shannon seem to have the trickiest location to find with many twists and turns off the main road. They were advised to use 'Abok School' as a landmark for taxis. On the first day traveling home from the hospital Shannon asked the taxi driver...

Shannon: "Abok school please"
Driver: "You want to go to Abonsway?"
Shannon: "No, A-b-o-k School please"
Driver: "Ooooh, Abeeksa?"

Meanwhile, all 15 of the surrounding Ghanian spectators migrate over eager to help...
Finally, they rang their host sister and handed the driver the phone. After a quick chat, the driver hangs up and says, "Ooooh, you want to go to Abok School!"
Their host sister suggested using 'Rich Guest Host' from now on. So, the next day they trot over to the taxi...
Shannon: "Rich Guest House please."
Driver: "Which one, the old one or the new one?"

THAT is Ghana for you...

Once we successfully mapped out the crucial landmarks around Swedru, we have been able to get around town easily via walking, shared taxi, or tro tro (van-like taxi bus). We have enjoyed catching up all together as a group in town after work to visit the internet cafe (when it is working), grab a cold drink or Fandango (yummy frozen orange drink) and share stories from our day.

Shonae and Imogen have been working incredibly hard at the orphanage (located some distance out of town) but have managed to get a good routine going and developed good relationships with the staff. The nurses (Grace, Shannon, Sara, Laura, and Dan) will visit one afternoon later this week (more about the orphanage in next week's blog!)

Shannon and Laura have found the midwives a bit more engaged this week as far as sharing their knowledge and inclusion for procedures. Laura also observed a Cesarean operation in theatre, which was quite the experience!

Dan has developed a good rapport with nurses in the Men's ward, taking vital signs and administering medications.

Sara reports life on the paediatric ward is slow going but the staff are really nice and she is enjoying it.

Grace has been such a tough cookie in the Emergency Department. She has observed and often assisted with complex wound cares, malaria cases, and many car accident victims.

Weekend planning has been tricky with phone calls often not going through...internet crashing... hotels booking out quickly BUT we managed to suss it out and are very much looking forward to a fun weekend away at Busua Beach for some seafood, walking, and hopefully surfing!

Much love to our friends and family back home!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Forming bonds in Swedru, Ghana

PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Shannon Briscoe

Maaha from Ghana! We arrived in Accra on Sunday the 24th at 11 am local time. The pilot kindly informed us that the temperature on the ground was 33 degrees celsius - yikes!

After a warm welcome from our In Country Partner Tina's team at the airport, all 7 volunteers settled into the hostel for 3 nights stay in Accra. The next three days were spent in Accra enjoying the sites.

The first day we worked up a sweat with drumming and dancing lessons followed by a dip in the warm water of Ghana's stunning beaches! The fishermen were hard at work on the shore tediously repairing holes to their nets. The following day, we embraced the challenge of navigating the busy market bargaining for a fair price. We took a break at a cafe to try some local Ghanian cuisine, 'fu-fu'. That night our efforts were rewarded with an AMAZING performance of dancing, singing, and drumming from a local performance group. Thursday morning we said 'see you soon' to our 'Big Black Mother' (Tina) and the rest of our hostel hosts and made our way to Swedru.

We met Seth on arrival for an introduction to Swedru and a rapid tour of Swedru. Early afternoon, we settled into our host family homes (in pairs), hung our mosquito nets, and crashed out pretty early.

For those at the hospital, the first day was mostly an introduction. We spread through various departments including labor and delivery, men's health, pediatrics, and emergency. It is safe to say, we all experienced a fair share of culture shock as we swapped stories over cold alvaros (local fruit soda-like drink) outside the internet cafe waiting an hour for the connection to come through again. We are slowly adjusting to the heat, humidity and Africa time, but the hospital environment will take a bit longer.

For those at the orphanage, life is hectic! Its a long day which starts at 7 each morning with the washing of all the young boys clothes so they are ready for the next day. At around 11 o'clock we switch roles from cleaners to teachers, trying to teach a very energetic group of 12 two to three year olds. They spend their time reading to them, singing songs, and give many hugs! By the time you know it, it is already 2 o'clock with some of the kids going home and the remaining orphans staying and playing with the volunteers.

We are having an amazing time here in Swedru and have already become quite close as group!

