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Finding Family Overseas

Leigh and Sheryne, another YCI volunteer from Barbados.

Leigh finds a support network on the other side of the world.

Many expats would agree that one of the biggest challenges of living overseas is leaving your friends, your parents, and significant others. If you are living in a new place with new faces and experiencing a new culture, it is to be expected that times of isolation and loneliness come about. Its perfectly natural to feel homesick once and awhile. My advice would be to let yourself feel it, have a bad day and move on. You never know where or who you will find a connection with.

While in Ghana, I was lucky enough to adopt a second mother. The beautiful Ghanaian and mother of five, Mama Augusta, is the caterer at the partner organization I am staying at. She does much more than bring us home cooked, delicious meals on a daily basis. Mama Augusta provides me with comfort and love each and every day. Her kind spirit brightens the most difficult days in the field. If you are feeling homesick, exhausted or sick she flashes a smile and embraces you with a hug until you feel as though you could go another year away from your home. Mama has opened up her home and culture to so many volunteers over the years—that’s where she got the name “Mama.”

I have also embraced a few brothers and sisters while overseas. Some of the local volunteers I work with make it their mission to make me feel comfortable and safe on a daily basis. At first their “drop in” style was difficult to understand, as us Canadians like to plan meetings and dates weeks in advance. But, as I became adjusted I really appreciated the company. Having peers around me to talk celebrity gossip or relationships made me realize that you can find something in common with anyone, if you try.

The family I have created in Ghana has seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of me. They are still here every day, taking care of me. That is the meaning of family. Not what you look like or where you were born—it’s a feeling. Thinking about leaving the people I have grown so close to makes me feel very sad. This is one of the problems with spending only a few months overseas—you create a new life and then have to leave it behind. Staying in touch with my new Ghanaian family will be a priority as I start a new chapter of my life.

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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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