VOLUNTEERING AT ABA HOUSE
Why would someone want to volunteer to work
in a developing country? It’s not for the money. To volunteer
usually means to work for free and often involves paying for the
Could it be as Dr. Albert Schweitzer said, “Those
among you who will be truly happy are those who sought and found how
At Aba House a big part of our program are
volunteers and I find that that there are as many reasons as there
are volunteers. Your reason for volunteering is important because it
can make the difference between a wonderful experience and an
unhappy one. Most of our volunteers are fantastic and want to come
back. One might think that there’s a correlation between age,
experience and maturity in the making of a good volunteer, but
that’s not necessarily true. Some young people blossom when given
the opportunity and some older people can’t handle the adjustment to
Let’s talk about a fantastic volunteer.
Carol, from Britain came to Aba House to work with children before
completing her degree in education. She opened herself to new
experiences and was able to adjust to a culture completely different
from her own.
For example, GMT (Ghana Maybe Time) is just too
much for some visitors. It means using time as a reference and has
nothing to do with being on time. Carol always rushed to get to her
students and was always the only one on time, but at least she saw
the humor in the situation.
One day I wandered by as she was
teaching some students how to make a family tree. “Clever way to
discuss families”, I thought to myself. A few days later I was
invited to a performance of Hamlet by these same children. Carol had
used the family tree to introduce Shakespeare to children in an
African fishing village. I can guarantee that this was a first.
This brings us back to why volunteer in a
developing country. For me, the main reason would be to experience a
new culture, not as a tourist looking in, but as an accepted member
of the community. The volunteer can interact with locals on a very
personal level. Carol was able to chat with the students and their
parents about all sorts of things that they wouldn’t discuss with a
passing visitor. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when
you connect positively with others and feel that you have
contributed something constructive to their life. The volunteer has
to be truly happy to be sharing knowledge and skills to those who do
not have easy access to them.
A sense of humor helps. An outsider
is fair game, especially with children. They would teach Carol how
to say something in their language and when she came to practice on
us, she would find that they didn’t always give her the real
At Aba House we are happy to accept
volunteers, mostly in July and August.
Since we are a small,
pretty much self funded non-profit, there is a fee involved.
Volunteers are met at the airport and brought to stay at our
cultural center in a fishing village in a suburb of Accra. Everyday
local children of all ages come to interact with visitors. We
believe that everyone is both a student and a teacher. Our mission
is to make the Aba House kids outrageously creative through whatever
skills the volunteers have to offer.
If you are interested in
volunteering the first step is to contact us and give a short bio
and let us know what your skills are. If you’d like to volunteer,
but need guidance we will work with you to decide how you can best
contribute to our program.
We do an orientation when you arrive
and there are many opportunities to interact with the African and
visiting artisans. You can join day trips to Accra and traditional
We have worked with artists, teachers,
college students, retired people and unsuspecting spouses. The
minimum stay is 2 weeks. If you have more time, that’s even better.
two solo trips to Aba House, Charlie Michaels returned with
10 students from the University of Michigan. The students
had to have a community service project, so they divided
into 3 groups, each group included Aba House kids. It was a
busy 3 weeks.
Want to read more volunteer stories? see our Voices page