Ghana is a very different country
to England and when I landed I felt pretty overwhelmed as I drove through Accra
on a Saturday night!! However I soon acclimatised to Ghanaian life after meeting
my roommate and fantastic host and found everyone to be genuinely friendly. The
children and adults we’ve been coaching have all worked hard and seem to appreciate
the sense of fun we are trying to inject into their technical development. I’ve
already learnt so much from the people I’ve met in Ghana, in regards to how we should
treat each other and ourselves, in life.
Football is a major passion in Ghana and its been infectious, not just in our coaching
sessions, but also when we ourselves have joined in local games or watched champions
league matches in the next-door bar. As a huge football fan myself its great to
be living in this kind of environment. I would therefore have to say that the Travellers
Football Tournament we have just completed, pitting the U12 teams from the schools
where we coach, together in a day of festivities was a joy to watch. At times passions
ran high and I doubt tournament organisers in England would appreciate 3 pitch invasions!!!
But it epitomised the celebratory nature of the day, which was a pleasure to be
Ghana’s a great country and I’d recommend to anyone that they should come here but
in relation to my placement specifically, I would say what sets Travellers aside
from other gap year organisers in the country is that the experience they provide
is of an authentic Ghana. We aren’t just staying with a Ghanaian family;
we eat and drink with them in the evenings and meet their friends and join in their
celebrations and football matches. We have been immersed in the culture and the
larger organisations can’t offer such an individual experience. Travellers programmes
are for travellers basically!!
If you love travelling, are curious to explore different cultures and meet different
people then try one of the programs. If you find a program that appeals to you and
you feel you can give a helping hand to the recipients involved then you should
enjoy yourself and help make a difference to whoever you're helping.
Can you describe a typical day?
Our day would start early, usually involving getting up between 5.45 and 6.30 which
was an effort for my roommate and I as we can hardly be described as morning people,
but a combination of an insistent alarm clock and a freezing cold bucket shower
(you grow to love them!!) and the knowledge that breakfast was waiting for us on
the table, usually ensured we didn’t have to rush… (usually!!). Breakfast varied
in what was served but everything was lovely. Porridge, strangely popular in such
a hot country, but nevertheless tasty, was interchanged with bread and hot chocolate,
fried egg toasted sandwiches and rice-water. Rice-water is exactly what it sounds
like but hot and sloppy with salt and is really nice.
You sweat a lot in Ghana and whilst this makes it very important to drink lots of
water, it also means you’ll be requiring a lot of salt and this breakfast is fantastic
at replenishing supplies. (I recommend taking Vitamin C tablets that you can add
to water - wards off flu, settles stomach, etc and something like Marmite to add
to bread.) Then, slap on a bit of sun-cream, don your Travellers t-shirt and lug
the balls over your shoulder out to the road to grab a tro-tro (minibuses).
Our location, on a road with tro-tro’s passing every 30 seconds, all going in our
direction, meant that you couldn’t think of a more ideal mode of transport if you
tried. Well, this is a slight exaggeration, tro-tro’s are cramped and you may hear
a few horror stories, but we found them to be great and soooo cheap.
Arriving at our first school of the morning after a 15 minute tro-tro trip, we entered
the school gates to varying degrees
of friendly pandemonium depending on the school you happen to be at. You’ll soon
get into a different routine with each school, but most tended to invite you to
sit down with the teachers and have a morning chat whilst the children got ready.
We got really friendly with many of the teachers this way and it was one of the
best things about living in ‘Ghanaian time’ (which is a much hazier and laid-back
version of normal time!!).
Many schools may offer you a much needed ‘pure-water,’ which is a sachet of water
about the size of the palm of your
hand which you rip the corner off, with your teeth and suck on. They’re fine to
drink and heaven chilled. I recommend buying a pack of 30 for your room as they’re
only around 8,000 cedis. Once the children are ready, (‘Ghanaian time’ dictating,
and this can get a bit annoying so either have a brief chat with the teachers about
it, or try to leave a good gap between each session), take them out to the pitch
and either wait for them to get changed or, if they’re changed already, dive straight
into starting your session.
The pitches you coach on are usually a good size, though with some exceptions, and
are hard and sandy, with no grass
and unfortunately sometimes a fair bit of empty ‘pure-water’ sachets lying about.
Dribbling and long passes are therefore difficult to execute on this surface due
to the bumpy hard ground making it hard to have the ball completely under-control.
Ghanaians tend to compensate for this by keeping the ball on the ground, using short
passes and trying to take a touch before moving it on.
Once you’ve introduced yourself to the excited children and talked a bit about fair-play,
how long you’ll be there and
what you’re looking to teach with them, you can begin your first drill. When I was
coaching there was two of us which meant that you can split up the children and
take half each but if you’re on your own, it shouldn’t matter as you can still split
them up and take it in turns to supervise each half. Our first lessons simply consisted
of creating 2/4 circles, with a ball for each circle and the players spaced around
the outside. As the player with the ball dribbles into the middle s/he calls out
the name of another player and passes to him/her and follows the pass taking their
place as s/he dribbles out into the middle and makes his/her pass etc. It gives
you a chance to know a few players names and also gauge the general standard of
the children you’re playing with.
A drawback with this game is that its not guaranteed that every player gets a touch
of the ball so as soon as the children
have grasped it, move on to stating that players that have been in the middle, squat
down once they are back on the outside of the circle, leaving only players that
haven’t touched the ball, still standing. You can progress again onto doing a turn
in the middle (inside turn (instep), outside turn (outside of foot), drag-back (sole)
and a cryuff turn (inside turn through legs)) and then having two players in the
middle and instructing the players, whilst stressing that they stay in a circle,
to pass it around the defenders in the middle (swapping places with them if the
defender makes a tackle/interception.)
