Helen Denyer, Volunteer from the UK
I volunteered with Cheerful Hearts Foundation for 3 months from November 2011 until the end of January 2012. My main role was to teach Mathematics at Maranatha prep-school to the primary classes 3, 4 and 5. However, I was also able to occasionally teach German to the older students (in Junior High School) and replace any absent teacher for any of the classes. Furthermore, I was able to get involved in all other school activities such as the “Our day” celebration at the end of the school term and I helped the school set up a website, which should in the future aid them in attracting more prospective students and volunteers.
Before my arrival in Ghana I was very worried and nervous about everything, but Eric was very good at communicating with me and I was able to ask him any questions I had about the placement, the school, the culture or the country in general. Moreover, it was more than easy to spot him and Bright at the airport and I immediately felt in safe hands.
My host family for my entire stay of 3 months was very carefully selected and I have never in my life felt so at home, so far away from home. I became part of the family and through this I was able to experience the full Ghanaian culture and way of life. I was able to go everywhere with my new family members and so never felt alone or left out.
All students at my school were extremely curious and wanted to know everything about the new white volunteer and her home country. I must admit teaching a group of over excited young children is not always easy, it is challenging, but therefore it was even more fulfilling to have completed a lesson successfully. In addition, there was always someone there to help and aid me in any difficult situation and I had no difficulties finding someone to answer any of my questions.
One trend that I have notice for all Ghanaians is their ability to make you feel welcome, make you laugh and simply have a good and relaxing time. This was also the case for all of the staff at my school and by the end of my stay I truly felt part of the Maranatha school community.
During my stay in Ghana I was really able to do whatever my heart desired in my spare time. If this was to go travel around the country, or just stay at home watching TV, it was really up to me and I always knew I had the support of Cheerful Hearts Foundation in whatever I decided to do.
This experience has helped to make me a more tolerant, open minded, culturally aware, patient and open person. Furthermore, I was able to make friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime and create memories that will definitely stay with me forever.
If I could only put into words how much this experience has taught me and how much I value all the wonderful lessons I learnt along the way, I would – however – the right words just seem to be missing, so you will just have to come for yourself and find out how it is.
Now that I have left my host family and Ghana I even feel very homesick at times and wish to return in the near future.
Rosemarie Ricks, Volunteer from the U.S
Having had a long history of volunteering which included serving with the Peace Corp, nothing prepared me for the life transforming experience of Cheerful Hearts Foundation.
Due to my experience of seventeen years as a certified nurse-midwife I was assigned to work at a maternity ward in Kasoa, a town of approximately 60,000 and rapidly growing, by January 20th 180 babies were delivered there. The centre is staffed by seven midwifes, they work under unimaginable conditions. The supplies are scarce. Cheerful Hearts does a remarkable job in their attempt to help. There is an acute need for basic supplies such as gloves, bulb syringes, chord clamps, and towel to dry babies off. The needs are too numerous to state here.
During a short break, I was able to visit one of the fishing villages where Cheerful Hearts is extremely active in the effort to put an end to child exploitation; they are experiencing some success in their efforts. I met some of the children who now attend school including a thirteen year old girl who is an orphan.
This girl really touched my heart. At one of the schools that I visited, the head master said “we need books” in one classroom there were more than one hundred children being cared for by a teacher. I must add they were all less than seven years old.
I am humbled and blessed and wish the founders of Cheerful Hearts Eric and Bright good health and success, as they continue in their efforts to transform lives in the numerous places where they work tirelessly.
Joshua Zanker, intern from Australia
From July to October 2011, I worked as an intern with Cheerful Hearts in the human rights area. Although I have spent some other time in Africa, this was my first time in Ghana. I was certainly a bit nervous about the trip, but seeing Eric Agyemang’s smiling face as he greeted me at the airport quickly put me at ease.
