Youth Workers Jack Collins (18) and Sarah Louise Wood (19) recently returned from a Year of Young People learning exchange in Ghana, arranged through a partnership between British Council Scotland and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ Community Jobs Scotland programme. Here they tell us about their trip and how they plan to apply their learning back in Scotland.
Tell us about your trip to Ghana. Why were you there?
Sarah: Due to our current jobs as Youth Support Workers, we were given the opportunity to visit Sandabbi School in Tamale and transfer our skills and knowledge of Scottish youth work.
Jack: The main point of our trip was to work at the Sandabbi School and experience the culture of Ghana in Accra and Tamale. I personally wanted to gain experiences I would never get at home in Scotland. I wanted these experiences to grow me as a person and I do feel that I’ve grown through the positive and slightly negative aspects of our trip to Ghana.
What did you do while you were on the trip?
Sarah: We visited a school, interacted with the children and did a lot of travelling. We also visited a fort, Elmina Castle, where slaves were transported from Ghana to America and Britain during the slave trade, which was very sad
Jack: I think the things that will stay with me the most are: visiting the slavery fort and learning about Britain’s involvement; meeting the family of Zak Abdulai, the co-founder of Sandabbi School, and spending time at the school with the children.
What did you both learn about CHANCE for Africa and Sandabbi School?
Jack: I learnt that both CHANCE for Africa and Sandabbi School are very caring and kind groups of people; they do everything they can to help the children in their care. I do feel that the charity and the school could both use more support financially and physically, because everyone deserves an education and a helping hand now and again.
Sarah: I learned how truly different the schools over there are to schools back home. The children are a lot worse off than we are and they don’t have the luxuries that we do. Despite that, they’re all so friendly and welcoming - really lovely people! I also learned that the way the teachers run the school is totally different from over here.
What was your favourite part of the trip?
Sarah: My favourite part of the trip was meeting the kids in the school. They quickly made me feel at ease and treated me with a great deal of respect. I absolutely loved that part and will remember it for the rest of my life.
Jack: Without a doubt, it was getting to spend time with the kids and helping out at the school. It was a very nice and heart-warming experience. I wish that part had lasted longer.
What was the biggest culture shock?
Sarah: The biggest culture shock for me was the heat, which was absolutely boiling. I’d have a shower and within half an hour I’d feel like I needed another one because the dry heat made me sweat so much. The other thing was the food service, at home we all get our meals served to us at the same time, but in Ghana that isn’t the case!
Jack: For me, it was a change that you weren’t constantly clock watching or running on a timetable like we do in the UK. However, I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Ghanaian people seemed like the friendliest people I have ever met, at no point do I remember anyone being annoyed or upset and no conversation ever seemed forced.
How will the trip influence your work back in Scotland?
Jack: I feel like now I can see how lucky I am every day for the opportunities that living in Scotland has afforded me. I can recognise the struggles that others go through and still have a friendly smile and great attitude towards others.
Sarah: Since arriving home, it has made me realise how lucky we really are with all the things we have that people over there have never even heard of. When I got back to work, I explained all of this to our young people so I hope they took in what I said.
What would you say to someone who was thinking of visiting Ghana?
Jack: Research, research and more research is the biggest tip I can give. Take precautions required for a trip to Africa (injections, medical advice) and everything for a trip to a hot country. And if like me your trip isn’t a holiday, be prepared for some hard work and be willing to interact with everyone you meet.
Sarah: I would let them know both my good and bad experiences of Ghana and explain how busy and warm it is.
Jack is a Youth Work Assistant at Heart and Sound Ltd and Sarah is a Youth Support Worker at Crossroads Youth & Community Association.
This interview was undertaken as part of British Council Scotland's commitment to encourage young people to embrace international experiences in the Year of Young People 2018.