In September and October 2016, Denys –physiotherapist, and Marta –nurse, worked as volunteers at Benito Menni Hospital (Ghana) through the Benedict Menni Foundation.
What motivated you to volunteer?
It was instinctive. We always wanted to volunteer, it was a dream we’ve always had and that we have fulfilled more than once, as that was the second time we have volunteered.
What was your role while volunteering at Benito Menni Hospital?
In Dompoase, we did a bit of everything. We worked in our fields, but also as instructors with the children at the day centre, and as assistants in the operating theatre. We helped with everything we could.
What were your expectations before you volunteered?
As we have volunteered before, our expectations weren’t the same this time. You start a second experience having fulfilled a lot of expectations and you know more or less what you will encounter. You also learn that you can’t have huge expectations without knowing the country, its culture and its society first. So you need to land there, see, feel and then try to move around without disturbing anyone, and with small and respectful objectives.
We hoped to discover a different world from the one we are used to and to make the most out of it.
Regarding our duties, our expectations were also realistic, we wanted to see what was going on and then adapt ourselves.
Did you exceed them?
Yes, almost everything went as expected.
What are the highlights of this experience?
The more you discover, the more you love the differences and contrasts in this world.
This is how we would summarise in a sentence our experience volunteering in Ghana. If you travel and feel, then you enjoy the experience. We tried to make the most out of this opportunity and we really enjoyed it.
The amazing thing about volunteering is that you have the chance to see the world from the eyes of the local people, live, eat and talk like they do, know their traditions from the inside and enjoy wonderful moments, which you could never do if you weren’t ‘one of them’.
We have fallen in love with the people even though we have lived very difficult moments
It isn’t easy to be considered one of them, but that really depends on you and your attitude; you will always be the different one if you want to feel like that. The most rewarding thing is to end your trip with the feeling that you have tried to adapt yourself and that you managed to do it; even if it was only for a short time, then you can feel very fortunate. This is how we actually feel, we have savoured every moment of this experience.
We have fallen in love with the people even though we have lived very difficult moments, when reality struck. But that only helped us grow and keep on fighting for a fairer world, where everyone has opportunities and the current big differences don’t exist.
The two of us won’t change the world, but we can contribute to it every day by letting others know and bringing them the hope that the world will become a fairer and more tolerant place.
We want to thank again the Benito Menni Foundation for the opportunity given to live this great experience, the sisters and the staff at Dompoase.
It’s like knowing humanity from another point of view
Life writes the best stories; and we have already had one written with everything we have lived and shared: ‘Ghana, a country who loves and wants to be loved’.
Would you volunteer again?
This is the second time we work as volunteers and we are not getting tired of this incredible and unique experience. We learnt a thousand things every day, we lived like the locals and got to know their culture, language, beliefs, traditions, habits and sports. We got inside their society to stop being so much like ourselves and become a bit more like them, and it’s great, because it’s like knowing humanity from another point of view.
We knew how the health system works from the inside; there are many positive things although others should change, but sadly they depend on economy and politics. We tried to collaborate as much as we could with material, work and knowledge and we can continue helping daily raising awareness around us.
We can continue helping daily raising awareness around us
Maybe, next time we’d like to volunteer in a place where we can both do something more related to our professions and specialisations, in order to feel more useful and be able to help even more.
We are aware that the philosophy of the Foundation is not to send people with a very specific profile. Last year in Mozambique, Denys had a very important task as a paediatric physiotherapist with children with multiple disabilities; and this year in Ghana, Marta developed a very important job as a paediatric nurse. It would be interesting to find a place where both the centre and volunteers could benefit greatly.