Friday, 6 December 2013

An incredblie journey, goodbye Ghana

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Michael Paton

Here we are, the final blog of Ghana group 2013. It's been an incredible journey leading up to this point, and it is time for us to bid farewell to this wonderful country and it's people. First we will cover our two weeks of travel in which we had the opportunity to explore the mysterious Northern Region of Ghana. We went to Tamale, a big city in the north, where we spent a night next to a Mosque (4am wake ups are just great!).

From there we made our way to Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, where we spent three nights at a small lodge, cooking our own food, going on an amazing river safari where we said hello to 7 different Hippos, and camped out in a treehouse hippo hide where we were able to hear the hippos as the fed at night! We also did an insightful cultural tour through the local village compound, where they practice traditional African spirituality, complete with a Witch Doctor! We also had an incredible coincidence as we came across a group with two Australians, who were staying in the same spot as us! It was lovely to hear an Aussie accent once again!

We moved on from Wechiau to the notorious Ghanaian Safari hotspot, Mole National Park, where we spent two days doing safaris and chilling by the pool. A wonderful haven for a bit of relaxation and recuperation! On the safaris, both in 4WD and on foot, we managed to sight many classic African creatures: antelope, warthog, baboon, and the mighty African Elephant to name just a few!

After Mole we decided to split up to follow different agendas, as some of us wanted to explore more of the North and other new places, and others wanted to make their way eventually back to the orphanage in Swedru to say one last goodbye. So here are the two accounts!

Grace, Chloe, Ella and Michael
We moved on from Mole to make our way down to Hohoe. To break up the journey we stopped over for a night in Bimbilla, a small Muslim village that is relatively untouched by white people. We had a fun experience finding accommodation on the fly, and made our way the next morning to Hohoe, the main city connecting the East.

In Hohoe, we stayed at a wonderful hostel (also on the fly) and were able to explore for two days, firstly doing a bit of shopping (fabric fabric fabric!) and on the second day going to the tallest waterfalls in West Africa, Wli Falls. We had an incredible experience, and then made our way to Akuse, a small village where, after staying one night, we boarded a ferry on the Volta River, which took us from the centre of the country, down to the coast, in a day.

Our accommodation was a small island resort which sits in between the Volta river and the corresponding South Atlantic Ocean. It was a relaxing three days as we were the only ones there and we were able to celebrate Michael's birthday with a tour to the local island rum distillery, shouting him a bottle of sugar cane rum! We have since made our way back into Accra and are very sad to say goodbye to this wonderful country.

Rachel, Keyla, Brenna and Bianca

We spent the rest of our travel time going first to Kumasi, where we had some amazing authentic Indian! Then we moved on to Cape Coast, to return to the infamous Oasis Beach resort, where we relaxed and partied for a few days! Then Rachel and Keyla decided to split of while Bianca and Brenna continued relaxing at Oasis. Rachel and Keyla went Bosua, where they enjoyed wonderful beaches and great shopping! To finish, we all headed into Swedru to spend one last day with the kids. It was amazing to see the kids one last time, and we are sad to say good bye again, but are glad we were able to see them once more.

So as we bid farewell to this amazing country, we must say MEDA ASE PA PA PA (thank you so much) to our parents who supported us coming here, and of course Antips for being there for us along the whole journey. This experience will be a permanent memory for us for the rest of our lives.

Yours truly,

Ella, Keyla, Brenna, Chloe, Bianca, Grace and Michael

Friday, 22 November 2013

Kumasi Open Air Markets, Accra and Ghana's famous falls

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Michael Paton

G'day friends and family! I am writing this blog post as we sit in the back of a rocky tro tro on our way home from our recent weekend away to Liati Wote, but more about that later!

Since our last post, we have had many incredible experiences of all facets of life in Ghana. The weekend following the Safari Lodge, we travelled into the Accra to experience the wonders of the nation's capital. We went to the Accra mall, which was almost identical to an Aussie shopping centre, apart from the lack of white people (although we definitely saw more than usual). We met a group of British volunteers who are scattered across the country for the whole year! They were teachers as well and gave us their details if we ever wanted to travel to their villages. That night we decided to head out for a quick drink and unfortunately Chloe's purse was snatched out of Grace's hand by a motorcyclist. So as you can imagine, the rest of our weekend was spent at the Police Station.