As I write this I can’t believe how quick these last three months have gone, and I have not had one regret about coming here. For the first six weeks, most of my time was spent in the fishing village of Nyanyano. I was ‘Project Coordinator’ for the ‘End Child Labour Now’ campaign, which assisted children involved in child labour in getting an education. For the first few weeks, much of my time was spent interviewing community members, which included children, fishermen, beach vendors, sellers and community elders. I thoroughly enjoyed this part as I learned so much and grew to really love the community. From there, we started conducting formal interviews with the children, with the assistance of a group from University of Washington, which I had the privilege of overseeing. Once they were finished, we then conducted follow up interviews with the parents before selecting those that would receive sponsorship from Cheerful Hearts. During this time, I also worked on several project proposals for funding from various aid agencies, including the U.N. In this, we designed community education classes which are designed to empower the community while reducing the rate of children involved with child labour. The aim is to eventually eradicate child labour from Nyanyano, and it was amazing to have a real part in the project.
I was also involved in HIV/AIDS campaign in the local schools, targeting ages 12 to 15. This was a great experience, and I learnt a lot from it.
During the second half of my stay, I then started teaching at one of the local schools. My placement was at a school where some of the sponsored attended, so I was also able to monitor their progress and keep an eye on them. I was teaching three days a week, while spending the other two days working on the child labour project. I taught maths to class four, five and six, and I had an amazing time. The kids were great, and it was an eye opener seeing how the education system works in Ghana. The teachers were all really helpful and I felt I made a real contribution to the school, while learning so much myself.
While the work as an intern was fantastic, it was not the only thing that made my stay in Ghana so enjoyable. The home situation was fantastic, and I think that I had the best cook in Ghana! The food was so good, even though it took some time getting used to. All the facilities were fine, and I was even washing all my own clothes by the end. I had a really good relationship with my host family, and I felt that Eric was really approachable whenever I had problems or issues.
In my own time, I found several places and activities that I loved heaps. Ghana is such an interesting place to spend some time, and it was never overwhelming. The people are so friendly, and I never once felt in any danger, even though we did quite a bit of travelling. The weather was great, even though a bit hotter than back home.
I cannot think of any things that I would change if I had my time again. Cheerful Hearts were extremely helpful and accommodating throughout my stay, and I have no hesitation in recommending them to future interns or volunteers. It is not all easy, as my first couple weeks I did find it a challenge to adjust and get used to the way of life. One thing I did learn is that it helps to be patient in Africa. Things never go according to plan, so it’s best just to ride the waves and enjoy the ride. If I can, I will certainly be back, either to work with Cheerful Hearts again, or just for a visit. The members of Cheerful Hearts I remember always, especially Eric, Angie and Bright. What an amazing experience.
Eliza Mette, intern from the U.S.
I’m currently a senior at The George Washington University. This past summer, I spent a month volunteering with Cheerful Hearts Foundation, from mid July to mid August. From the moment I contacted Eric in January, 2011, he was enthusiastic about every aspect of my internship. He wanted to know exactly what I wanted to do in Ghana, where I wanted to live, what I wanted to do in my spare time, etcetera. He was so excited about my trip to Ghana, and he honestly made my month in Ghana one of the most amazing of my life.
My time in Ghana was spent mostly at the Kasoa Government Hospital in the Maternity Unit. For anyone interested in obstetrics, nursing or midwifery, this tends to be a very busy hospital with lots of action. The busiest time is during the night, so I ended up working 3 night shifts while I was there. As long as you show interest and the desire to learn, the midwives will teach you what they know. When I arrived for my first shift, I had no knowledge concerning delivery, but by the end of the night, I was delivering babies on my own. Nothing is more rewarding than having the mothers thank you with a smile for delivering their babies. I also became experienced in performing palpations and examinations, and counseling the women accordingly. One of the highlights of working with this hospital was being able to observe what it was lacking and actually do something about it – I was able to take my internship contribution money and donate to the hospital the supplies it needed most.
I also spent time at the St. Gregory Catholic Clinic at the UN Refugee Camp. I spent time in the maternity ward here, and accompanied the physicians on duty on their rounds. I also participated in maternal education sessions, which included hypertension counseling, good nutrition choices, and breastfeeding techniques. I enjoyed working at this hospital because the physicians and nurses were, for the most part, eager to learn and improve the quality of the care they were providing.
Eric and Bright kept us entertained on the weekends by taking us all over Ghana to visit crocodiles, castles, and fishing villages. Both were truly invested in keeping us happy and busy. My host family was also wonderful. Mark, Afua and the kids immediately welcomed me into their home and ensured that I was always comfortable. I really enjoyed coming home at night and talking with Afua and Mark about their days. I also loved going to Eric’s house after work, helping Angie with dinner in the kitchen, eating as a family, and then playing music with fellow interns and Eric on his keyboard and guitar. The people at Cheerful Hearts have become some of my dearest friends – the kind you keep for a lifetime. I definitely plan on visiting Ghana again in the near future, not only to work but also to visit my newfound family.
