My first african experience by Anke Muylaert

Hello everyone,

I have just arrived home from a 5-months stay in Ghana. Now I would like to share my experience with everyone, but where do I start? I will start by introducing myself. I am a 24-year old nurse, specialised in social work, from Belgium. Since I was little I had the dream or wish to get some experience in working in a developing country. It is now, in September 2006, that I had the opportunity to go to Ghana.

In Ghana I did voluntary work: I was part of the advocacy team of REVSODEP. This means that I went to the rural villages to educate the people on several health topics (e.g. diarrhoea, malaria, HIV/AIDS, family planning etc.). This work gave me an overwhelming feeling: the village people live in huts with no electricity, no water, and hardly any income. And this doesn’t make them embittered. On the contrary: they are so welcoming and grateful! It was a joy and pleasure to be able to do something meaningful for them.

A lot of people asked me if the advocacy programme had a real impact on their lives. To prove this to you, I will give you an example of what has happened. One of the topics we talked about was, as mentioned above, diarrhoea. This contained the danger of diarrhoea, signs of dehydratation, treatment, prevention… After some few weeks have past, a woman approached us: her husband suffered from severe diarrhoea. She handled as we advised them to do, and her husband got better very soon. I can assure you, the feeling that went trough my body when she told me so, were impossible to describe.

To be able to explain everything in Dagbani, the language of the people in the Tamale region, a translator of REVSODEP was always available to go with me to the villages. This made it possible for me to learn a few words.

It is not precise enough to say that I did the voluntary work in Ghana. Better is to specify that I worked in northern Ghana. It is there that the people are the poorest, where the government doesn’t interfere; where the hospitals haven’t got enough health staff and the schools haven’t got teachers. Every institute welcomes volunteers with open arms, because the need is very high.

Due to the nature of my work, I worked very closely with the organization. They were a huge support to me. For every question I had or difficulty I encountered, they were ready to invest time to give me the wright support. It was important to let the organization guide me, especially in the beginning, because I didn’t know anything about the way of living in Ghana, or even in Africa.

This was my first time in Africa. And in all honesty it is a magnificent experience that made my world richer. I have build up a lot of experience in life, I know myself a lot better now etc. This experience will help me in a lot of ways.

I am sure that it would mean the same for everyone who is prepared to adjust in a world, where everything is different. At the end, we will all jump into the same conclusion: we have a lot to learn from each other! TRY AND EXPERIENCE IT YOURSELVES!

If you would like to know more about Ghana, its culture, the work…, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Anke Muylaert
anke_be@yahoo.com

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