The following weekend six of us made our way to one of Ghana's other capitals, Kumasi, which is further inland. After Friday night in a largely questionable hotel, we managed to tick off many boxes in this wonderful city. We started with the Kejetia Markets, the largest open-air markets in West Africa. The size was incredible. Just walking through took us a decent hour. The girls were amazed at the selection of fabrics on display, which went as far as the eye can see! We were also able to take a quick look into the Baba Yara stadium, one of Ghana's national stadiums, where Ghana recently thrashed Egypt 6-1. We then hopped in a taxi to go to a village out of town to see and stay a night at the largest natural lake in Africa, Lake Bosomtwe. After a very bumpy ride in the taxi, we celebrated Chloe's birthday by the Lake, which was unfortunately accompanied by heavy African rains. The next day Ella, Rachel and Michael headed home as the others stayed an extra night to relax.

During the week we met at Ella and Michael's to enjoy some Satay Chicken, and to plan our two weeks of travel, accompanied by Seth's guidance. It was a very nice evening, and the plans were set!

This weekend, voted best weekend so far, was a trip out to the Volta Region in the east of Ghana, to Liati Wote. Liati Wote sits right on the border of Ghana and Togo, and luckily houses two of the British volunteers we met in Accra, as well as Ghana's highest mountain, and a wonderful waterfall. So we got in touch and they organised accommodation for us in this tiny little town with one street going trough it. So we arrived and were greeted with a very warm welcome by the two volunteers, Josh and Finlay. They took us to what looked like a lady's house for dinner, as we couldn't see so much as a corner store in sight. It turned out to be Stella's, a lady who makes dinner for all the tourists that pass through. After dinner the other British volunteers in the group arrived to join us for the weekend. They made a wonderful campfire for us and we sat around sharing our Ghana experiences so far. It was truly eye opening to see how different our two journeys had been. The next morning we set off early to climb Mount Afadjato as a group. It was an arduous journey, but well worth it to see the vast view of the country in front of us, and Togo right behind us. We were able to wash off a bit of the sweat with a wonderful swim in the stunning Tagbo Waterfall at the bottom of the mountain. The next morning we made out way early back home, on the way visiting the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, where we were taken on a tour, bananas at the ready, through the forest. Within minutes of beginning our walk, a family of monkeys was jumping all over us to get our bananas! It was a wonderful experience. The trip home was smooth, and it was a great weekend to spend with our new British friends.

Here are some highlights from each pair:
Rachel and Keyla

Hey!! Ghana is unreal! As Keyla and I come to our last week at the orphanage we feel incredibly sad to leave. The kids are so amazing we dead set cannot describe how they make us feel! We started to make cupboards along with Grace and Chloe! The process of sanding and lacquering has been great as it has both given us wood and chemical inhalation causing a great cough and headache! But we would definitely do anything for these beautiful kids! We really hope we will be able to see them again after our two weeks traveling as our remaining week with them is not enough!

Peace KK and HUCK

Grace and Chloe

Last week was our last week of teaching before we move into the orphanage for the end of our trip. We've thought a lot about something to donate to the primary school and decided a computer was the biggest necessity. Despite having no computers and very little access to technology of any kind, the kids at our school still study I.C.T daily. On Thursday we traveled to Accra to buy a computer and some English reading books for the kids. After a long day of searching, we finally found a computer with the help of our Ghanaian friend Rebecca. It was a long journey home on the overcrowded tro tro with a computer on our laps, but it was well worth the struggle when we saw the looks on the students faces the next day. For our last week, our host mum Pat prepared a special meal of fu fu, spinach soup, fish and snail. It was different to anything we'd ever had before but we don't think we'll be eating snail on a regular basis! We have loved the time spent with our host family and are very sad to leave them but excited for what's next!

Michael and Ella

Over the past few weeks, we have progressively decorated our classroom with the children's work. What was once bare stone walls, is now a colorful display of the artworks of our year five class. Creativity is not something that the Ghanaian education system places a lot of value on, so we have spent a lot of time and effort trying to cultivate the creative minds of our students through art. Pictures of emus and kangaroos, portraits of the class, nature collages and big Australian and Ghanaian flags line the walls, not only making the children proud of their work but giving them a stimulating learning environment. We are so proud of everything we have achieved here at Calvary Methodist and every morning, when we step into our classroom we know we've made a difference to the education of our eight students and all those who attend Calvary Methodist!

