top of page

My African Adventure

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

When people ask me whether I had a lovely time in Ghana it’s difficult to say yes. It was one of the most valuable and incredible experiences of my life, it was so insightful and impactful but ‘lovely’ isn’t the word that I would use. I saw some things that I will never forget, not in a positive way, but equally, some things that were truly wonderful to experience. My first time in Africa was unforgettable for sure.

The initial difficulty in navigating from Birmingham to Amsterdam due to COVID related hold ups during the check in process was soon forgotten as we made our connecting flight into Accra, Ghana for the first evening. We stayed just out of the city for the first night after a long day of travelling in a room that was delightfully chilly providing some light relief from the evening heat that was relentless for the remainder of our time in Africa aside from one very welcome night in a different air conditioned room – more on that later!

The first night’s accommodation was nerve wracking – the kind of feeling that you get when you’re on a transfer bus from the airport and the bus driver calls your name at the run down accommodation that everybody is wishing wasn’t their stop. I was nervous that night, tired and apprehensive. In hindsight it was absolutely fine and the following morning, after a little sleep I felt better about the experiences to come.

Breakfast on that first day seemed odd but perfectly palatable – an omelette, coleslaw, pineapple and tomatoes. Again, the benefit of hindsight made me realise that this was nothing unusual at all for Ghana.

We made our way to the mall for a quick spin round for some last minute ‘home comforts’ and to change our sterling currency into Ghanaian cedis and set out on a four hour bus journey to Woe, a far more rural part of Ghana, where we would be based for the remainder of our trip, next door to a town called Tegbi where we would be based for our charity work at the local school. There were a few hairy, scary moments where we weren’t sure that our luggage would make it as there were over 30 cases tied four tiers high to a mini bus, and some where we weren’t sure if we would even make it - the Ghanaian roads are something else! Even now if you ask me what side of the road they drive on I couldn’t be 100% sure. We made it though you will be pleased to know, to Young Shall Grow Volunteer House, our home for the next week or so.

We were shown to our rooms, basic but livable, two homemade bunk beds knocked together, no sheets but draped in mosquito nets, still standing after many years I suspect, a concrete floor, some wonky shelves, a toilet that flushed when it felt like it and cold running water from a shower – absolute bliss in Ghana, the way that the wealthy live, however, if you were greeted with that in the UK there is absolutely no chance you would stay, we’d probably actually get right back in the car and drive off. However, given what we were in Africa for and how well we were treated, the intermittent water and electricity was an absolute treat. The stop-start electric also meant that at times we had a fan that blew warm air around the room – glorious!

Feeling ‘off grid’ from the world despite missing my family hugely was actually a delight, anything could have been happening in the world and we wouldn’t know, that was some light relief from all of the tragedy happening in eastern Europe just now.

We acquainted ourselves with our home for the coming days and then were treated to a gorgeous sunset walk to the local beach, through fields with locals working on the land, children drinking from sprinklers and plenty of open man holes with seemingly no bottom which we had to be super careful of on the way back in the dark. Luckily the kids that led the way knew the land like the back of their hand and despite one or two stragglers having to give money to a local to help direct them back, we all enjoyed a relaxed evening on the most unspoiled beach I have ever seen. The scene with the gorgeous, old fishing boats, angry sea and miles and miles of untouched coastline was something else entirely. We were unfortunately reminded of the cruel and unforgiving nature of the sea the following day when we learned that a teenager had been killed only slightly further down the coast the very night that we were there. Nature is powerful but oh so gorgeous, I am in awe of the world that we are lucky enough to live in and feel most at home by the sea for sure.

The following day, Monday, we were welcomed so warmly to Tegbi school, where we would be based for the majority of our volunteer work. We were introduced to children, teacher, school staff, decorators and builders that would assist us along the way in decorating a school classroom block and building a new school canteen from the ground up in just 5 days.

