My tiny moments volunteering in Ghana
Volunteering with Cross-Cultural Solutions in Hohoe, Ghana was amazing. But it was also entirely different from what I had expected.
Rather than huge, sweeping moments and life-altering epiphanies, the experience was instead a collection of beautiful, little moments. Moments that were so simple and subtle, that I barely noticed them until they had passed. Here's what I mean:
The people are about 100x warmer than you can ever imagine. Whether I was walking down the street, attending a local church service as a guest, visiting friends in a nearby village, or just hanging around the market, the genuine warm-hearted nature that I found among the Ghanaian people was astounding. Upon arriving anywhere in Ghana, the first thing that your host will tell you is "You are welcome." And it's true. I brought an open heart to Ghana and in return, I was welcomed as a sister.
The CCS team in Ghana is one big happy family. From the moment you arrive at the CCS Home-Base in Hohoe, you can feel it. And as a volunteer, you are lucky enough to become an instant member of a warm, loud, hilarious, and loving family. I spent two weeks in Ghana during the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament, and couldn't get over how everyone—CCS staff, volunteers, neighborhood kids, even some of our guest lecturers—watched the games together, all squeezed on the Home-Base porch. And that's just one simple example. Whether we were trying new foods, hiking waterfalls, watching sports, playing volleyball, debating current events, or laughing, we did just about everything as a family.
Some of your best moments will happen when you're just hanging out. Before I went to Ghana, I had mentally prepared for lots of quiet time for reading, relaxing, and introspection. That's not to say that this kind of experience isn't an option if it's what you're looking for, but I found that there were opportunities far beyond what I had anticipated. I took early morning walks around the neighborhood, greeting neighbors as they swept their doorsteps and fetched water for the day. I spent time visiting with friends in nearby villages. I wandered the markets poring over beautiful fabrics, hunting for the famous Obama Biscuits, bumping into the students that I volunteered with, and enjoying the occasional Fan Ice. And I spent hours laughing with my fellow volunteers around the Home-Base. There's plenty to do in Hohoe.
Just about everyone is an open book. During my time in Ghana, I attended my very first Pentecostal church service, visited a witch doctor, met a local chief, and listened intently as a traditional healer shared harrowing tales of his work. It was a lot to take in! And in each of these situations, my questions, curiosity, and occasional confusion was met with patience and understanding. I was encouraged to ask all of my questions, as everyone that I encountered was eager to participate in cultural exchange and share their unique story.
So, at the end of my two weeks in Ghana, the most important lesson that I learned was to love those little moments. Be open to the big ones too, of course, but find time to relish in the small stuff. Write them down, repeat them aloud if that's what works. But whatever happens, make sure to remember the surprise you felt when your new friend took your hand to guide you across a busy road, the satisfaction you experienced the first time you exchanged greetings in the local dialect without missing a beat, or the soft sound of your neighbor sweeping their doorstep while the sun came up over West Africa.