Ghana: Global Health
July 6 – August 14, 2018
Table of Contents
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Ghana is where Operation Groundswell all started and we keep going back each year. It won’t take you very long to see why. Ghana’s culture, hospitality, and landscapes are like no other. As backpacktivists, you’ll have the opportunity to experience all Ghana has to offer –bustling outdoor markets, music that demands movement, warm greetings from friendly faces, inspiring community organizers, striking sceneries, and so much more that words cannot describe.
We are thrilled to have you along for the wonderful bumpy road that is travel. We may start off as strangers but after sharing delicious meals, being pushed out of our comfort zones, and exploring another country, we will connect with each other on a whole other level!
Our role is to guide you to an understanding and appreciation of your new environment, and to introduce you to narratives you may have never even considered. Your job is not an easy one. But, if you bring an adventurous spirit and the expectation of exciting things to learn ahead, you will be amply rewarded. During your time spent in Ghana, you may not be able to “change the world”, but you’ll most certainly be changed by it.
We have put together this program package to get you as stoked and as prepared as possible. Read it, love it, absorb it, and get ready to have your world rocked. If you have any questions, concerns, or positive energy and feedback, feel free to reach out. We are here to help you along in this process and get you as ready as possible for an unparalleled adventure.
We hope you are all as excited as we are!
The trip of your life is about to begin and these are just a few of the amazing things you can expect!
*Click on each day to get the full details on the day’s excursions*
From Ghana to Togo
We arrive in Accra via Kotoka International Airport, where our group will come together after long journeys! Stretching across the Atlantic coast, the capital city will serve as our first meeting point.
In the morning we’ll depart for Wli, a small town in the Volta Region of Ghana set against the beautiful backdrop of lush mountains and rushing waterfalls. It’s the perfect setting for our team to ease into Ghanaian culture and the pace of life… all while getting to know each other! A local friend will prepare a taste of real Ghanaian cuisine for a very warm welcome.
Orientation wouldn’t be complete without a hike, so we’ll take the day to venture over to the border of Togo, a neighbouring country in the east. Then we’ll head back to Wli to stand in awe of the famous Agumatsa Falls, the largest waterfall in West Africa. Let the adventure begin!
Global Health Education – Accra
Our team will trek the mountains of the Volta region back to the bustling city of Accra. Home to some of the largest open markets, streets, and stations, Accra makes for the perfect place to really get a feel for the hustle and bustle of Ghanaian urban life! We’ll be staying at our home-away-from-home in the centre of the city and meeting with a variety of local activists and community leaders to learn about the social and environmental factors that contribute to access to health in Ghana and beyond. Learning about everything from art, music, and education to traditional plant medicine, HIV/AIDS control programs, and orthopaedic support, we’ll get insider perspectives on health access and treatment, as well as the daily struggles within Ghana.
Health Along the Gold Coast
Our team will take a beautiful and scenic ride south to Cape Coast – a place full of culture, history, and opportunity! In Cape Coast, the NGO capital of Ghana, we’ll work with Nkwa Foundation, a community outreach organization that provides healthcare and community support through education, income-generating initiatives, and food security solutions through community farming.
Our previous teams have chosen to explore and volunteer on a number of projects, including assisting in rural health outreach programs, data collection, and public health presentations with local health professionals for the community. This year, there will also be several opportunities to branch out into many particular niches, and work with similar organizations in the health field.
Outside of our work with community development organizations, we will also have a chance to explore ancient slave castles and dig deeper into the complex history of the Atlantic slave trade. The Cape Coast Castle, in particular, is a significant landmark as it is where many slaves were held before their journey on the Middle Passage.
We’ll have the opportunity to reflect on this dark history and its reverberations in the current day along the gorgeous Gold Coast of Ghana.
The Ashanti Markets – Kumasi
As we make our journey north to visit more partners and take in more of what Ghana has to offer, we’ll be taking some necessary stops. This journey of ours is an epic one, so we’ll stop over in Kumasi to stretch our legs and explore the country’s second-largest city. Our team will have the opportunity to visit and take stock of OG’s current and past projects. The city serves as a great spot to debrief as a team, discuss what we’ve seen so far, and prepare for the final leg of our program!
Working towards Sustainability – Kazagu and the Upper East
From the southernmost beaches of Cape Coast to the northernmost border of Ghana, we will have travelled long and far to live and work alongside ORGIIS in the Upper East of Ghana. During the day, we will be learning from and working with ORGIIS on their mission to create environmental and social security in this often under-resourced part of the country. By focusing on reforestation, skills training, and maternal healthcare, ORGIIS works on the preventative side of health, supporting communities in the Upper East to meet the standards of living needed to live healthy lives. Last year, participants helped in the planting of a moringa farm, a super food for export that will bring economic and health benefits to the community.