Bianca and Brenna

We have settled into a very busy routine of waking up late for school, spending the afternoons taking some of the kids from the orphanage into Swedru and going to bed at 8 every night. Last Thursday we spent just under 5 hours getting our hair done rasta style only to slightly regret it when it came to sleeping with a million plaits. We have planned a goodbye party for our classes this Friday which we will be giving our students much needed stationary packs and lots of lollies. We are dreading saying goodbye to everyone but looking forward to the upcoming 2 weeks travels.
Laterz peepz

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Two weeks left teaching! GapBreak Ghana

The kids with their letters from Australia
My Ghanaian wardrobe, complete with work and play attire
Lake Bosomtwe
Kumasi Stadium
A man making a traditional drum

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Michael Paton

It is now two weeks before we farewell the incredible kids at Calvary Methodist Prep, and head off on a journey around the country, exploring everything this country has to offer.

Since my last post, I have had many adventures! We recently travelled to Accra, where we were able to go shopping in Accra Mall, arguably the most western building in Ghana! We bought some toothpaste, clothes, and a sneaky bottle of red! Unfortunately that night our weekend was halted as Chloe's bag was snatched on the street, so most of our time was spent at the police station. I returned with Rachel on the Saturday so I could attend church, and had a fantastic time enjoying the wonders of the ICGC Gospel Choir. If you are reading this and want to see a video, send me a quick email and I'll send it straight to you! (

Last week at school we had a special surprise package arrive from St Martin de Porres Catholic School in Davidson, my primary school. I had been in touch with the year 4 and 5 teachers prior to leaving for Ghana, and my roommate had the wonderful idea of asking for letters to our kids, from the St Martin's classes. So the classes got straight to it, and 6 weeks later the letters arrived. The kids were so shocked to see letters written and addressed personally to them, asking so many questions about their lives. The kids also loved the great drawings done by their new Australian friends! They wanted to write back straight away. So we had a full day of letter writing, the kids so happy to share their lives with their pen pals! We have since wrapped up the letters and will deliver them home personally to avoid any African mail complications!

On the same day as receiving the letters, we were also very shocked when a few men walked into our school with a big bag of shoes. All the kids crowded around and one by one, individual kids were given a brand new pair of TOMS shoes, completely free of charge. We researched what this could be, realizing, that the brand TOMS, has an advertising campaign where if you buy their brand of shoes, they will buy shoes for one African child. I must admit I have heard these campaigns before, but always doubted the follow-through of the corporations. It was a very pleasant surprise.

The next weekend we went to Kumasi, another main city in Ghana, this time further in-land. We arrived late at night after torrential rain, to our extremely budget hotel, and the next day explored the wonders of Kumasi. We ticked many boxes, including the Kumasi stadium, where only two weeks ago Ghana beat Egypt 6-1. We also had an explore through the Kejetia Market place - the largest open air market in West Africa. The market place was incredible, the fabric section alone had enough material in it to cover Tasmania! We also went to the National Cultural centre, to see some great wood carvings, batik clothing, and some traditional drums as they were being made. We then journeyed an hour out of Kumasi to Lake Bosomtwe, the largest natural lake in Africa, formed from a crater. We stayed in a small lake-side resort for a quiet night accompanied by the rain! Ella, Rachel and I headed back into Swedru on Sunday, to prepare for class on Monday.

Our journey was well...interesting. We began at 10.30 for our ride back into Kumasi, a one hour race apparently. We then found the tro tro (bus) to Swedru, empty. So we joined the tro tro and waited another hour for it to fill up, as is done here. We got about an hour and a half in, and suddenly had to pull over, as the axle had broken. We had stopped in the middle of no where, surrounded by just five or six houses, and no phone battery. Waiting for another hour for the tro tro to be fixed, the driver eventually gave up and called another tro tro for all his passengers. We joined the next tro tro, which then proceeded to take us on a short cut through the forest, where we saw a lot of the stripped back living you don't see in the main cities. No electricity, no cars, just mud houses and fire places. And of course in this isolated forest, our luck (or lack of) continued, as the second tro tro preceded to break down. But no problem, the issue was fixed in half an hour, and we were back on the road once again. We then arrived into a town, Akim Oda (I'd never heard of it either). We were told to get out, and find a tro tro that was going to Swedru. The time now 6.30pm, we were a bit taken aback, and laughing it all off, went to find another tro tro. We succeeded, and after a 1 and a half hour journey with two police checks, avoided with a quick bribe to the police, we arrived into Swedru at 8pm. A long and interesting adventure, it was definitely something that I will remember for a long time!

