As a disclaimer: I am not an architect, am not particularly strong, nor have I done much construction. I ask my dad to put nails in my wall when I want to hang something up. Not very feminist of me, but I'm being honest. With that said, volunteering for 2 weeks with Architeach was definitely an experience.
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At 6:30 am, the day began with a simple breakfast of porridge and bread with the entire Abetenim Arts Village's volunteers, 5 goats, and 10 chickens. At 7:20am we would all walk toward the construction site. And then it was time to work. We worked along side locals that were hired. Some barefoot and others in sandals. Seeing the Architeach construction site in person was very cool, after seeing so many pictures and hearing about the project so much. I learned a lot about all the variables that matter when constructing... like who thought the direction of wind mattered? Not me. I also didn't realize how time consuming creating "form-work" was or even leveling out the ground. I've never been so aware of a flat ground within a building before. A pick axe is definitely my favorite tool and I was sawing wood and hammering wood together. It was pretty neat! When the sun comes out though, it's no joke to be working. This is Africa after all. At 12:30pm we would walk back to the village and eat lunch, shower, perhaps go into town, run some errands, and if there was work to do, go back to the job site.
Aside from volunteering, I was able to explore Ghana quite a bit. And from stories, the rest of the volunteers took advantage of their weekends/ afternoons and explored as well. Around Abetenim, I visited markets in Juaben and Effiduase I bought a bunch of beautiful and unique fabric. I even went to a tailor to get a dress made.
The Ghanaian people I've encountered have been very welcoming, curious and expressive. My first weekend away, Steven and I went to Tamale to visit Mole National Park. We went on a safari and saw beautiful elephants! It was amazing to be able to see them so closely. We also were able to learn a bit about the Muslim population in the north of Ghana and attended the fire festival with a couple fellow travelers.
My second and final weekend, after over 12 hours in trotros, motorbikes, a boat, and taxis we made it to the southeast of Ghana to Ada Foah and Dzita. The waters off of the coast of Ghana are very rough and dangerous to swim in. Thankfully, where we stayed, we were able to enjoy lagoons and the Volta river. I learned about batik printing in a vocational school supported by an NGO and even created my own fabric.
Overall, my experience in Ghana has been awesome. There's culture, colors, interesting smells, and expressive people around every corner. It wasn't only about construction, but learning about this unique country and it's customs. I was able to see so much change on the job site during such a short period and met so many other volunteers, locals, and kids. I'll never forget my time in Ghana, and I'm glad I was able to visit.
- Jessica Rebelo