Ghana

United Youth Corps Volunteer

August 10th to August 20th, 2007

 

by

Arielle Rebecca Falardeau

 

Posted November 17, 2007

 

This is about my experience in Ghana with the United Church of God Youth Corps. It has been a difficult task because my experience was overwhelming, and I needed time to reflect. It has been nearly three months now, since my time in Ghana, and I am still gathering my thoughts and recuperating. 
 

 I left from Germany on August 10th, 2007. The rest of the Youth Corps volunteers left from the USA and met me in Accra, the capital of Ghana. It was a Friday night and I arrived just in time for the Sabbath Bible study. It was being held at the Shangri La hotel. 
 

Mr. Melvin Rhodes arranged to have the Bible study with a group of people who are ex-Worldwide Church of God members, but have not joined UCG. The Bible study held the theme, that a countryís relationship with God affects the success of the country. These were the scriptures used: Deut 28 and Gen 48.
 

Aug 11th, Saturday, we had services in Accra. When we arrived at the building, there were few people there yet so we; me, Corbin, Amber, Josh and Rob, walked to the ocean which was very close. The color of the earth made an impression on me. It was a dark-burnt-orange color.
 

We walked through a small village. The people living in this village had small shacks as houses. I saw several women preparing food outside on the ground. All the dirty water and filth was poured out over the ground. Emaciated dogs ate at scraps and garbage. Chickens and goats roamed freely. I could never have imagined the unsanitary conditions that humans and animals can survive in. None of the people living there spoke to us. They looked at us and then went back to doing what they were doing.
 


Cape Coast 2007

Mr. Melvin Rhodes gave a split sermon, which was translated simultaneously into Teui. These are the scriptures he used: Dan 12; Gen 1; Lev 23; Eph 5; Math 22; Ex 20; 1Thes 5 and Dan 6. The title of the split sermon was Using Time Wisely; 1.) Relationship with God 2.) Family 3.) Other people. Mr. Thomas Clark gave the other half. The title of his part was Marriage is a Spiritual Relationship. The scriptures he used were: Gen 2; Math 19; Eph 5; 1Kings 1 and 1Cor 7.
 

The members in the congregation welcomed all of us and were very friendly. Three of the young adults attend university. Lydia, from the Accra congregation, was really nice to me. Though she didnít talk very much, she made me feel comfortable by just being near me and introducing me to the members that came to me. She also sang special music and is very beautiful. Sheís attending University to become a teacher. I liked her very much.
 

After services, we visited the Botanical Gardens. These gardens were built during the British colonization of Ghana. They were used as a place of summer retreat for the wealthy. There was a wedding taking place at the garden. We saw the bride and the wedding party. It was all very romantic and similar to any wedding I would see in the States.
 

We ate dinner at the hotel that night. Mr. Rhodes told us that the Shangri La is one of the nicest hotels in Ghana. It reminded me of a hostel I stayed in once at Venice Beach, LA. Nothing in my life so far has prepared me for my stay here. Not even having stayed in Mexico.
 

Aug 12th, we left Accra and Shangri La. We stayed next at the Elmina Beach Resort in Kumasi. The journey to Kumasi was about 2 hours. During these two hours and passed by many villages. I noticed there were many buildings being developed. When I first saw all the big buildings that were going up I was very impressed with the progress that was being made. As I saw more and more of them it began to occur to me that there was no progress being made at all. Plans for these structures had begun but then halted and left for years unattended. Soon people from the villages nearby moved into the concrete and rebar walls.
 

Most of the other structures I observed were made from shipping containers. These containers made their way to Ghana filled with a variety of different goods, then left there. To ship empty containers back to its original location doesnít make sense financially. The people are very resourceful. They had turned these shipping containers into any number of purposes with any number of titles. Some of these titles included: Godís Grace Fast Foods or Moses Enterprises or Sword into Plow inc. This is what the bigger cities were like.
 