This week we will try to start finalizing plans for our two weeks of travel around Ghana, and organise some special things for our kids, to say farewell. Thinking about all this makes me a tad sad, because the children are such angels that I really don't want to say goodbye to them.

I am always looking forward though, and getting excited for my adventure around Ghana, and then to wonderful Egypt!

Make sure to stay updated on my Facebook, and Instagram! (patonmichael)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Becoming part of the woodwork in Swedru, Ghana.

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Michael Paton

As we come to the halfway mark of our trip here, we have had time to really settle into our environment. We have all had the amazing opportunity of making our presence felt in the Helping Hands Children's Home (the orphanage), and been challenged with the difficult task of teaching. We have traveled far and wide, and are beginning to become part of the woodwork here in Swedru - so much so that when we see white people walking on the streets we are as curious as the locals! We drink our water in plastic bags and yell 'Obronyi' at white people on the street - like true Ghanaians.

Over the past three weeks we have had two weekends with the opportunity for free time. This weekend we made our way to Kokrobite, to head to the popular beachside resort, Big Milly's. On a shoestring budget, this resort was great for the equivalent of $9 a night! It was a wonderfully relaxing weekend and a great setting for Ella's birthday. Keyla and Michael were also able to get into town to purchase some acoustic guitars for jam sessions!

The following weekend we headed back out to Cape Coast, for a very jam packed adventure. On Friday we made our way out to Kakum National Park, where we were lucky enough to spend a night in the rainforest canopy treehouse, built by our tour guide - Samson. That night Samson took us on a moonlit bush walk through the rainforest, and not even ten steps into the walk, every single one of us was overwhelmed with a swarm of ants crawling up, and feasting on, our legs. The squeals could be heard for miles! The walk was a great opportunity to see some nocturnal animals, and a massive old tree in the middle of the forest! After a rather cold night sleeping among the monkeys, the next morning we were taken out again by Samson for an early morning canopy walk. The 40ft canopy was a bit daunting for some, but we were all happy to see Keyla especially conquer her fear of heights! It was well worth it, with an incredible view of the vast jungle waking up before our eyes.

After our walk we headed to the small nearby Monkey Forest, a little sanctuary run by a lovely, but eccentric, Dutch couple. We were taken to see all the animals, and were interested to hear that most of the monkeys had been raised as the Dutch couple's children... sleeping in their bed and all! We got to kiss a turtle, play with a monkey, and try some Dutch snacks. From there we headed back into Cape Coast for a quiet weekend at a nice hotel. We indulged in the rare wifi, Skyping families and catching up on Facebook. We went out for dinner in town, and were able to find some much needed red wine and burgers. We also found a nice little hippy cafe, serving some wonderful smoothies.

The following weekend, we stayed in town so we could check out weekend life here at "home". Some of us made it to church, definitely something we will remember. Chloe and Grace attended the Presbyterian church service which was all in the local language, the real deal! Michael and Ella went with their family to the English service at the International Central Gospel Church.

This last weekend was spent in a remote lodge 5 hours from Swedru. It was so remote, in fact, that we were the only ones there. The Safari Beach Lodge offers morning canoe trips along the lagoon, starting in the nearby village. The trip was incredible, and we were shown mangroves, crabs and kingfisher birds by our guides. Halfway through, it poured! Despite being drenched, we had a wonderful time. The 40 minute walk along the beach back to the lodge for breakfast was a bit of a battle though! Saturday was spent lazing around on the sand, reading and getting some much needed recuperation in the idyllic surroundings. Rachel, Keyla and Brenna returned to the village in the afternoon to take some snaps of the beautiful place. Children were coming at them from all angles, excited to see the obroynis! This weekend was also Keyla's birthday celebrations, so we organised a cake and champagne for dessert. Sunday we headed back to Swedru for school the next day. The long trotro ride didn't sit well with two of the girls who were already feeling a little off, so arriving into Swedru for shower, dinner and a sleep was definitely a relief.

To cover each pair's endeavours throughout the week, we've each written something short to pop in!

