your role - Construction/building
Volunteers on our building projects don't need to be specialist builders. You just need to have the enthusiasm to roll your sleeves up and have an appetite for hard work. If the idea of getting your hands dirty, bonding with friends, burning some calories whilst getting a tan appeals, then a building project could be the most rewarding volunteer adventure for you.
You may get directly involved in building; libraries, information centres, wells or latrines in remote rural villages normally surrounded on all sides by lush jungle.
Where you will be based
Our building projects are based in Gboloo Kofi
[Bull-loo Coffee] a remote rural farming village nestled in jungle and forests in the heart of Ghana's Eastern region. You will be living in a purpose built bunk house (built by previous volunteers) with up to eight other volunteers. You will work as a team cooking and organizing yourselves. 80% of our volunteers travel alone so you will make friends very quickly and easily. Once or twice a week we will be invited to a local families' home and eat local food with a Ghanaian family. Because you are so new, different and exciting the children of the village will be fascinated by you. After a few days most volunteers have a small gathering of kids following them around holding hands and singing.
You will be living and working in some of the world's poorest communities. Learning the culture from an intimate perspective.
You will find you'll make great friends with local residents along the way as you will be working alongside them, enabling you to absorb the climate in a unique way no tourist or backpacker can obtain.
Those less keen on heavy building work usually take up the lighter, but equally important, work such as painting or plastering.
On every project, it takes time for villagers to get used to the idea that overseas volunteers - especially girls - actually want to help with manual labour, and initially you will find people trying to do all the work for you.
Once you explain that you genuinely want them to teach you the basic skills (eg. how to mix cement or lay bricks) then the partnership really begins to develop, allowing everyone to get stuck in. Building becomes a partnership between you and the local community. This is the most tangible contribution that we make to the village, and forms a focus and which reaches the heart of the local community...
As well as bringing essential funding to the project, the presence of volunteers in the village community can be a great motivator to local people.
And on a busy building project there is aways a need for a nice cold beer at the end of a hard day!
Meeting the Chief/Elders & The Drinking Ceremony
Everyone is blown away on arrival in the village and by their first introduction to the Chief and Elders. The introduction ensures you fall under the Chief's protection during your stay in Gboloo Kofi. Our Chief enjoys receiving foreigners and interacting with them but you need to observe some traditions.
Do not worry we talk you thought it all before you meet him.
If the Chief (photo opposite) likes you he will invite you on one of his famous "Jungle Survival" walks. This involves you following him as he walks around the surrounding bush showing you what is good to eat and teaching you how to attract attention if you get lost. The Chief is also the local Doctor and is very knowledgeable about which plants are good for healing. Normally, visitors make customary offerings of friendship to their hosts. This consists entirely of drinks: Aromatic Schnapps, Gin (costs about £1 and tastes similar to petrol).
Then you are asked to sit and are offered a small shot of spirit. Before drinking, a small amount needs to be poured on the ground as an offering to the dead. Then the remainder needs to be down in one swallow. At the same time the whole village will come and watch their new arrival. The chief will brief the onlookers on who you are and then they will then share in the drinking until the bottle is finished.
Best time to go
There really is no 'best' time to visit Ghana. There is plenty of sun with highs of 30C (high 90F). The coolest months are around Christmas when you will need a blanket at nigh as a cooling wind blow off the Sahara. Village-specific festivals and events occur throughout the year. The tourist high season is from June to August, but that coincides with the summer vacation in the US.
The refreshing Gulf of Guinea breezes keep the coast a bit cooler. May and June are slightly wetter months but any time of the year is a good time to visit.
If an award were given for the country with the friendliest people in West Africa, Ghana would be a strong contender
"Kakum National Park" - near Cape Coast is a national park. Tucked away in this small pocket of rainforest are endangered forest elephants, colobus monkeys, 300 species of bird and a staggering 600 species of butterfly. However, the main attraction is the canopy walkway suspended 30m (98ft) above the forest floor. It makes for great viewing (or a trouser-wetting experience, depending on your point of view).
The walkway aside, a guided hike is a good way to learn about the rainforest flora and its traditional uses. Your best shot to see any wildlife is to get here when the park opens or take a night hike.
Aburi Botanic Gardens" - are an hours drive from the village and just beyond the town of Aburi, the Aburi Botanic Gardens provide a welcome getaway from Accra's bustle. The gardens are well maintained and teem with exotic plant life from around the world. Two tall Brazilian 'monkey pot' trees are supposedly able to trap our tree-swinging ancestors - not that Aburi has too many wild monkeys to worry about.
The oldest tree is an approximately 150-year-old kapok facing the park's beautiful headquarters building. It's the only one the British didn't cut down when they were planting the gardens, which opened in 1890. The gardens are perched on a ridge two hours drive north of Accra.