While working the fields during the day, evenings will be spent engaging in lively discussions with our team, before retiring to our homestays with host families in Kazagu. Bonding over maiz and warm stews, we’ll get an opportunity to integrate into the distinct local culture.
The North holds a special place in the hearts of our teams as the place where we get a more comprehensive understanding of Ghana, ease into the relaxed vibe, take part in group dinners, have discussions under the stars, and so much more!
Independent Travel Time
A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests. Are you eager to hit up all of Ghana’s ten regions? Or maybe you want to cruise through the safaris of Mole National Park? Or are you hoping to revisit your homestays and volunteer placements? This is the time to do just that!
**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.
Disorientation – Princes Town
‘Disorientation’ is our chance to regroup, relax, debrief, and prepare for our return in our respective homes. Set against pristine beaches, we will speak to our goals and accomplishments, ways to collaborate on future projects, and how to stay in touch after the program. Everyone will enjoy a last taste of the delicious local cuisine from our wonderful friend and guide, Joseph!
Set in a place most will never forget, this is a time for reflection, many laughs, chats, and late night hang out sessions – a perfect way to end the program before heading off to the airport for some tearful goodbyes!
In the age of Google, we decided that an interactive map is the only way to roll. Feel free to play around with it, make it your browser’s homepage, and share it with your friends and family. Soon enough we’ll be on the ground doing that route for real.
Our program looks at the various factors that contribute to health and wellbeing, as well as how health concerns are addressed in communities across Ghana. We see health as a vital and expansive topic that is intricately intertwined with many other arenas of daily life. You’ll discover the seemingly-hidden connections between economic policy and access to treatment, or environmental changes and nutrition, or even artistic expression and community health.
We’ll take a deep dive into big topics like economic opportunity and the distribution of resources, political systems and representation, environmental degradation and protection, social influences such as education and gender dynamics, colonialism and modern international structures, and cultural beliefs and practices – all of which affect health in Ghana today as well as across the globe.
We see this program as a chance to think beyond dichotomies or pre-conceived notions, and open ourselves to the possibility of what a holistic perspective on health, travel, and service actually means. The lens of social justice allows us to see our experiences in a new light, enables us to transcend borders and boundaries, engages us deeply in communities we interact with and belong to, and challenges us to find how we can create and contribute to healthy lives for all.
Population: 26 million
Capital City: Accra
Major Languages: English (official), Asante Twi, Ewe, Fante, Kasem, and many others (70+ languages and dialects)
Major Religions: Christianity, Islam, and other traditional African religions
Monetary Unit: Ghanaian Cedi (GHS)
Time Zone: UTC – 0:00
During the 13th century, large trading civilizations and various empires (stretching from present day Senegal and Mali) arose from Ghana’s vast gold deposits. A great shift in trading routes from the interior of West Africa to coastal regions brought great wealth to the “The Gold Coast” as profitable exports such as ivory, timber, and slaves became attainable by way of ship. Eventually the kingdoms of this area were forced to submit to British ‘protection’.
On March 6, 1957, Ghana gained independence from Britain, making it the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to achieve its independence. Although the boundaries of the new Ghana at its birth did not correspond with any well-marked ethnic or geographical divisions, Ghanaian identity has grown strong. The country has seen some of the largest scale loans and projects of the 1980s funded by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank such as the Structural Adjustment Programs. Today, Ghana is one of the most politically stable countries in Africa having established an uninterrupted democratic civilian rule since 1992.
Ghana recalculated its GDP in 2010, classifying it as a low-middle income country instead of a low-income country. Since the beginning of the 2000s, Ghana has made a considerable effort to invite international collaboration. This, along with the discovery of oil in 2010, has resulted in an increase of foreign investment, particularly from China. Ghana is changing swiftly and development is peaking gradually. We step into a country in flux and revel in a profound trend toward a more globally connected West African region and interconnected African continent.
As we move throughout Ghana, there are a few key potential concerns to keep in mind. The most common experience for travelers is, you guessed it, traveler’s diarrhea! You can think of it as a sort of rite of passage that can accompany some of the delectable eats of a new country. We do our best to choose foods that are hot, tasty and cleanly prepared, but we do recommend talking to your travel doctor about taking along treatment just in case gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu) decides to strike. Malaria is also endemic to the region, so consulting with your travel doctor about preventative measures and medicines is highly recommended. Lastly, Ghana’s tropical weather is fabulous but often much hotter than folks are used to. Staying hydrated will be crucial to ensuring your overall health during program.