Bianca and Brenna
41 days in and we have already become a part of the family we are staying with. We feel very at home in ghana and are well looked after, we have a dining schedule, breakfast at 7am, dinner at 5pm and the best pineapple we will ever eat at 7pm which we look forward to all day long. Apart from feeling welcomed at home, we have settled in very well at the school we teach at (SDA Primary). We have created a very special bond with our students (even having favorites), and have been personally invited to a teachers wedding.

The money Bianca has raised has already been put to good use through cementing the floors of seven classrooms and the construction of a new building for the high school. Brenna is also putting her money towards the school by buying much needed sports equipment . Our headmistress used to be a Ghanaian Olympic champion and is very keen on improving the children's practical skills.

We have also visited Accra mall a couple of times (3 hours away) and have found our new favorite restaurant that sells incredible burgers with the convenience of the best frozen yoghurt next door (sorry Sizzler).

Along with school and burgers we love to visit the orphanage as much as possible. Brenna an Keyla randomly found a stray dog at the Internet cafe and decided to get it vaccinated and make its new home the orphanage . Though it had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, Bianca and Brenna were able to whisk it off the the local/only vet in Swedru for some much needed purple medicine.the kids named her Nala after their favourite movie the lion king and it has become their new best friend.

We are having the best time,
Bianca and Brenna!

Grace and Chloe
In the last few weeks we've brushed up on our Ghanaian skills, becoming professional clothes-washers so that our fingers only bleed on occasion now. The whole Ghana gang came over to our tiny house and our host mum, Pat, taught us all how to cook Jollof rice over an outdoor stove. In return, we made her try Vegemite (which she spat out) and spiders (she went back for seconds). Being swarmed by kindy children is becoming the norm as we arrive at school each morning. Although we have been teaching at Presby Primary School for 6 weeks, the excitement of having two obruni teachers hasn't worn off. Last Friday we arrived at school at 8am to witness the senior boys constructing goal posts made from huge bamboo sticks for the soccer match they were hosting. Despite waiting 4 hours for the other team to arrive, Presby was victorious with a score of 2-0. It was amazing to see the support and dedication the whole school showed towards the Presby team, with all students running onto the field and celebrating each time a goal was scored. Our time at Presby has been challenging at times, however extremely rewarding. It has taught us to appreciate the little differences that we make everyday, and to celebrate the little victories, such as seeing a child learn and understand a new concept. Time has flown by so fast, and it is hard to believe that we are more than half way into this adventure! Looking forward to whatever comes our way in the next few weeks!

Keyla and Rachel

Hello Big Wide World! As Keyla and I have recently moved into the orphanage, we have realised so many things about our world, something that cannot be achieved at our age if we were in the security of our beautiful homes. The fact that we now "somewhat" care for 40 orphans daily by washing clothes, cleaning dishes, teaching and having fun demonstrates how easily adaptable humans are and how great giving feels even though we may not receive.
Taking the 40 kids in one trotro (bus) to the beach, running with some of them in the mornings, wiping diahorrea off kids and plucking dried corn out of its kernels show how much of an experience this is becoming!
Even though the exhaustion of daily life, no other experience could replicate this!

Peace out, KK and HUCK.

Michael and Ella
Over the past few weeks, we have been working to refurbish our classroom. Using fundraised or donated money and over the course of two weeks, we managed to render the walls, paint them pale blue, install a fan, replace the blackboard with a whiteboard and begin a tradition at our school, Calvary Methodist Preparatory School. The children in our class have left their handprints on the back wall, something that each graduating class will do every year. The school was so touched by our efforts, an official opening ceremony was held last Friday. Parents, church members and the school committee (as well as Seth, the other girls and our host mother, Mary) turned up to inspect and thank us for all we have done. It was so touching and we really felt we had put our money to good use. It doesn't hurt that we get to make use of the new room before we leave as well!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Gossip Ghana and the GapBreak gang

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Keyla Klugman

Here I am, sitting under the non existent breeze from the broken fan. The noise from churches and radios are screeching ACCRA ACCRA WINNEBA WINNEBA. Then again, it could just be my usual malaria tablet dream. Just in case none of you got that reference. The antimalarial tablets that we all take have the tendency to give us strange
dreams, and when I mean strange I mean really, REALLLY odd!

