For my co-op placement, I was living in a small village near Elmina in Ghana, West Africa. I was working as a volunteer with an NGO called the Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre. There are four core services: a day care centre for children and young adults with special needs, a child care and family support centre, a care home for those who are unable to live independently and support services for the village of Ennyindakurom, home to leprosy survivors and their families.
Daily Office Work
I worked mostly in the office. Daily, I accounted for petty cash transactions between different departments and made daily payments. I responded to emails that sometimes involved helping other local organisations with their applications for funding and each month I took the minutes of the management meetings. As a result, I really gained an insight into environmental and humanitarian issues in Ghana. I met people who required financial help just to go to school or others whose families were isolated because of their disability. I learned how the organisation responds in these situations even when decisions are not easy. I was encouraged to use my own initiative and took on projects after discussion with the Director. The Director was overseas meeting funding and supporter groups, so I took on more responsibility in keeping the office work up to date.
Working Towards the Centre's Goals
From my arrival, it was a continuous cycle of teaching and learning between the volunteers and the staff. They’re eager to learn skills we take for granted such as IT but in turn they taught us so much about African culture and traditions. Further, the management team gave me some invaluable insights into the history of the NGO including both its challenges and successes. It was an extremely rewarding placement where the work was flexible; there was scope to use whatever skills I had and I learned to create my own projects and really make a unique difference with the help of the staff!
This is just an example of some of the work I was involved in. As you can see, the work is varied, each day is different, but I feel so lucky to find myself at the heart of everything that was going on. Trust and transparency are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of the team I was working with and how I was given new challenges with each task and the ability to learn about NGOs more than I could have imagined.