The Ghana Exchange Volunteer Trip was developed to support our Building Better Schools programme, specifically the Improved Learning Environments project which applies aspects of our core model school design to existing government schools, including outdoor learning areas, playgrounds and classroom renovations. Having a group of volunteers working alongside our Building Better Schools team really helped to expedite the work and reduce construction time.

Alfred Osei, Senior Engineer, Sabre Ghana said “We have a long term relationship with AECOM as our corporate partner and the Ghana Exchange only strengthened that bond. The 14 volunteers were a great help and meant that within the week we were able to provide two schools with a playground facilities. There was a great exchange of knowledge in both directions, and having the volunteers working with us meant the project cost was reduced and the construction time was shortened.  We also made some great friends and enjoyed having the AECOM group on site”

Hear about our first Ghana Exchange Volunteer Trip with AECOM from volunteer Nardia Pyne.

“Akwaaba! A phrase we all became very accustomed to.

In June of last year, AECOM launched its very first Ghana Exchange volunteer trip with the Sabre Charitable Trust; an opportunity for AECOM employees to visit Ghana and experience construction in a developing country by volunteering on a construction site as part of Sabre’s Building Better Schools Programme.

14 AECOM employees from offices across the UK & Ireland, and the US, were fortunate enough to secure places on the trip. Each volunteer committed to raising £1,500 towards Sabre’s work in the months leading up to their departure in March 2018. Fundraising efforts featured a variety of activities including quiz nights, galas, bake sales and a range of sponsored fitness activities; enabling the team to raise a grand total of £21,538.

Being that the group was made up of employees from a variety offices, most of us met for the first time on arrival in Accra, and had the opportunity to bond over some lost luggage, varied flight experiences and ice breakers at dinner.

Come Sunday morning, the trip got into full swing! At breakfast we met with our tour guide and driver for the week – Isaac Aziawo and Uncle Solomon. After a quick briefing, we set off to visit some of the tourist highlights around Accra. In traditional Ghanaian style, our first stop for this Sunday morning was a local Church in Usher Town, an old colonial neighbourhood in Accra. We arrived just in time for the Sunday school praise and worship, and after some singing and dancing, we continued on to visit a few other local sights, including the President Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Mausoleum and Independence Square. Once we’d concluded our morning of sightseeing, we began our journey west along Ghana’s stunning southern coast line to the second of our three homes for the trip; KO-SA Beach Resort, Elmina.

We spent our Monday morning travelling further west to Takoradi, where we visited local schools. At Holy Child Kindergarten Centre of Excellence, a school built by Sabre, where all the teachers have been through the Transformational Teacher Training, it was wonderful to see the teaching practice in action.

Following our trip to the schools, we journeyed on to visit the two sites (Eikwe and Ngalekpole kindergarten) where we would spend the next four days working with the Sabre team. We received a warm welcome from Sabre site engineers Rodney and Alfred, who gave us a tour of the kindergarten sites, and a brief induction on the work to be completed; although not before tracking down the Chief of the village, so that he could give the group a formal welcome. We returned to our home for the next 4 nights, also known as paradise – the Ankobra Beach Resort.

The hard work commenced on Tuesday as our team split in half to cover the two sites. Site activities involved a lot of manual labour, including the clearing of debris and vegetation, levelling the ground, manual mixing and casting of concrete, carpentry works and general construction of playground components. Each playground had a hop scotch, monkey bars, see-saw, canopy walkway, balance beam, tyre steps and an elevated walkway.  All were painted in the colours of the Ghanaian flag; Red, Gold (Yellow) and Green, not forgetting the all-important five point black star. The days working on site were far from easy, particularly in the relentless heat. We soon learnt that regular breaks and the consumption of plenty of water were essential. The smiles from the faces of the school children as they watched and waited eagerly beyond the site boundaries, growing increasingly excited as they saw our gradual progress, also did well to keep us inspired and motivated.

Powering through the tough working conditions, we managed to complete the work on both sites. Alongside a great sense of satisfaction and pride in the work we’d be able to complete, we also marvelled at the ability of the Sabre site team to be able to complete such phenomenal work in this heat using manual techniques every day. Once the site works were finished we prepared to part ways, but not before exchanging heartfelt goodbyes – we’d all created great bonds with the site teams, school community and the ladies at the local restaurant who had provided our lunch each day we were on site.

Our last couple of days were spent learning even more about the history and culture of Ghana. Isaac had done well to inform us of local customs, traditions and delicacies and explained to us that we could not leave Ghana without truly going Ghana – “Today, we go Ghana!” – his reference to eating local foods such as fufu, banku, groundnut soup and red red. Indeed we went Ghana, and we all thoroughly enjoyed doing so.

We spent our penultimate day with a visit to Kakum National Park and braving its 350m long suspended canopy walk,  before making our way on to 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.

The day was wrapped up by enjoying a sensational performance from Akomapa African Drumming and Dancing Company, which did well to lift our spirits and give our final night in Ghana an entirely new lease of life. The group performed several dances from a variety of countries around Africa, showing off their acrobatic and fire eating skills, and summoning us all to get involved (there was lots of hip shaking).

The trip was amazing to say the least, and certainly brought each of our inner Ghanaians to the surface, leaving us heavy-hearted at the prospect of leaving and now eagerly anticipating our return”

Check out some of the thoughts from the rest of the AECOM Ghana Exchange Volunteers

“I had a wonderful time volunteering for Sabre as part of the AECOM Ghana Exchange! It was great to see first-hand the fantastic work that Sabre does investing in the education of kindergarten children in southern Ghana. It’s safe to say that this nation’s stunning southern coastline will have a piece of my heart forever” – Ife Fanibi

“The air conditioning on that bus saved my life” – Lilian Gowans

“So Impressed by what they do with the little resources they have “– Lilian Gowans

“An enjoyable and memorable experience from start to finish” – Joseph Farrell

“Ghana is a wonderful country and everyone was so kind and welcoming” – Joseph Farrell

“The people are some of the friendliest you could meet, we were met with warmth and kindness everywhere we went” – Louise Marron

“Hopefully we were able to make a little bit of a difference to the communities we visited and help leave a positive and lasting footprint through the play areas we built” – Louise Marron

“An amazing experience that has left me eagerly anticipating my return” – Nardia Pyne