So here we are, 10 days in on our Ghanian experience. Everyone said it was GHANA be awesome, and it really is.
And okay that is the last time I am using that joke. But on a more serious note I can't really explain to you how magnificent it is here. The people are just the kindest most warm people on earth. Everyday we hear OBRUNI OBRUNI (which means white person) and sometimes we scream back OBIBINI (black person) and they laugh their heads off! Like, how does a white girl know their local language. Admittedly we have made several little toddlers cry! They are both intrigued and scared of us.

On the 1st of september we all woke up in the hostel. And we went to the breakfast area where we were greeted by Germans and a Norwegian. After forcing them all to eat the holy vegemite on bread against their will, we got ready and ventured around the city of Accra (capital of ghana). It was so fun meeting Seth, Felicia, Tina,
Rebekah and Deborah.

During orientation we were given language lessons, and knowledge about the social, and cross cultural differences to consider whilst being here in Ghana. For example, we cannot use our left hand to wave at people or eat with as it is seen as the hand you wipe yourself with in the toilet.. We also went to the Kokobite beach and after experienced a communal shower... to save water you know. Poor Michael.

Oh let me introduce to you the gang:

Ella, the cute little pom from France
Bianca, the amazing thumb
Grace, or Ronaldinho, and paint enthusiast
Chloe, the gorgeous ranga, and selfie extraordinaire
Michael, the magnificent pope and temporary girl
Rachel, my permanent inmate and tongue examination expert
Brenna, the beautiful kiwi
Keyla - Me :)

After that great orientation week we finally were able to meet our host families in the small village of Swedru. There was much anticipation and nerves in the air! Rachel and I were first to meet our family, which included, a mum, a dad, a one year old girl, four year old boy, and a six year old girl and the rentals. As soon as we walked in the door we were already hugging them and everything. We brought them Vegemite, of course, so not quite sure how that will go down. Pretty sure its not been touched since we gave it. Roosters and rabid dogs wake us up at 6am everyday, and people are loud all the time and there's just always noise!!! But you know what, other than that life here is more simple. Somehow since these people have nothing, they are able to share everything and seem to have rich lives. For example, since day one babies come into this world with noise and where, unlike the western world, no one creeps around the baby and hushes everyone not to wake it up. A white baby is given and promised the world, instead of the world going on the world simply stops for them. This can only nurture them to think that they are the centre of the world.I believe that because Ghanaian babies are brought into this world having to adapt to it, they are made to find their place in the world rather than given it.

On another note, us westerners here have to adapt to the food.Traditional foods include banku, fufu and rice. Recently we saw a sign that said make fufu not war (perhaps that is the reason Ghana is such a peaceful country) Basically our diets here are rice, rice, rice, bread, bread, and more bread. You know you'd think that if you live
the life of poverty in Africa you'd get, tanned, from the immense heat and, skinny, from the lack of food. However, you need to be in the shade because it is thaat hot, and the carbo loading just equals to chunky thighs, or, more so cushion for the pushin'. Well one things for sure, being fat is good in Ghana, it's a sign of wealth and to be honest they find it sexy. One thing I find amazing here is the ability for these Africans to balance everything on their heads. Funny story actually. Grace, Brenna and I were given bowls of food from kids to try balance on our head.Of course, I had to drop the expensive apples on the floor which cost me 20 cedi ($10). The amazing thing is that they were saying sorry to US! Like it was their fault? It just shows how the people are so generous and forgiving.

The helping hands orphanage is where we helped out the first four days. Those were great times which included relaxing with the kindest and cutest children and painting their orphanage. Yesterday I witnessed obed the three year old orpan diarrhea in his pants not once, but twice! I had to unchange him - lucky me.

Last weekend we went to cape coast where cheap alcohol (under $5), flirty bartenders, and the beautiful oasis beach resort was found. We also danced to the Ghanaian genre of HipLife - which was.. interesting. You can find a vibey, rastafarian atmosphere here. One day, I bought a beautiful necklace from a seller and I wanted him to adjust it, so he said I should come back the next day. Rachel thought he was ripping me off and just wanted the money as we had already paid. However Sunday morning we knock on his little shack, and there is Kobi, bong in
one hand, saying he lost the necklace. His rasta perspective allowed him to say it will show up at the right time, it will
come when it does. Oh the simple rasta outlook. Did I mention he had a cat called One day? Lol.

Next weekend we are going to stay at Kokobite beach at Big Milly's - cannot wait.

Well thats all folks! - just for now at least.
This is Keyla signing off.

Xoxo Gossip Ghana