Before You Leave
What should I bring that would be appreciated?
School supplies (erasers, pencils, etc.) and medical supplies (gauze, bandages, etc.) are always needed but candy is nice to bring too. Shipping anything to Senase is very expensive so if you have room in your luggage to transport any supplies, let The Godfreds Foundation know! Also consider bringing small gifts for the Benneh family. Banana bread, protein powder, nail polish and Bop-It went over very well for me!
What immunizations do I need?
You NEED the yellow fever vaccine to enter the country. There is currently a global shortage of the vaccine so I encourage you to plan a visit to a travel clinic early because it needs 10 days prior to leaving in order to be effective. The travel clinician should also prescribe malaria pills and will probably also suggest a typhus shot.
What is the day-to-day schedule like?
In Senase, almost everyone is up by 6am. If this scares you, remember that this is when the sun rises and, since electricity is used very little, it makes the most sense to start the day at first light. Meal times are very similar to Western meal times. The sun sets around 7 and most people are in bed by 9 or 10pm.
What language do they speak?
The local language is Twi (pronounced “chee”) and it is fun to pick up phrases. English is spoken sparingly in town but almost everyone at home speaks English.
What are people like?
We are continually shocked at how kind and generous people are. Everyone will greet you and ask you how you are and you should return the favor. Children especially will wave to you and say hi and it is fun to wave back. You will feel like a celebrity. When people refer to you, they will often shout “Oburoni!” which means “White-skinned person.” Girls, expect some lighthearted marriage proposals and don’t be afraid to smile. (It is nothing like the catcalling or harassment that you may experience at home.)
What can I buy in town?
You can buy everything you might need in Berekum, the neighboring city. There is a market, a bank, and supply stores. Your hosts can help you find anything you might need. In Senase, there are dozens of market stands where you can buy snacks. Donuts are two for one Ghanaian Cedi and they are delicious!
At the Benneh Home
Who will I be staying with?
Most likely, you will stay with the family of The Godfreds Foundation co-founder, Fred Benneh. Olivia, Oliver and Janet are Fred’s siblings and they will be your hosts. There are almost a dozen other teenagers and adults that also live with them.
Is there electricity?
Yes, but there are frequent power outages and it is scarce. We had no trouble keeping our electronic devices charged. You will be surprised at how little electricity you actually need. When there are power outages, there are solar lanterns to use for light.
What about Internet?
To use the Internet, you need to buy credits. Once you are connected, Facebook and Whatsapp are free and do not deplete your data usage. We recommend telling the friends and family you want to stay in touch with to download Whatsapp before you leave. If you get your SIM card unlocked (go to your network provider) then you can load credits on your phone as well.
How’s the food?
Most of what Ghanaians eat consists of some sort of carbohydrate, usually Fufuo or Banku, in some sort of soup. Ghanaians scoop their food with their right hands—don’t worry, you’ll learn quickly. If you find that the texture of Fufuo or Banku bother you, there are plenty of other options and your hosts will always make sure you have something that you like to eat.
Do we have access to clean water?
Yes, always. The drinking water here comes in bags instead of bottles—just bite into the corner of the bag and enjoy!
Where will I sleep?
The Benneh home has bunkrooms for you to share with them. Mosquito nets are hung from the ceiling and make a nice cozy tent for you to sleep in. It can get a little loud at night from crowing roosters or music, so if you are easily disturbed, consider bringing earplugs.
What about bathing?
There is a shower room in the bathroom, where you fill a large bucket and then use the smaller bucket to wash and rinse off. You will learn to appreciate the cool water when you are hot and sweaty from working hard!
Is there a western-style toilet?
Yes, although not everywhere in Ghana. Remember to put your toilet paper in the bin instead of in the toilet bowl to prevent clogging.
Will I be able to do laundry?
The Benneh’s do all of their laundry by hand and hang them outside to dry. Laundry is done almost every day. You are welcome to join in the washing, although you might need to keep insisting before they let you!
At Semenhyiya American School
Do we eat at school?
Breakfast and lunch are served every day at school. Teachers, staff and volunteers eat after the students. If volunteers are eating something different than what is being served, it is polite to eat it in the office out of sight from the kids.
What are the students like?
You will fall in love! The kids are so unique and precious—Learning names will be easier than you think, especially if you keep learning 10 new names a day. You’ll find that the students of SAS are much better behaved than American kids and they love to play and have your attention.
What is the school schedule?
The first bus arrives shortly after 7:00am and breakfast is finished by 8:00am. Then there is morning assembly where the kids recite the national anthem and SAS pledge, dance to the Cha-cha slide and listen to announcements. Then students are dismissed to their classrooms, where they learn with their teachers until break time or lunch. The buses leave by 2:30 except on Fridays when class ends one hour early.
Is English spoken at the school?
Yes. Sometimes Twi is spoken to the youngest students (KG1) but English is used almost entirely. Sometimes students will slip into speaking Twi, to which you should say, “English please!”
What should I wear to school?
Clothing should be modest and neat but also comfortable. Polo shirts and other shirts with collars are a good idea. Casual tank tops should be avoided but are fine at home. Both men and women should try to keep their knees covered. Flip-flops are not allowed at school but sandals are fine.
What will I do at the school?
It depends—what are you good at? They will try to match your tasks with your skillset so if you bring medical experience, AV or technical knowledge, teaching experience or artistic talent, get ready to put those skills to work. Then there is always cleaning, serving, reading and administrative work to be done. (Oh, and playing of course!) At the end of the day, your job is to help make the school a great place for learning.
If you have any other questions for a past volunteer, feel free to reach out to Cosette at cosette.haugen AT gmail.com