In the smaller, rural villages, the houses were mud huts with thatched roofs. I was often surprised to see people in fields, where there were no houses around for miles, working in the tall grass. You could always find pineapples and peeled oranges for sale along the roads as we drove past. If traffic was slow, the venders would approach your car and try to sell you any assortment of items: belts, phone chargers, water, snacks, bubble gum, blankets and even ice cream. Toilet paper was a popular purchase. I feared many times that our driver would run over a goat or a human. Once I was so scared I screamed because we had come within  within inches of a head-on collision.  

Mr. Thomas Clark and Rob

 

Somehow we survived the trip to Kumasi. When we arrived in Kumasi, before going to the hotel, we went straight to the Kuman rainforest. At the Kuman rainforest, there is a canopy walk. This is not an activity for those who are afraid of heights. I imagine we were 100 ft in the air and maybe more. It was very beautiful above the canopy of the rainforest. There was a fog lying on the trees and I saw many colorful butterflies. There are also monkeys and elephants in that rainforest, but I didnít see them.

Mr. Thomas Clark and Rob
 

Afterwards, we stopped to have a drink at an alligator farm. The restaurant was situated in the middle of a lake where the alligators lived. You could have lunch with the alligators sunbathing right next to your table! Josh, Rob and Corbin even touched one! Besides alligators, there was a spectacular assortment of colorful birds flying to and fro and thousands of nests in the trees. The wildlife was very beautiful.
 

We stayed at Elmina Beach Resort that night. During dinner, the power went off. This is dangerous while having dinner because the food cannot be refrigerated or prepared in a hygienic way, without power for the kitchen. At this point in the trip I began to think about my home in the States. I missed so many of the things I took for granted. The following morning we traveled to Cape Coast, the location for camp. Because there was not room enough for us in the dorms, we stayed in a hotel nearby, called VEC hotel.
 

Tuesday, August 15th, camp started. We traveled from Elmina to Cape Coast. We were served lunch when we first arrived at camp. We had Red Red and fried plantains, rice and orange slices. The Red Red can be described at a bean curry with onions. The food in general seems to be very hot and spicy. I happen to like hot and spicy foods, but for Amber and especially Corbin it was a hard time finding something they could eat.  
 

This is the 5th day in Ghana and so far my stomach had been strong up until then. This I day I felt I was starting to get sick. Washing hands, drinking only bottled water, using hand sanitizer obsessively, all these precautions were not enough. The personal hygiene and sanitation was otherwise nonexistent. The camp facilities provided a toilet for the ďWesterners.ď  The campers were left to use the bush.
 

When I heard about this I was shocked. Did the male directors and leaders at camp forget the female campers? Certainly if a woman was menstruating she couldnít ďjust use the bush.ď I spoke to Mr. Thomas Clark about this. He explained that that was the way it was. He told me about how some years back some of the women in a UCG congregation from the States tried to talk to the women about menstrual hygiene. It had been viewed as an invasion by the Ghanaians. I didnít bring up the topic again.
 

This is another point of concern I have for the women in Ghana. This did not come to my attention until I had returned to Germany and was meeting with a girlfriend of mine. I was telling her about my trip and she told me that she had come across a startling statistic. 80% of women in Ghana have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). I have an understanding that this is mostly an Islamic tradition. Has it also turned into a regional/cultural tradition? And if so, what is the message that UCG is sending to Ghanaian women and families about FGM? This is a terrible practice that can result in permanent deformities and even death. If we havenít spoken to our congregations in Ghana about FGM, then we have to do so immediately!


Arielle Falardeau

 

After lunch, I had two groups scheduled. I was working with Josh Lehe. Together we organized the Team Challenge activities. On the first day we split the groups into half. I took one and he took the other. That gave us about 10 campers each. I did two trust activities. One, where you fall from standing on the ground, onto a group with locked arms. The next one we did built a little more trust. The campers fell onto a group with locked arms from a moderate elevation. After these activities I discussed with the group what we learned. This day the campers learned that trust is important and not an easy thing to do.   
 

Also, they learned that when working together, a task that may otherwise have been impossible can become easy to achieve.
 

The first day went very well and the campers were very happy and motivated. The official language in Ghana is English. This is what the children are taught in schools. However, at home and with their friends they often speak a tribal language. The most popular tribal language being Teui. Overall, the campers could understand me. Sometimes the Ghanaian counselors would translate if someone didnít understand. Communicating worked fine.
 

