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On Arrival and Volunteering in Tamale, Ghana

Arriving in Ghana in style

Shawna aka “Madam Paint-ah” on our Arrival

We arrived in Tamale just after dark and immediately as we came into the city, it felt much bigger than what I remember when I was here 4 years ago. I noticed that there were more lights, more billboards and definitely more vehicles on the road. I felt a little nervous that night-maybe Tamale had changed enough that it wouldn’t be like when I was here before. It also felt weird to think that I couldn’t just call up my friends who were here with me the first time…because they’ve gone home. It makes you realize that your memories about a place are entwined with the relationships you make there…that’s probably why many travelers choose not to go to places a second time around.

But it took just one day to see that Tamale would once again welcome me with open arms. I had a blast visiting my old neighbours-they have two new children now for a total of eight! And I was happy to see that my old house was in good shape with a new batch of expats experiencing Tamale for the first time. I really enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane with Skott and showing him around a place that made a very big impact in my life.

On Monday we began our volunteer work with Creating Change. My Ghanaian friend had set us up with this organization that is run by a young Canadian woman in Vancouver. I’m really impressed so far with how grassroots the organization is and how much they are actually getting done. I think bigger NGO’s are often really slowed down by admin work and bureaucracy.

After a couple days of getting organized it, it was decided that our first task with Creating Change would be to help paint a two-room school house in a village called Tua. Skott has stolen the hearts of all the kids in the village (and I think vice versa ; ) so I’ll let him tell you all about our first week on the job…

Skott on our Volunteering

A job??!

Wow, it’s been about 5 months, since I even thought about being accountable to an organization other than Skott’s Worldwide Lager Testing….but here we were, riding 15 minutes out of Tamale to the teeny village of Tua. When you think of rural Africa, I suspect this is what many would think of. One-room mud huts with thatch roofs. Possibly a couple dozen of them throughout the village. Goats and chickens roaming freely (although this has really been part of Africa since we arrived in Morocco). No electricity, and very limited water.

I am guessing Tua is home to around 40-50 children, although it is really tough to say. What I do know however, is that at best, these kids were coming to school wearing clothes that are caked with dirt. At worst, a pair of shorts may be held together by a thread, or the Ronaldo soccer jersey will have huge holes in it. And they will wear these same clothes every single day.

Tua's new school


There is an old school there, but the population has outgrown it. Currently two “classes” do the majority of their learning outside under the sun. And hence, the new school was built. It is a simple two-room structure, but enough to make sure all the kids can learn with a roof over their heads.

The painting seems to be the least we can do. It is hot…I have never sweated so much from so many different parts of my body. I wouldn’t call it comfortable (I feel like I should be wearing a diaper), but obviously it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Shawna and I paint with Matthew (Esa), who would be the head tradesman on this project. He has a friendly, relaxed style about him, as is typical here. It is awesome to hear about his six kids or about the funeral celebration he will be attending later that night.

And of course there are the children. About 2:00PM ever day so far, faces start peeking in the windows of where we are painting. These kids are so curious, and we can’t help but to want to get to know them a little too. We finish painting quickly so that they can show us their soccer skills or we can teach them to sing “Mmmm Mmmm Went The Little Green Frog One Day” (not sure how, but this seems to be the only kids song either of us can remember….help!) These kids, from the smallest infant being dragged around by her four-year old sister on up to the eldest of around fifteen are so incredible. The biggest smiles, the most incredible energy. I have no doubt Shawna and I will likely be arrested at the border for trying to “adopt” (i.e. kidnap?) one of these children.

Singing and Dancing!!!


Of course our favourite part is that they have actually created an incredibly beautiful rhythmic song for us. There are three words and a couple of hand claps in the whole song…. it goes like this:

I'm on percussion


Skott and Shawna (clap clap)
Skott and Shawna (clap clap)
Skott and Shawna (clap clap)

repeat forever…

I promise, they thought of this all themselves! You should see the dance moves which go along side it.

We only have four weeks to volunteer with Create Change: one down, three to go…. I had better get painting.

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7 Responses to “On Arrival and Volunteering in Tamale, Ghana”

  1. PostcardFromBK November 29, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Where does one apply to Skott’s Worldwide Lager Testing? Sounds like the best job in the world.
    PostcardFromBK recently posted..¡100 Pesos Falso!

    • Skott December 1, 2011 at 11:24 am #

      I can’t tell you for fear that you will replace me – but you are right, it is a wonderful job! :)

  2. Stephanie Weiss December 1, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Here are a few suggestions, as a teacher, that I have used:
    (most have actions you could teach them too!)

    - the ants go marching
    - B I N G O
    - down by the bay
    - head and shoulders knees and toes
    - hickory dickory doc
    - I’m a little teapot
    - itsy bitsy spider
    - jack be nimble jack be quick
    - london bridges
    - 3 blind mice
    - yankee doodle
    - mary had a little lamb
    - oh do you know the muffin man
    - old macdonald had a farm
    - ring around the rosie
    - 1, 2, buckle your shoe…
    - pop goes the weasle
    - rain rain go away
    - 10 lilttle monkeys jumping on the bed
    - you are my sunshine
    - this old man, he played 1….knick knack paddy wack…
    - twinkle twinkle little star
    - mmm mmm went the little green frog one day….

    Does that give you a good start? haha Have fun!!

    • Skott December 1, 2011 at 11:23 am #

      Wow – that’s a ton of ideas!!! Thanks Stephanie!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. The Perfect Day for a Last Day | Get Up and Globe - December 12, 2011

    [...] catch you up really quickly, our three weeks in Tamale went by really fast! As you saw from our first Tamale post, our volunteer task at Creating Change Now was to paint a school in a small village called Tua. We [...]

  3. 7 Super Shots: Epic Travel Adventures | Get Up and Globe - July 17, 2012

    [...] but it is one of my favourites. The photo was taken in the tiny village of Tua in Northern Ghana. Shawna and I were volunteering there for two weeks, painting their brand new school. Each day before we left we would play soccer with the children or [...]

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