The children get to school early to sweep and clean, they are all dressed in the same green uniform – these are the lucky ones despite having to live in donated shoes that don’t fit them properly, using the toilet in what is essentially cat litter and a hole in the ground and having limited access to money and food. If you don’t have a school uniform then you don’t go to school. If it rains and your school uniform gets wet because you don’t have the proper provisions and environment at home to keep it dry, you don’t go to school. These kids walk miles on their own to get there and they simply love it. They are full of life, joy and happiness and never have I come across a more hard working group of people so willing to help. Despite everything they are a credit to their families, school and country – the culture bred amongst the children there of graft is something truly unique and something I will never forget. They do so much for nothing and that is so admirable, they just want to help and turn their hand to anything and everything.

Just imagine for a moment small children wielding pick axes in their bare feet, standing on a pile of rubble in the middle of a building site, children covered in dust as they sand walls down in preparation for decorating in 40 degree heat as it sticks to their sweaty skin, children swinging a machete around so that they can go way out of their way to provide water from a coconut to their guests to keep them hydrated when they don’t have such privilege themselves. Honestly, some of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

If they had access to some cedis to take to school that day they might be lucky enough to be able to get some spaghetti in a bag from the lady in the playground – if not they were hungry. It felt uncomfortable going into a room at lunch time to be well fed and being unable to give them a drink from our bottled water when they asked (we were asked not to do this as we couldn’t share with all of the children and it simply wasn’t fair). When a thirsty child with nothing to their name says ‘water, water’ at you but you can’t help, your heart strings will be truly tested I can assure you.

As the week went by we progressed further and further through our renovation work at the school, it was exhausting in the heat that we just couldn’t escape even though it was rainy season in Africa but rewarding to see such progress being made.

During the late afternoons and evenings after we were finished at the school we did some fabulous things, immersing ourselves in the local culture, seeing the local area and experiencing local foods, past times and landmarks. We were lucky enough to have shared accommodation with ANOL Ladies Football team who were taking part in the African version on the women’s FA cup the following week, one night we played a football game against them – put up a good fight but of course, they came out on top! We visited an old fort where slaves were kept before they were sold – a somber experience for sure. We had more beach trips. We visited the local market – an experience I have to be honest about, frightened me. It was busy, close and hot and I felt like we were being watched by EVERYONE. We had an Ewe language lesson. We had a lesson about marriage culture in Ghana.

Aside from all of that, within it all, the most memorable experience of them all for me was our visit to a small local community which was quite frankly, poverty stricken. We were, as always in Africa, welcomed with open arms by the locals (and their quite evidently flea ridden dog, goats and chickens!). They danced, they rejoiced and they were kind beyond words showing us around their homes. I did, however, see some things that I would never want to see again. I couldn’t wait to get back on the bus – I felt dirty and itchy but I recognise that was an absolute privilege to feel because those that welcomed us are unlikely to ever get away from their situation. The shower was a concrete slab with a bucket on it. The kitchen was nothing like I have ever seen before. There was an elderly lady laid out on a ‘mattress’ which was essentially leaves weaved together, she couldn’t get up as she has bad knees, they can’t afford healthcare, she’ll likely never get up again. She lived in a room no more than 3 metres squared with seven other people. There was a kitten in the same room living in a bag. I’ll never forgetthat. We were, however, able to provide some light in donating each community member toothbrushes, toothpaste, underwear, sanitary products and various clothing items which was a heartwarming experience – that’s what the trip was all about.

In stark contrast, we were treated to a night in a beach ‘resort’ with an air conditioned room, a couple of meals out, a pool – enjoyable of course as we spent some time getting to know new friends even better but there was something strange about knowing that just the other side of the wall there was such hardship.

I am happy to be home now appreciating everything that I am privileged enough to have with those that I love the most. I hope that someday I will be able to process properly the special experience that I was lucky enough to have in Ghana. I also recognise that we can’t solve the world’s problems with one trip to Africa but I hope that, if we all do our bit, we can shine some light on the lives of some of those less fortunate than ourselves. I would recommend doing something similar to everyone and would be more than happy to support your own life-changing experience in any way that I can.

I would like to thank my primary sponsors for the trip Tag Sportswear and Burton Albion Community Trust, African Adventures for organising the trip and to every one of you that donated to my sponsorship page and provided donations for me to take out to the people of Ghana to provide a little positive boost in their otherwise tricky lives, not that they show any sign of misfortune.

AKPE KAKAKA Ghana – it was an absolute honour and a privilege.


123 views0 comments


bottom of page