All of Thursday and half of Friday I was very sick. On Thursday, I experienced dehabilitating cramps in my abdomen. The pain would come in waves and last for about 30 sec to one minute each time with about 15 minutes in between. It was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. By around 7 pm that night the cramps became fewer and I was able to sleep.
 

Friday, the next morning, I was so exhausted I had to stay in bed a bit longer. This was the lowest point for me in the trip. I was the sickest and most exhausted I had ever been. I was in a strange country with out my usual comforts, without my friends and family. I wanted nothing more in the world than to have my mom take care of me. At this point I got very homesick and thought about my family very much. It wasnít only for 6 days I hadnít seen them, it had been since May.
 

At 11 am I went with Mr. Melvin Rhodes to the camp. It was lunch time and the other volunteers; Amber, Josh, Rob and Corbin, used this small break to go into town. My stomach was still not feeling well enough to eat. At this point, it had been two days since I had eaten. I did drink plenty of bottled water during this time. At lunch I decided it would be safe to eat two slices of oranges.
 

After lunch, because the way the schedule was setup, Josh and I had one group. We decided to do this activity together. We called it the Human Ladder everyone stands across from each other to form two lines. Each pair holds a wooden dowel rod to form a kind of ladder. Then, one person at a time climbs across the ladder. It was very much fun to watch and work with the kids. I was amazed to see how even the smallest campers supported the larger campers. After the activity, we talked about how there is strength in numbers and that this should be considered in our life as a Christian. We should surround ourselves with other Christians.
 

Josh, Corbin, Mr. Melvin Rhodes, Rob, Amber and Arielle. Cape Coast 2007

The next day, Saturday, was the Sabbath. It was decided by Mr. Thomas Clark, to travel to Kumasi for church services. Mr. Melvin Rhodes stayed in Cape Coast and held services there with the campers. Traveling to Kumasi entailed a wakeup time at 4 am. Another freezing cold shower, because there is no electricity, and breakfast at 5 am. Mr. Coffei, a Ghanaian minister, drove us in the UCG van to Kumasi.
 

This was a 5 hour drive there, and a 5 hour drive back. All together, the trip to Kumasi, especially since we were having services at camp, was too much work to be done on the Sabbath. We arrived back at camp that night totally exhausted.
 

Sunday, we had a special surprise for the campers. Mr. Melvin Rhodes and Mr. Thomas Clark organized that all the campers be taken to Kuman rainforest and to go on the same canopy walk we did the week before. This was really very nice and when the campers returned that night, they were all talking about it.
 

On the last day of camp everyone was looking forward to the talent show the campers had prepared to perform. All the campers, around 120, were separated into dorms. Each dorm held about 15-20 campers. Each dorm had created and rehearsed a sketch to be performed at the talent show. The campers had worked on this all throughout camp. They memorized lines and put together costumes. Everything was ready, there was just one very important thing we all were hoping for.. electricity. Without the electricity being on this night, the campers would perform in total darkness, making it impossible.
 

After dinner we met in the meeting hall on the camp grounds. There were seats and a stage all set up and some of the campers were working on the sound equipment. Later I founnd out that the campers didnít really know anything about the sound equipment and I wondered if I should lose my hearing or cover my ears.
 

As God was watching over us, Iím sure he also wanted to see the talent show, the electricity for this night was on! The show could begin. It was a wonderful performance. I laughed, I listened, I applauded and sometimes I had a tear in my eye because of how beautiful it was. At the end, the winning group was announced and was given prizes (bags of candy).
 

The next day we left Cape Coast to go back to Elmina Beach Resort. I left Tuesday the 20th. The other volunteers stayed the night in Elmina and left for the States the following day. This has been a documentary on my experience in Ghana. I left much of my personal impressions out and tried simply to show the events. For several weeks following my return from Ghana I was still very much overwhelmed and still processing my experience. Now, after reading through my notes and having written it down, I feel more settled about my experience as a UCG Youth Corps volunteer.
 

Hit Counter