I recommend this internship to anyone who in interested in public health, medicine, education, or simply in endeavoring to make the world a better place. That is what Eric and Bright do – they try to find solutions to the problems they observe around them.Email: email@example.com o
Alex Boulos, intern from the U.S.
I am a 1st year MPH student at George Washington University. I interned with Cheerful Hearts Foundation from Mid-July to August 20, 2011. My time in Ghana with Cheerful Hearts Foundation was both rewarding and educational. It allowed me the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of subjects while also gaining hands-on experience.
One of the reasons my trip was so successful was the fact that I was able to identify with CHF’s simple mission of improving people’s lives. Eric, CHF’s director, is truly concerned about the issues that plague Ghana’s rural communities and hinder development.
My work in Ghana was divided between the UN Liberia refugee camp hospital (St. Gregory Catholic Clinic) and the Kasoa Government hospital. At the Liberia camp, my mornings were spent shadowing the Doctor as he did rounds, which proved to be extremely educational as Dr. Boadum was an eager teacher. Afterwards I worked in the severely understaffed emergency room with one nurse. Duties in the emergency room included giving injections, taking vital signs and setting lines for incoming patients, suturing, and cleaning and redressing wounds. While I had some practice in this field, this opportunity allowed me unprecedented hands-on experience. The best part of my job in the emergency room was the opportunity to interact with patients or their relatives, through whom you learn so much.
I spent the majority of my time at the St. Gregory Catholic Clinic at the UN Liberia Refugee Camp. However, on the weekends (Saturday overnight shift) and occasionally in the afternoon, I worked at the Kasoa Government hospital. My work there was mainly in the maternity ward where I worked as a midwife. I had learned how to deliver from a previous work experience in Haiti, however, my time at Kasoa hospital allowed me to gain invaluable hands-on experience in the delivery room. On my first night on duty, I met with a midwife named Cecilia who patiently taught me everything I needed to know. When 3 women simultaneously started delivering, I was forced to conduct a delivery on my own for the first time. After that experience, I felt comfortable attending to deliveries without any assistance and continued to do so throughout my time in Ghana.
Another aspect of my work at the St. Gregory Catholic Clinic was more public health focused. While at the hospital, I observed several behaviors, which put both the patients and the health care staff at increased risk. At the Liberia camp, I worked with the Medical director to hold a meeting to discuss the proper use of personal protective equipment and proper isolation from a patient’s body fluids. I also held a small training session on the proper handling of sharps and other invasive tools. At the Kasoa hospital, another intern (Eliza Mette) and I went to a medical supply store and purchased several items to help protect both the staff and the mothers in the maternity ward.
Finally, on the weekends, Eric and Bright took us around Ghana, where we got to see some interesting monuments and visited Kakum National park. I immersed myself in the culture, tasting all the delicious meals prepared by our amazing host, Angie. We got to eat local foods like Kelewele, which quickly became my favorite!
Our accommodation was very comfortable and after dinner, we would often sit with Eric in his living room and play music or talk about a variety of topics.
Overall, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to make some great friends, learn about a country, its culture and its people, and help those in need, all the while gaining an immense amount of experience in the health care field. Interning with CHF is more than just volunteering; it’s an experience that combines your desire to help people and the educational opportunity of a lifetime.
Thank you, Eric, Bright, Angie and all of the CHF staff for a great summer.
p.s. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin Casey, intern from the U.S.
I am a second year nursing student from California and I worked as an Obstetric/Midwifery Intern at Kasoa Government Hospital. Through this internship I was not only able to observe but also assist the midwives in physical examinations and deliveries. The experience of working at the hospital was not only unforgettable but also invaluable as I was able to learn many important clinical skills that I would not have learned until further in my nursing program.This was an experience unlike any other that I have or would have experienced in the United States. Through this internship I learned not just through observation but through physical hands on participation as well. I was able to assist in the delivery of two babies with only verbal instruction from the midwife standing next to me! I found my work environment to be very encouraging and everyone was very eager to impart his or her knowledge. They made sure to explain procedures and techniques thoroughly ensuring that I understood not only the way in which it was done but also the purpose of it as well. From the first day I was immediately welcomed into this community and treated as a member of the team. I enjoyed not only the work itself but the work environment as well as each nurse took the time to get to know me and made sure that I was learning as much as possible. I was surprised by the outward kindness and friendliness of not just those I worked with but those in the surrounding town as well.
