Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Preparing For Volunteer Work At An African Orphanage

Hannah May

Before traveling to Ghana and receiving our selected internships, I had in mind one of the main impacts I wanted to receive from this 25-day journey. I have had numerous friends and family members that have traveled to different countries in Africa working at orphanages and with young African children. When asking about their personal experiences, the only response I seemed to have received was, “You’ll just have to experience it for yourself.” This was my chance.

On our last day of orientation before flying overseas to Ghana, we met as a group to select our desired internships or places of volunteer. When in Ghana, I desired a unique experience, something far different than the student organization and internship work I have completed in the States. I saw Weep Not Child Foundation – Children’s Orphanage on the page and immediately wrote that as my top choice. Having several other students choose that as their first as well, I was ecstatic when I saw that my name was chosen with one other student to volunteer at the Foundation while in Ghana.

I have completed two full days out of four at the Weep Not Child Foundation. The learning process began within the first few seconds our car drove through the gates of the secluded orphanage. The knowledge I have gained from the two days working with the children and adults at the Weep Not Child Foundation is irreplaceable and immensely beneficial to the growth of who I am going to become as a person from here on out. Before starting at the Weep Not Child Foundation it would have been beneficial to have prior knowledge on the circumstances and emotions I was about to face. 

Things one must do in order to prepare for the first day of arrival at an orphanage:
  1. Mentally prepare yourself – arriving at any orphanage is not an easy task. Contrastive to America, the conditions of some of the orphanages in countries like Ghana are sub par to say the least. You need to be aware that the bathrooms may just be dirt mounds, the live poultry squawking next to you may be fresh dinner the next day, and the showers may just be buckets of water. Aside for the conditions, you must be aware of the toll that these children will have on your heart. You will care for them immediately, you will love them like your own, and you will never want to leave their side.
  2. Research – Ghana specifically is divided into different regions: Central, East, West, and Northern. Each of these regions is home to different Tribes found in Ghana. These different tribes also value different beliefs. These beliefs could contribute to how the orphanages are run, and also what the people inside of them believe. Research the orphanage you will be working with, research the location, the beliefs that area holds, research any piece of information that will make you as prepared as possible before entering the gates. This will catch you less off guard when entering the facility and hearing what the Madam has to say about the history of the orphanage and their daily activities.
  3. Keep an open mind – After mental preparation and research, before stepping foot into the gates you need to remind yourself to keep an ope n mind. They will eat differently than you, cook differently, clean differently, and go about daily life differently than you. You must be able to accept and tolerate how these people live. An orphanage is the last place where judgments should be made. 

Last piece of advice: Take a step out of your comfort zone and volunteer at an African orphanage in your lifetime. Put it on your bucket list, save money, and make the trip to impact someone's life just as much as they will be impacting yours. As cheesy as it is, these children will change your life, forever.

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