Written by Gareth Robinson
Edited by Susan Robinson & Julie Knapp
Gareth Robinson, second year Sport and Exercise Science student, spent six weeks making a difference last summer in Ho, Ghana.
Gareth volunteered on a joint project between our University and charity, KickStart Ghana (KSG), an organisation set up by a Ghanaian and two British Trustees who are passionate about people in Ghana having every opportunity to succeed and the positive effects that sport and education can have on individuals and communities. Here is what Gareth had to say about his experience:
Can anyone volunteer?
Definitely, it doesn’t matter if you’ve done it all your life or if you have never done any volunteering before, if you have a good attitude and high motivation to help people and you’re on your way.
What did you have the opportunity to be involved in?
My days, Monday to Friday, were primarily split into three sections; teaching soft skills in lessons with 10-14 year olds, reading club with 6-10 year olds in the afternoon, developing basic English reading, and lastly coaching Dynamo FC men’s football team on an evening. Weekends were free to do as we pleased, which meant we were able to climb mountains, visit waterfalls and even go to the beach.
Did you feel like you were making a difference?
That was the main reason why you get stuck in when you’re out there, you are welcomed and wanted, not just by the kids and teachers but the whole community. Western knowledge is deemed interesting and important and everybody is willing to listen, learn and teach. Ghana’s education is coming on leaps and bounds but there is still a lot to do, I felt that with Leeds Beckett and KSG being there it vastly improves the kids summer and future life chances. Even if only the classes that I taught enjoyed and learned whilst I was there, that’s 80 more young adults with more knowledge than they would have had.
What experiences did you gain?
The experiences you gain from a trip like this go beyond what you can write, the feeling of pride for me was immense and coming back from Ghana for me was massively humbling. Working with children of all ages and athletes in Ghana will definitely shape what I want to do in the future. I would definitely go and volunteer again.
Would you recommend volunteering with KickStart Ghana to others?
I can’t express how much I would recommend this experience, just because Ghana isn’t a well-known place does not mean you can’t go and find out what it has to offer. KickStart and Leeds Beckett were unbelievably helpful, both when out there and at home in the UK. Training sessions in Leeds were set up and immediately made you feel at ease, and the Volunteering Team were constantly in touch whilst out in Africa. The £200 contribution which the University provided was particularly helpful for me, as a first-time traveller. When coming back to Leeds Beckett I have also been offered to return the following year as a Big Brother, which would mean I gain a further subsidised place in order for me to help and support the new batch of volunteers.
Education in Ghana has been improving over recent years but there is still a long way to go. VSO Ghana research shows that around 36% of the Ghanaian government budget is spent on salaries in education. This means that there is not sufficient investment in other areas such as facilities and textbooks. The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition argues that as a result of under financing of basic schools, about 3,900 schools are organised under trees, 4,000 under sheds and about 16,000 schools are without toilets whilst 800,000 school children are not receiving formal education in Ghana.
For more information about volunteering opportunities in Ghana for students or graduates interested in becoming a summer school volunteer or football coach, please visit the Leeds Beckett volunteering website.
Leeds Beckett University students can also apply for an Independent International Volunteering Bursary from our university. Please see the bursary website for more information, including help on finding the right organisation and type of volunteering for you.