Lessons Learned in Ghana

Written by  April 29, 2013

Leigh reflects on the lessons learned while volunteering abroad.

Three months has never felt so short and so long at the same time. Living somewhere so unfamiliar takes its toll on you; however it makes you a stronger person in the end. The world is such a big place; I don’t believe we are meant to be bound to the country we were born in. Some might find comfort in never leaving their environment but if I have learned one thing from this adventure, it is getting to know people who are different is a gift and a privilege. The opportunity to travel so far and freely is not offered to everyone.

Ghanaians have taught me so many things in the past weeks that will stay with me forever. One being that family should be valued above all else. Being away from my own family has made this lesson even clearer. Family is the best support system you can have and being in a foreign country without one makes you think about how much we take them for granted.

This experience has also shown me that it is possible to live happily without the comforts I once depended on. As a Westerner, it’s easy to get caught up in the material lifestyle because we have never experienced anything different. Travelling to Ghana and seeing the faith and passion people have while going without, puts my previous lifestyle in perspective. Does that mean when I get home in two days that I won’t take a very long, very hot shower? Probably not.

What it does mean is my reactions to events that take place in my life will be forever changed. Remembering my time on this continent will hopefully bring me back to reality next time my cell phone goes missing or an interview goes poorly and I want to throw a tantrum. Ghana has taught me to be patient and kind and you will be a much happier, peaceful person. Each individual on this earth is born into a different life and for the most part it is out of our hands. It’s up to us to make the choices that will positively affect our lives and the people around us. If everyone made positive choices on a daily basis, more opportunities will be available to our children and grandchildren, and generations to come—and not just generations who come from developed countries but for everyone around the world.

Some would call me corny, and others would call me delusional. But the last lesson I will share on this wild adventure in Ghana has been that even if the problems seem too huge, the NGOs too many, and the funds too little, we still have to try. It’s easy to put poverty, injustice and hunger in the back of your mind when you are sitting in Canada, so far away from it all. But nothing will change if we don’t change our perspectives.

I have much to learn as this is only my first stint overseas. But these are some of the things I have observed in my time here. My adventure has come to an end and I have mixed emotions. I feel fortunate to have experienced this country. If you come upon on opportunity to travel, work or volunteer overseas I would strongly suggest Ghana. This place will change you for the better.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Leigh Matassa

A small town girl from Kingston Ontario, Leigh has had a passion for travel for as long as she can remember. Her involvement in Social Justice led her to complete an undergrad in International Development and a post-grad in project management. Now, Leigh is in Ghana with Youth Challenge International working on entrepreneurship, sexual reproductive health and substance abuse with the Ghanaian youth.

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