Night soon came and I had to sleep after a long journey from the northern part of Ghana to the southern part of Ghana, which should not take you less than 12 hours. My night was not a stress-reliever but rather a night of mental stress from the trip; thinking of whether I had to be there in the first place and waiting to be deployed in the name of volunteerism and community work. Though I managed to close my eyes, I intermittently snapped out of it till it was morning. Hmmmm!
Morning came and the line “the D – day is here” hit me so hard that I relapsed into my nightmare of whether I had made the right decision or not? I stepped out of bed and into the shower still holding myself to ransom for taking this decision.
We set off from the Country Office at exactly 6:12 am with our Volunteer Liaison (Mr. Isaac Obodai) and had to pick up some few colleagues as they arrived from their homes for deployment. The expectation to see the family I had made from PST (Pre-Service Training) kept me calm as well as my adrenaline level. After an hour when everyone was picked and we finally hit the road, trying to navigate our way out of the capital city, Accra, I was still at ease because I had a lot to feed my eyes on while stirring out the window. After hours on the road from Accra to Cape Coast, we finally initiated a curve where we were told that we are almost there. Little did I know that the statement had a “placebo effect” to make us feel good. Then we started on a long, dusty, untarred, never ending and yet no signage road for about 20 minutes with high speed. My name was mentioned, “One Danny, we are going to your community”. That moment, I relapsed into my nightmare without a second thought.
Finally appearing out of the “woods”, we saw the first set of houses. Then my Volunteer Liaison said, “One Danny, this is one section of your community” while we moved along and eventually arrived in front of one mud structure on a high ground. At that moment, I shouted, “in the middle of nowhere” and started cursing the day I considered volunteerism as the way to go. In the heat of the moment, I had colleague Volunteers helping me to locate my luggage. I kept refusing REALITY and patting myself on the back that it was just a prank……hmmm! But all my coping strategies lost potency the very moment my luggage was found and then I was shown the room where I was to spend not just the night but 10 months in as a CorpsAfrica/Ghana Volunteer. Oh! God help me! A few minutes on, my colleagues drove off in the bus. It was then that reality hit me, and I realized I was in this alone.
I began moving away from denial and started accepting reality. So I moved to greet my host mother (Mama Jane) and entered the room I was to spent the rest of my days as a Volunteer in. There, I unpacked my stuff and quickly picked out my phone to find consolation in surfing the internet but a hard truth I had to live by was that the entire community did not have good access to network (for either calls or surfing the internet) unless under or around particular trees (about 2) before good network could be accessed. Evening soon came and before I could run into my new-found home, I begun feeling a sense of belonging as a result of the entourage of community members that came to welcome me - speaking a mixture of English and “Ewe” (a local language spoken by the people of the Volta region of Ghana) with smiles telling me their emotional state due to my arrival. The next morning, two things happened which actually calmed me.
First, I was visited by a senior citizen (an aged man who bears my name but is affectionately called “Thunder Blow”) of my community at around 6:56am – 7:05am. He shared with me his perspectives on life, his life as a volunteer (he cautioned me that I was not going to find it easy but joy will come at the end) and ended by introducing me to his family. I felt overwhelmed by their reception especially since they did not even know anything about me.
Secondly, I returned home to meet my host family who treated me as if I had been a part of the family from infancy. I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely set of young twins who taught me a couple of lines in their local language and made me laugh a lot. This encounter helped me prepare for the CorpsAfrica journey of #LocalsHelpinglocals.