More often than not, when people find out where I am volunteering, their first question is generally, “why Ghana?” Sometimes, that question is followed with a secondary (and rather disappointing) “wait, is that in Africa?”
Let’s start with the easy question first. Yes, Ghana is in Africa. West Africa to be exact. Below is a nifty map to show you exactly where it is. See? You might have learned something new today.
The answer to the first question is not as easy. I stumbled upon IVHQ thanks to a chance meeting in a chocolate shop in Cusco, Peru last November. I struck up a conversation with a traveler who was sampling the same chocolate covered nuts as myself; a solid foundation for any blossoming friendship. She mentioned she lived in the city and taught English to local students through The International Volunteer Headquarters. She raved about the organization and the positive experience she was having. I stored this information in my back pocket and continued to eat the chocolate nuts. They were delicious.
Around May of 2015, the beginning symptoms of wanderlust slapped me hard across the face. As one does when these symptoms arise, I fell down the rabbit hole of Travel Pinterest boards and Air BnB listings, craving adventure and excitement in a far off land. Out of my back pocket came the IVHQ website and Voila! options beckoned me like a giant mansion on Halloween night. Wildlife sanctuaries in Madagascar! Carnival planning in Brazil! Teaching English in Cambodia! The choices poured over me as I greedily read each and every description. At the tale end of my exploration I landed on Africa. I should mention I have only traveled to Africa once, and this was for a Moroccan surf camp filled with exceptionally good looking Australian men. (Admittedly, this was hardly a true African experience.)
When I got to the Ghana page, the Child Care program caught my attention. I would care for children in orphanages. This is something I always wanted to do, but never knew how to do it. It was on that page I found the feeling I was looking for. That blissful combination of fear, nervousness and excitement. I didn’t want to go somewhere that didn’t make me feel alive. I was ready to feel raw and vulnerable and totally out of my element. Even though I was scared, I knew in my gut this was the one. I applied for the program on a Wednesday, got accepted on a Thursday and put my notice into work on a Friday. In all honesty, I haven’t felt this brave since I moved across the country for college. I have to tell you, it feels damn good.
There is an expression in improv called “follow your fear.” I do believe they’re on to something.
Life Discovery Lesson #1: Follow your fear.