Ghana 2018

Ghana 2018

For me, what makes Lasallian unique is its feeling of community, with the entire cohort of volunteers past and present connected by shared experiences and united in their appreciation for the incredible impact the projects have on both the local people and the volunteers themselves. For this reason, in 2018 I was deeply grateful to end my Lasallian journey in Kaleo, Ghana, where the charity has worked with the local community for almost thirty years and nurtured an exceptionally close relationship with its remarkable people.

During our stay we lived in Gregory House, a building constructed by Lasallian volunteers in 1989 and situated within the walled compound of Kaleo Senior High Technical School. A big part of any project is getting used to a more basic way of living, and Gregory House was a classic example of this. However, despite the creaky, ladderless bunk-beds, frequent water shortages and power cuts, we were looked after extremely well and made to feel very much at home. Attempting to cook our own meals and buying ingredients in the village quickly became part of our routine with the traditional cook-day rota established, although thankfully during water shortages and culinary disasters we were also able to order takeaways, with both Ghanaian and western cuisine available from the local city, Wa.

It would be impossible to write about our stay without mentioning Vincent, a local helper to the project coordinator and retired teacher at the school, who was a constant friend and support to the group, assisting us with anything we needed and organising our weekend activities. One day, Vincent took us on a tour round the village in a little rickety trailer to see all of the buildings Lasallian had constructed over the years – classrooms, halls, accommodation for teachers and students – and we saw on each of the buildings from the early 2000s onwards all the names of that year’s volunteers carved into the cement.

Our building site for teachers’ accommodation was located fifteen minutes’ walk from Gregory House, and since it had been started by the previous two projects, it already had two sets of names listed on the walls. With the walls and roof already in place, we carried on with the later stages of construction – plastering, landscaping, and digging a large hole for a septic tank. A typical day’s work would involve digging, mixing cement, keeping the team of local builders supplied with mortar, and passing buckets full of muddy water down a “water chain” to fill up a storage tank. Getting to know the builders and having a laugh with them was every bit as important as the work itself, and despite limited levels of English I found that the Ghanaian people were perhaps the friendliest I have ever met. Adding our names to the wall towards the end of our stay was a great way to sign off our work and turn another page in the ongoing story of Lasallian’s work in Kaleo.

Despite the primary focus of the project being on building work, we were able to go on several weekend excursions, including a trip to Mole National Park where we went on a jeep safari, and a walk up to the summit of Mt. Umbo, a small extinct volcano which stood alone as the only elevated land for many miles around Kaleo, giving fantastic views of the beautiful country that surrounded us. After leaving Kaleo towards the end of the project, we travelled down to Cape Coast and had a few days to visit the beaches of the southern coast, the popular canopy walk in Kakum and the famous Cape Coast Castle that once facilitated the West-African slave trade.

For all of the experiences there are to be had on project, the most important to me were those that could be shared with the rest of the group. As such, out of all the traditions Lasallian projects have acquired, arguably the most crucial are reflections, which give an opportunity to share, trust, and connect with your fellow volunteers around a broad range of topics. I have found this has been the most important thing I have taken away from all of my projects, as it is such a crucial component in getting to know amazing people you may otherwise never have met, and establishing friendships that will endure throughout the years after you return home. And that to me is the most powerful effect the Lasallian Projects have on their volunteers, for it is a rare and wonderful thing to go away with a group of strangers and return home with a group of friends.
By Corwyn Hall