Tag Archives: water

Volunteering with International Service: Ghana

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Gha-na-na what's my name?

If someone had said to me 12 months ago that I would be going to Africa with a group of people I had never met before, to do voluntary work with International Service and live with a host family for 3 months, I would have most likely laughed them right out of the room.

Travelling to West Africa, essentially on my own, really pushed my comfort zone. Yet here I am, 12 months down the line, having recently returned from Ghana. Although it was one of the most daunting experiences my life, I am so glad that I went. It has been one of the best things I have ever done, if not one of the best things I’ll ever do.

I made the decision to volunteer with International Service when I stumbled across their website while randomly searching for ‘free overseas voluntary work’ (emphasis on the ‘free’ bit). I knew immediately that it was something that I should do. Not only did it satisfy my desire to travel with minimal expense, but I also strongly believed in their mission statement. Unfortunately, not many people have heard of International Service so for any readers who do not know, International Service is a human rights-based charity, working to protect and promote the rights of some of the most marginalised people across the world.

Not really sure of what to expect or what I would be doing, I got to work with my application. Within a week I had received a response and an invitation to an assessment day. And that was it, I was at the beginning of my International Service journey. Initially I had some difficulty in explaining to people what I would actually be doing. When asked I would always respond with a vague ‘Oh you know, teaching I guess.’ Not knowing really fuelled my anxiety about going, but as time wore on and the departure date approached, it became more apparent: I was to be working on a project which aimed to get more girls into school. This would involve teaching English in schools, running sexual health classes, going into communities to educate the local people on the importance of school, and various other activities.

A sexual health advert from the Ghana AIDS Commission © Erik Cleves Kristensen

A sexual health advert from the Ghana AIDS Commission © Erik Cleves Kristensen

Ghana truly surprised me and exceeded all of my expectations. First I must dispel any pre-existing stereotypes people may have of Africa. The image portrayed in the media sometimes presents Africa as a harsh, desolate place full of sadness, and while my experience of Africa is limited, Ghana certainly challenges these images. A country full of colour, dance, music and vibrancy, Ghana and its people enamoured me. Continue reading

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Ganges, Funerals and Lassis – One Day in Varanasi

Due to a complex set of arrangements, mainly resulting from appalling organisation on our part, we ended up with only one day in Varanasi, the North Indian city on the banks of the Ganges. Not even a day and a night — we arrived on the 5 AM train and left at about midnight. This meant that our visit was shadowed, literally, by our bags, as we heaved them around the city after us. There is also a significant amount of pressure if you only have one day in a place, especially if it is somewhere as significant as Varanasi, to do and see everything.

(© varanasicity)

Varanasi is of immense importance to Hindus as it backs on to the Ganges River. The religious importance of the Ganges is agreed on by even the most sceptical of Hindus; its scared waters are said to cleanse people of their sins, its water is transported across the country to be used in rituals, and ashes are brought to be scattered here. Continue reading

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Songkran – Thai Festival of Water

So, you’re in Thailand between the days of the 13th and 15th of April and you’re thinking about hitting the beach to cool off – why not? The sea is batting its eyes at you and couldn’t be more welcoming. You head to the beach, grace the powdered sand with your calloused feet and prepare to make the most of your two weeks Easter Holiday that you most heartedly deserve.

A glance left and right reveals that the beach isn’t as crowded as you thought… but it’s the hottest time of year? You sit down, staring at the bliss before you, but it just doesn’t feel right.

(© visitthailand)

You catch a local walking by and after a quick sa wat dee (hello), the result of all your research from the Lonely Planet, you ask yourself why the beach is so empty — is there something going on? That’s when, bam! You’re dished out a ‘welcome to Thailand’ bucket of water all over your sun creamed body, a local standing by grinning and laughing, chanting “Why, it’s Songkran!” as he leaves you standing clueless in the sand. Continue reading

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