We were delighted to host our second group of AECOM Ghana Exchange volunteers last month, who travelled out to Ghana to support our Building Better Schools programme. Hear all about what the group got up to during their ten day adventure in Ghana from the volunteers themselves:

“In March 2019, 15 AECOM employees from offices across the UK had the opportunity to visit Ghana and volunteer on a construction site as part of Sabre’s Building Better Schools Programme. We each committed to raising £1,500 towards Sabre’s work in the months leading up to our departure. Fundraising efforts featured a variety of activities including quiz nights, bake sales, raffles and social nights.

Most of us were fortunate to have opportunities to meet in person before the trip, and a WhatsApp group chat helped us to coordinate flights, visas and immunisation queries. We flew into Accra on Saturday evening and, after forming a plan to recover some lost luggage, we enjoyed a drink at our hotel bar.

On Sunday morning we met our tour guide and driver for the week – Isaac Aziawo and Uncle Solomon – and set off to visit some of the tourist highlights around Accra. Our first stop was a local church and school in James Town with views of the fishing boats lining the harbour, which was previously used to keep slaves before their transportation as part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We then visited Independence Square and President Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Mausoleum to learn about Ghana’s journey to independence. Once we’d concluded our morning of sightseeing, we began our journey west along Ghana’s southern coast line, reaching Anomabu Beach Resort in time to see the stunning sunset.

On Monday morning we were greeted by the local Sabre team and taken to see both a government school and a school built by Sabre where the teachers have been through Sabre’s Transformational Teacher Training programme. It was wonderful to see the teaching practice in action first-hand and the exemplary playground and outdoor learning area we would be building. We continued our journey to visit the two sites that we would be working on and received a briefing from the local construction team who would be guiding us and sharing their expertise over the next few days. We looked at plans for the outdoor learning area and playground consisting of two four-seater seesaws, two tyre walks, hopscotch, a rope bridge, steps, monkey bars, a balance beam and an agility seesaw. After deciding how to split the team to evenly cover both sites we spent the last few hours of the afternoon at the beach.

On Tuesday the hard work began as we sawed and erected timber columns, dug multiple holes and cast concrete. Lunches were provided on site by the local community, or at a local café. For the rest of the week we focussed on sawing, chiselling, and sanding the timber playground items, learning new skills as we went. The manual labour was more intense than we anticipated, particularly in the relentless heat. We got into a routine of taking regular water breaks, and rotated tasks during peak hours in the sun to ensure everyone rested. The excitement from the children as they watched our progress and asked us questions kept us inspired and motivated.

On Friday, our final day on site, we completed painting everything in the colours of the Ghanaian flag: red, gold (yellow) and green, including the five point black star. Alongside a great sense of satisfaction and pride in the work, we also marvelled at the ability of the site team to be able to complete such phenomenal work in the heat using manual techniques. Once the site works were finished we jumped back on the bus and travelled to KO-SA Beach Resort in Elmina.

Isaac did a great job informing us of local customs, traditions and delicacies, introducing us to local foods throughout the trip such as fufu, banku, and red red. We spent our final few days learning even more about the history and culture of Ghana. We visited Cape Coast Castle and Museum – one of the largest former slave-holding sites in the world, where we learnt about the heart-breaking history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We explored the bustling Elmina fish market and picked up locally produced souvenirs from a charity supporting working women in the town. We travelled to Kakum National Park and braved the 350m long suspended canopy walk, before finishing the weekend with a sensational performance from a local dance company. The group performed several traditional dances, showing off their acrobatic and fire eating skills, and summoned us all to get involved.

On the day of our return we first stopped at the schools and opened the site to the children, watching them play and enjoy their new playground. We prepared to part ways and said our goodbyes to the site teams, school children, teachers and members of the communities that we had spent the last week forming bonds with. We had received a warm welcome from everyone we met throughout our trip, including the Chief of the Village of one site who joined us for a photo before we headed to the airport.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope that the work we completed will make a difference to the communities for generations to come, encouraging children to enjoy and engage in their education.”

Here are some of the wonderful thoughts that the volunteers had about their trip:

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime to experience the Ghanaian culture and volunteering experience with such a great blend of people. As this was my first volunteering experience, I can confidently say that I would definitely do it all over again! The food, the people, the culture and most especially the smiles on the children’s faces and coming together of the community to assist in the build is something I will not forget in a hurry. I am grateful for this experience.” – Tobi Owoiya

‘An Amazing Experience- loved it!’

‘Incredible experience’

‘Fantastic Trip- one of the best things I have done. I really had a fantastic time’

‘Sabre are doing a good job. We learnt a lot about different practical learning techniques, using bottle lids etc. It’s great they are doing such innovative teaching’.

If you would like to support the fundraising efforts of the Ghana Exchange volunteers then follow this link to their fundraising page to donate: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/ghanaexchange19/476029