Monday, March 17, 2014

'Perceptions can be deceiving' - Ben Powell's thoughts from Ghana.

This blog post was written by ICS volunteer, Ben Powell whilst on his placement in Ghana. Since returning to the UK, Ben has joined our Alumni Board as well as swapping his job in a bakery for one supporting disabled students at his local school. 

"Driving into the capital city of Ghana, Accra was an emotional experience for me. Having never been on a plane or our of the United Kingdom before! I’d never seen in the flesh what was now in front of my very eyes apart from on a TV, which never seems real, no matter how many times you see it! There were people begging, children working, and smiles on faces.  

At first I was confused, I couldn't understand how the people of Accra could be so happy, with the lifestyle they lead. It was so different to my own personal experience and everything I was used to. My perception of poverty and of Ghana was about to change drastically.

Now having completed my project in Africa, I feel I have surpassed my expectations. My placement has completely changed my opinions on happiness and what it means in every way.  

A tough day was felt by all on our first proper day out into the field. We traveled to a disability rehab centre in Tamale, and although there were some very happy people there, you can’t help but think that their life would be easier if they lived in a more developed country with free health care.

ICS volunteers, Ben and Claire at the Tamale Rehab Centre 
The hardest thing for me to comprehend was how many of the people of Ghana could be so happy when they don't have access to basic things such as clean water or education.

My inability to fathom their happiness came from my previous perception of Ghana - driven by western media and the images I have seen. I've always believed 'it’s not the mouth it comes out of, but the mind it goes into',  you should never make an assumption on something by the words or opinions of someone else. 

I was often shocked at how different things were in Ghana compared to how I saw things in my head - my perceptions were built on images of pity. As much as there is pity and sorrow here, there is just as much if not more, happiness and laughter. Does living in a developed country make us happy? Does having money really make us happy?

In order for things to improve, I believe the people of Ghana need sustainable development; I feel that they want to stand on their own two feet, but they need our support in doing this. I hope I, along with my team, International Service and our partners in the ICS scheme are adding to. I am confident that the work of the ICS scheme is helping to set sturdy concrete foundations that can be built upon.

My ICS placement has shown me the importance of sharing knowledge and the wisdom I have taken from this amazing opportunity will stay with me forever." 

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