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My Experience Volunteering at a Childcare Centre in Ghana

By Liesbeth van der Vossen 10 months ago

Back in the summer of 2013, my life changed when I decided to volunteer abroad for the first time. I was an unhappy and unfulfilled first-year University student who had contemplated dropping out on a near-daily basis. With Summer holidays just around the corner, I decided I really wanted to escape my reality and what better way to do this by volunteering in Africa! After lots of extensive research, I chose to volunteer at a childcare centre in Ghana for two months. With absolutely no expectations or any real idea of what I was letting myself in for, I packed my bags and headed over to the other side of the world all by myself, at just 17.

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I got out of the taxi and stepped into the orphanage for the first time. I was greeted by 40 grinning children ranging from 6 months to 13 years of age all singing in harmony a song to welcome me into their home. This ‘home’ consisted of one small room where all 40 children had to negotiate sleeping on soiled mattresses on the floor. There was no running water, no toilet and no electricity. Their morning bathing ritual required one volunteer to help the children fill buckets from the well whilst the others created a procession line of children who, one-by-one, stood on the stone block to be splashed with water and scrubbed down with a bar of soap (this one bar was shared between all the children). Then there was the drying station, talc and Vaseline station and finally the dreaded clothes station. None of the children had their own set of clothes and so they shared what little pieces they had with no fussiness when it came to colour, size or shape.

Despite having so little, these children gave so much. I had never met a more content, grateful and overall happy group of kids and I was instantly humbled. At the end of my trip, I knew that this journey was far from over. I had left my heart in Ghana and I was determined to continue supporting the children of Becky’s Home anyway I could. Soon after arriving back in the UK, I set up a JustGiving page to help raise funds for much-needed water tanks, however, things took a turn for the worst when the children were evicted from their home. With now all 40 children homeless and vulnerable, I knew that I needed to act fast and reach a wider audience. I reached out to an Aberdeen-based oil and gas company (Exceed) which had a charitable trust. Exceed had strong ties to Ghana, having worked in-country for more than 6 years, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for them to give something back to the community. I gave a presentation on my experience in Ghana and how their support could radically improve the lives of the children, starting with acquiring land for a new home. 12 months later and Exceed managed to donate over £70,000 to by land, build and furnish a new home equipped with showers, toilets and running water. Not only do the children now have their own beds to sleep in but they even managed to purchase a minibus to take all the children safely to school.

I could not be prouder to be involved in such a worthy cause and hope that I can keep supporting children like the ones from Becky’s Home, for years to come.