From the moment I arrived in Ghana I was warmly greeted and welcomed by not just Eric but my host family as well. Eric was very helpful and throughout the entirety of my stay in Ghana he was constantly making sure that I was comfortable and enjoying my stay. I was impressed not just by his desire to ensure that I was taken care of but also by his sincere effort to get to know me. Eric is a very easygoing individual and made my time in Ghana very enjoyable especially during my free time. He was very eager to show me all that Ghana has to offer and through him as well as my host family I believe I was able to gain a true cultural experience. My host family was just as accommodating and generous, making my stay very comfortable and enjoyable. They were very attentive and concerned that I felt not only included as a member of the family but also that I was not in want of anything. In the evenings I would spend my time talking with the adults and playing with their little daughter, Alice. I became very fond of my host family and hope that I will be able to visit them soon.
Overall I would recommend this program to everyone for the invaluable learning experiences and opportunity to learn about another culture. I sincerely enjoyed both my work and my experience with Cheerful Hearts Foundation and having gone to study abroad with other organizations, I have come to realize just how unique Cheerful Hearts Foundation is in their consistent desire make interns/volunteers have an memorable and worthwhile learning experience. Please feel free to email me with any questions, as I would love to share with you more of my experience in Ghana.
Lucas Healy, a volunteer from the U.S.
I am a fourth year University of California at Santa Cruz student studying abroad in Ghana from July 2010 until 2011. I took this opportunity to volunteer with Cheerful Hearts Foundation at the same time. My experience has been amazing. I have been trained by GIIP (global information internship program) to provide organizations with basic technical needs, but also specialize in web design and mobile technologies for social advocacy.
This allowed me to work directly with Eric as we set up a mobile technology system so the organization can better organize. So my experience misses the community health and educator aspects of volunteering, but I do think I have seen the internal workings of Cheerful Hearts Foundation in doing so.
I have to say that working with Eric and his entire crew, I have been blessed. The entire staff treated me as a brother and not just an intern or volunteer. My opinion matters and I am appreciated. Eric constantly looks after me to make sure I am happy. So I have really enjoyed my experience.
More importantly I have gained an understanding for the organization’s motives and style. Of the mess of organizations working for social good in Ghana, Cheerful Hearts Foundation stands out among the rest. Eric and his team work selflessly. Unlike most organizations, they appreciate the good they are doing and take very little in return. Their style is amazing as well. They work within the community and with the students. Eric is in a unique position as a headmaster at The Great Promise School, and he takes advantage of this by working within the local schools and hospitals.
If anyone wants to do a internship or volunteer for an organization in Ghana and they want a good local experience in doing so I would recommend Cheerful Hearts. They work with the community, in the community, and this is so unique and beautiful. More importantly your work and money goes directly to the target community that you work with.
I love Cheerful Hearts and the whole team and really appreciate the opportunity to work with such special people in such a special place. Kasoa is truly a unique place in Ghana.
Feel free to e-mail me at: email@example.com with any questions.
Much Gratitude and Love
Hannah Candassamy, Intern from the UK
experience, providing me with the chance to work within a vital community organisation that works tirelessly to support the Awutu-Senya District in a number of social issues. Working in the CHF office, I was able to support the running of the organisation through creating fundingproposals, improving existing communications channels and setting up a system to evaluate CHF volunteers’ experiences.
The energy and endless motivation of the CHF staff was inspiring to see, along with their determination to see projects through and their work to educate and inform their community. The staff’s friendly and supportive approach towards interns made any potential cultural barriers disappear and provided a relaxed but active work environment.
As part of my internship, I stayed with a host family which was a convenient 10 minute walk away from the office in an area that I always felt safe in. My experience of living with a Ghanaian family was a hugely valuable one. I had fun playing with their children and enjoyed engaging in discussions with the husband and wife to find out more about life in Ghana. They were so welcoming and friendly, that by the end of my placement it was very sad to say goodbye.
