I first met Gina when we trained as counsellors together ten years ago. We got on well from the start with shared passions for learning, travel, books and a touch of the alternative, and supported each other in our first counselling placements. Never one to let the grass grow under her feet – a Gemini like me, Gina has gone on to train in reflexology, and has also continued to study.
I remember when Gina first voiced the idea of doing voluntary work abroad somewhere, she thought about India or Ghana, somewhere she could make a difference. It always had to wait for the right time, she is a single mum to a son but now that he is thirteen, it is easier for her to spend some time away.
We chatted occasionally about travel in third world countries; I shared some of my experiences and practical stuff. Nearly a year ago she told me that she was making plans, and Ghana was her choice. By then I had been there myself, not to volunteer, just to travel – in 2007 I toured around, and as far north as the border with Burkina Faso, and loved every minute I was there.
To raise the money for her trip Gina organised a fundraising evening. She sold tickets for a party with live music and a raffle, persuading and charming the prizes, and even the printing of tickets, from friends and local businesses, and then two weeks ago she was off! An hour before her flight she sent me a text saying she was real scared, and I said not to worry, the people are the friendliest anywhere in the country of smiles.
As soon as she arrived it was obvious how much she loved it, her joy just shines out, I knew she would. This is what she has told me.
The Under privileged Children’s Centre is based in Teshie Nungua and supports children from some of the poorest inner city areas of Accra. Those attending are from La, Teshie and surrounding communities.
UCC was established in La, by a local Ghanian man named Billa Mahmud. Billa had grown up within this poor community and recognised the vast amounts of street children and orphans who were just roaming the streets or working without an education. In 1998 Billa began to teach what started as 5 children under a mango tree to 55 children under a larger mango tree to 80 children in a small rented room which he financed to what it is today, a thriving centre of which I have been honoured to be a part of. This project is continuing to grow and now includes further community initiatives including sports coaching and vocational training. Since 2010 UCC has been supported by a registered charity which provides volunteers and financial support to the centre in Ghana. The UCC is reliant on donations of money or resources and the sponsor a child scheme in order to continue its operations.
I have spent the past 3 weeks absorbing the local culture, the friendliest people I have ever met and the biggest hugs from these beautiful grateful children.
I am sponsoring a child here and plan to return with my son in 2014 to appreciate the growth of this unique project. An experience that will stay close to my heart…..
Teshie sounds like an amazing place, doing wonderful work that will make a huge difference. Whenever a child gets an education, that child’s life changes and the effect spreads in expanding circles of opportunity.
If you have ever considered volunteering abroad I would recommend Ghana and I know for sure that Gina would recommend Teshie. It isn’t non-stop work, she has had the chance to see some of the area around Ghana’s fabulous coast and to experience the culture.
Gina I’m sure that you will stay close to their hearts too, well done, you’re amazing.