Check out this amazing article that features Project:Ghana!! Written by Paul Irish and published in the Toronto Star.
Volunteer Travel: Toronto woman leads others to volunteer in Ghana
There was no ocean or beach, no restaurants, no museums — but this was the best trip these six young women have ever been on.
It was a month in Ghana teaching children at a small elementary school/orphanage learning about life, values and — most importantly — realizing even a small effort can make a huge difference to people who need a bit of help.
“I don’t know where to start,” says Toronto’s Ashley Hassard, 22, a Western University graduate and organizer of the all-volunteer project “We worked hard, we gave a lot but, yes, we left with a lot. It was hard saying goodbye to those kids … there were a lot of tears.”
The women — Michele Ivanisevic, 21, from Niagara Falls, Joanna Arniotis, 22, from Toronto, Elyse Golian, 20, from Sarnia, Ont., Alexandra Braun-Woodbury, 22, from Toronto and Kristy Race, 21 from Oakville, (as well as Hassard) paid for the $2,000 round trip flight to Africa themselves and made $500 each to defray other costs through bake sales and other fundraisers.
They arrived back in Canada on June 6.
The experience isn’t anything new to Hassard. Her first foray was in 2009 when she travelled to the Dominican Republic, where she taught English. She followed that with time in Costa Rica during 2010 where she stayed on rural islands setting up medical clinics as well as two similar ventures in 2011.
She stresses that her time abroad is all about the people she helps, but admitted she can’t help but experience her own personal growth.
Hassard wanted to share the experience and decided to organize the trip to Ghana — through International Volunteer Headquarters, a liaison organization for volunteers — and advertised for interested participants while at Western. She received 30 applicants and chose five.
“We all felt the same about it — it was just an incredible, empowering experience,” she says adding that some of the other women had been on similar trips before. “It showed everyone what can be achieved, even in a short time.”
As expected, the small village of Eguafo, where they stayed in the south of Ghana, was different from what they are used to.
The group lived in a tin roof hut with a concrete floor and used an outhouse.
To shower, the women would retrieve water in buckets from the town’s two pumps and pour it over their heads. Toilet paper was brought from home due to the simple fact they knew they may not be able to find anywhere in the village.
But they didn’t mind the hardships, it was about their kids.
Most of their time was spent with about 17 boys and girls ranging in age 2 to 16, teaching them English, French and some mathematics.
Just one of the major projects completed during the month was a large vegetable garden so that they would have enough food to eat in the coming months.
“You quickly realize the struggle there,” says Hassard. “It’s hard, but the people are happy, smart and they love life.”
Hassard says the reality of the world, with its haves and havenots, was crystallized the day she walked into the small school and observed a lesson she could only describe as surreal.
Despite the fact there were no computers, the children were being shown chalk depictions of modems and keyboards for the day “when and if” they get to use one.
Although she’s graduated from Western and is pursuing graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Hassard is staying in touch with the school in the hope of establishing regular trips students can take advantage of.