This tended to fill our first hour, so we then assembled in the middle of the pitch,
asking the children to bring in
the balls, and had another quick talk about technique, what we saw that was good/bad
and also just friendly chat about… whatever! before taking them back into the school.
For the most part, the kids were infectiously enthusiastic, friendly and genuinely
talented at every school we worked at. We generally did 3 or 4 sessions a day, usually
around an hour in length and found this to be pleasantly exhausting!! To be honest,
the most important thing in making sure you’re not completely knackered at the end
of each day is to arrange your timetable really carefully. Achimota, the one school
that we were teaching at that wasn’t within 20 minutes of our home, (it was actually
an hour away) we gave a whole day of sessions to, so that we were just travelling
at the start and end of each day.
The other days we managed to arrange so that Achimota’s sessions were the last in
the day so that we could go via one
school to another school and so on. Obviously the school’s needs is the number one
concern and its their timetables you are going to be working to, but you have a
large degree of flexibility with some of the schools, so use this to your advantage.
You might be lucky enough to have lunch provided for you by some of the schools
if you arrive at lunch time, which is a really welcome gesture and much appreciated,
but if not, you can always pick up some great food at street stalls, or from street
The fruit in Ghana is amazing, with fruit-stalls dotting most streets, selling mangoes,
bananas, oranges, pineapples, avocados and the odd watermelon. They’re really cheap
and provide the perfect healthy
snack. If you fancy something a bit sweeter though, you won’t be disappointed. ‘Fan-ice’
ice-cream vendors, with a box attached to the front of their bike and a horn tooting
wildly, can be found everywhere and sell the best vanilla ice-cream in the world
(no joke). Ask for fan-ice vanilla and enjoy… Also available is the nice frozen
strawberry yoghurt (fan-yogo), frozen chocolate milk called fan-choco and Tampico
(a bit like orange calypo). I lived off all of these religiously but wasn’t able
to sample every fan ice-cream as my search for orange flavoured ‘fan-pop’ was fruitless
Once your sessions for the day are completed, slump down on a tro-tro and make your
way back home for a well earned
nap or, if you’ve still got some energy, join in a local football game before trooping
home for a shower and then dinner.
Ghanaians eat early in the evening (around 6) so our timetables meant that we invariably
ate separately from the family
in the dining room inside, rather than with them outside in the yard, which was
a shame, but I’m sure you’ll be able to arrange whatever arrangement suits you best
with your hosts.
I’d better mention now that my host family were absolutely amazing. There were around
8 adults though friends and relatives
popping around, ensured that this number was normally more like 14! with 4 children
adding to the total. Everyone’s first consideration was our happiness and our host
especially, strove at all occasions to involve us in all aspects of Ghanaian life
and it was this welcoming, friendly atmosphere that really helped make my stay in
Ghana so enjoyable. We lived day-to-day absorbed in the Ghanaian culture and the
food we ate in the evening was no exception.
We sample each Ghanaian staple including banku, kenke, fufu and red-red. To be honest
I can’t tell the difference between
a few of them but banku/fufu/kenke consists of a thick gloopy ball of maize/rice,
in a tomatoey sauce with meat or fish. It’s pretty nice, especially fufu, and they
all fill you up so after a long day, its just what you need. Red-red is really nice,
and is plantain with a black-eyed peas spicy sauce and chicken/fish. You’ll also
get served rice or pasta occasionally, again with a tomatoey sauce with meat/fish
and yam’s which taste a bit like roast potatoes and are tasty with a tomato and
onion dip. Once you’ve eaten, make sure you put on some repellent and don’t wear
dark clothes, (apparently the mossies love them!!) and you can go out for some ‘sips’
at a bar sampling Ghanaian beers, which are pretty good, and local spirits which
are well worth a try (look out for Lime and Ginger).
I was going to say, “If you’re a football fan…” but I presume you are, otherwise
you wouldn’t be reading this, so instead
I’ll say, for all volunteers, I recommend watching live Champions League or some
premiership matches (usually not live but replayed the next day) at your local bar
and the atmosphere, especially when watching a Chelsea match (Boo!!!) is unbelievable
so make sure you experience the big games there. Depending on your vicinity to Accra
you can head to any number of the clubs there but my recommendation for a wicked
night out would have to be along Kokrobite beach where there’s a reggae night every
Saturday (also check out Bojo beach 10 mins away where there is a small beach charge
(10K) but you can go for a canoe trip across a lagoon to a cocktail bar and beach!!
Also check out the monkey sanctuary half way in between the two, best time to go
is 9/9.30am, ask around when you get to the little village beginning with D (sorry
can’t remember the name but there’s a poster in Big Milly’s and its in the Bradt
You might have to stay the night but the trip to the monkey sanctuary in the morning
(I presume its open Sundays but
check) makes it worth it and I recommend the seafood at the African Academy for
Music and Language Restaurant (on the beach!) After the evening out, whether to
entertainment on your doorstep or further-a-field, you return home (inform hosts
if you’re going to be late) and crash, ready for another day…
Thanks to everyone at Travellers for all their help on the project and Aloysius
Agbavittor and especially Joe Opoku
from my host family for making my stay in Ghana so enjoyable. Thank you!!