Volunteer Experiences - Mary Kathlene Crawford's (MK) Reflection
Coming to volunteer teach at Westminster Comprehensive School has been the most challenging, yet most rewarding 6 months of my life. Just shy of completing my thesis before obtaininga MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, (TESOL), I decided to take some time off from my very stressful and hectic schedule and come to Ghana. I not only wanted to experience a new culture, but through that experience I was hoping to learn something more about myself. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I arrived, but I was just happy to come and help and serve in anyway I could.
For those who are thinking about coming to Westminster to volunteer, but might have some reservations -- I want to assure you that you are in good hands. I have found Ghanaians to be the most hospitable of Africans on the continent. From the moment I arrived in Accra, I felt safe and welcomed. When I arrived in Fumesua, I was pleased to meet my host family (the family of the school's director). The school secretary, Madam Felicia Abotsi, had prepared supper for me as well as my room. After previously traveling to Senegal, I have to admit, I was not expecting the most comfortable of accommodations. However, I was pleased to find a lovely, spacious room with a very comfortable full size bed, a strong working overhead fan, and best of all -- my very own bathroom! My Ghanaian room was so much nicer than my room in the US!
After resting for a day, I was finally brought to the school. After meeting the kind and distinguished headmaster, Mr. Henry Osei Tutu, I learned that I would be teaching English to classes 4, 5, and 6. At first I was quite excited and enthusiastic about this opportunity to teach English. This is what I had in mind when coming to Ghana in the first place.
However, my excitement slowly grew into frustration. Last year I taught English to Somali refugees. I felt confident and knew I could teach and that I was a good teacher, but never, ever have I had to teach under such (in American standards) difficult circumstances. The average class size is about 40 pupils. The only resources the school is able to provide are textbooks and a blackboard.
The weather alone made teaching so difficult for me. It's hard to read a story and be in character when you are sweating from every pore in your body, but by the grace of God, with time and with the help of the wonderful teachers and staff at Westminster, I became acclimated to the weather and to everything else that brought me frustration during my first month in Fumesua.
I have never stood in front of a more eager bunch of students than the students at Westminster. The students here are so friendly, respectful, and welcoming. They all wanted to talk to me, touch me -- know me! They are truly appreciative for every little thing you give them (not like most American students I know).
I found the students especially eager to learn anything you have to share. They were very attentive listeners which I found so refreshing and rewarding. I have to say I felt very free with the students at Westminster. I tried to make myself very available to them and because of this, I had a great rapport with them.
These kids have really touched my heart and brought so much joy to my life. I will miss all the students and the staff at Westminster very much. They really taught me a lot. I know for a fact living here has made me a stronger, more patient, and definitely more appreciative person. Ghana has become my second home. I really admire Ghanaians for their resilience, their hardworking nature, and best of all, their happy-go-lucky spirit.
Mary Kathlene Crawford - March 2010