The Cheerful Hearts Foundation continues to do valuable work for their community and continuously look at ways to improve and expand the areas they focus their efforts on. I felt very happy to be part of such a positive organisation which truly engages within the community they work in. CHF completely value the time their volunteers put into the charity, which ensured that I had a productive and hugely enjoyable experience in a beautiful country
Lucian Reed-Drake, Intern from the UK
I had an incredibly rewarding and wonderful experience with Cheerful Hearts Foundation. I volunteered as a teacher in 3 schools. I was an English, History and Maths teacher to students 16 - 18 years and as a primary school teacher in most subjects to 6-8 year olds. I also volunteered as an assistant football coach.
Before arrival in Ghana, the director Eric, was in constant contact with me and always answered any questions or queries I had. My host accommodation was well chosen, clean and comfortable. What impressed me the most with this organisation was that immediately I felt there was a genuine consideration for the volunteers and interns that arrive. Eric and his team were flexible and allowed me to tailor my volunteer experience to suit my interests. I could also see that CHF were honest about exactly what the placement fee covered, which was also very reassuring and appreciated.
I believe that my volunteering experience had a positive impact on the community I served. I helped organize the students to concentrate fully on their study, remind them how important education is, and provide myself as an adult role model for them to learn from. The kids were attentive and a captive audience as I was different to what they had ever experienced and they always told me they were grateful. I learnt a lot from the teachers, and I also feel that I helped them with some other methods of teaching and understand a different global perspective.
I was introduced to the local chief of the area, which was a humbling and fascinating experience. The food was great too, the secretary Angie cooked up some delicious local dishes and taught me how to pound the challenging but satisfying Fufu!
CHF always had the best interests of the volunteer at heart, and I always felt safe, at ease and well received. CHF allowed at every opportunity to interact with the local community and feel part of the wider projects and social initiatives to help the development of the region.
I feel like I have made many Ghanaian friends as a result of Cheerful Hearts Foundation and have directly assisted the community that I served. It was an unforgettable experience and I shall be eternally grateful for CHF and their support during my stay in Ghana. I was very sad to leave!!
By all means if you ever want to get in touch with any questions on CHF or Ghana, feel free to add me to facebook or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Cheerful Hearts, or as they say in Ghana…”Medasi”!!
Tiki Ning, Intern from China
I’m Tiki, a girl from Mainland of China. I worked as a volunteer at Cheerful Heart Foundation for about one month. I’ll definitely say that this is really a life-changing experience for me. Thanks for all the people that helped me during my work.
My job was to teach math for primary five, and do some HIV/AIDS protection presentation to the pupils. I was really enjoy teaching the students. Students were quite positive and intelligent, and I divided them into two study groups as BA4 and CA2. They seemed to really enjoy the competition.
We played games at every class, like “TRANSFORMER,” “Goats,” and “You Act I Guess.” Everyone enjoyed playing the games and it also increased the student’s creativity ability.
On a more serious note we also did two HIV/AIDS protection presentations at the Great Promise School. We combined three classes and told them some basic, but extremely useful knowledge about HIV/AIDS. The presentation was been divided into four parts. First, we tell the difference between HIV and AIDS; second, we tell pupils about the main ways to get HIV virus and how to prevent it; thirdly, we taught the simple facts of HIV/AIDS in Ghana and how to treat people who have AIDS. Finally we reviewed the whole class and had a little quiz. They all took some notes, and promised me to review them once they return home. Both HIV/AIDS protection presentations were quite successful. At my last class, we talked about “childhood dreams”, the volunteers shared our dreams first then I asked everybody to write their dreams on paper and hand it to me. We picked a dream, and asked the dream owner to share his/her story to us. It was such ameaningful class period.
It seemed like most of them wanted to be a banker because they love math or a doctor because they are good at science. But others said teachers because they love teaching and one little girl want to be musician. She even sang a beautiful Ghanaian traditional song to us… it was so nice. I really appreciate that everybody has the courage to share his/her dream in public.
I believe that I did bring some joy to the lovely pupils, and wish they all could have a bright future. Thanks again to Cheerful Heart Foundation for giving me and my friends this precious chance, we really enjoyed it.