As a well-established and experienced international travel operator, Operation Groundswell takes active precautions to help keep you safe and secure while overseas on your program. We take travel safety very seriously. To learn more about our Risk Management System, click here.
Once we confirm program enrolment numbers, we’ll e-mail you with the go ahead to book those flights (if we haven’t already!) We’ve provided a bit of information on booking flights below so that you can start checking things out, but don’t book anything until you get the go ahead.
Arrivals & Departures
When it’s time to book those flights, be sure to choose one that arrives into Accra, Ghana, Kotoka International Airport on 6th July 2018 anytime. You will depart from Accra, Ghana, Kotoka International Airport on 14th August 2018.
We suggest checking Kayak, Orbitz, Cheapoair, Google Flights, and other flight sites to get the cheapest rate.
If you want to arrive in the country early or leave for home later, this is your call and you can book flights that meet your needs. However, if you arrive before the program begins, you will not be under the auspices of Operation Groundswell. We cannot guarantee that anyone will meet you at the airport or arrange your accommodations. You will be entirely responsible for yourself until the first day of the program.
You will receive an email (if you haven’t already) with a link to fill out your flight information. You can fill this out once you’ve booked your flight closer to the program date. This information is crucial for us to arrange your airport pick-ups and drop-offs so be sure to fill it out once it’s time!
You need at least a single entry visa for the trip. We’ll be sending your two references, your letter of invitation, and driver’s license of a local to apply for a Ghanaian visa closer to your departure date. You need to pay with a money order so call your consulate first to find out what the price of your visa is. You will also be required to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination.
NOTE: If you apply for multiple entry, it’s not guaranteed that you will receive a multiple entry visa, but rather just a single entry. Please keep this in mind when you’re applying because there is no reimbursement!
Remember, you are personally responsible for obtaining a visa and confirming your visa requirements. Resources such as www.visahq.com may be helpful, but it is always best to consult your destination’s embassy directly.
While your program fee does not cover visa costs, we are here to answer any questions you might have if a pre-trip application is necessary. If there are any special documents required to receive a visa for your destination, let us know! While we can’t guarantee your approval, we will help out in any way we can. The sooner you let us know what you need from us, the sooner we can get back to you.
As the bible of backpacking goes, we’ll be sleeping in every kind of place imaginable! In Accra and Wli, we will be staying in hostels that are fairly basic but will be comfortable and feel like home after no time. In Cape Coast we’ll be staying in a house that is comfortable, quiet and serene. In Kazugo we will be sleeping in earth houses in pairs mostly on rooftops with a view of a million stars.
After spending your first couple of weeks on program learning the lay of the land, getting comfortable, and acquiring all the tools to become an ethical traveller, you’ll be off to start your Independent Travel Time, or ITT!
This is your opportunity to put your new skills to use, get out there on your own (or with a couple of friends) and show your program leaders that you can do it without them by your side! (But don’t worry, they’re only ever a phone call away!)
While some participants choose to make plans ahead of time, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly what you’ll want to do over ITT until you’ve spent a bit of time in country, and have made connections with your fellow participants.
Our advice? Fly by the seat of your backpacker pants! Rest assured that once you arrive, your program leaders will be ready to talk through the many amazing options the region has to offer, which ones are farther away than you’d think, and help you make a plan. After spending a few weeks in the region, not only will you have a better idea of what you really want to do with this time, but you’ll be able to score the sweet in-person deals that you can’t get when booking online. Double win!
If, however, you would feel more comfortable making plans in advance, we suggest finding a refundable choice so that you can maintain your flexibility!
Because we’re not wheelie-baggers, we’re backpackers! We recommend going to an outdoor adventure store and getting a pack fitted to you.
Remember we will be visiting health facilities, walking around in rural communities, hiking up the tallest waterfalls in West Africa, and depending on your ITT plans, you could be in the midst of a hustling and bustling city or on the beaches! Ghanaians dress impeccably so make sure to bring a couple nicer items for when we meet community leaders or go out for a night on the town (note: modesty is still your friend here too!). We’ll be in Ghana during the rainy season, so please be prepared for unexpected rain showers.
All program leaders are equipped with first aid kits, so though it is useful to have basics like Advil or Tylenol, you don’t need to pack a pharmacy. There will be a medical form sent out closer to the program start date so you can outline any specific mental or physical health issues we should be aware of before the program. This completed medical history form signed by a physician is mandatory for participation in all OG programs. Click here to learn more.
No need for a computer, iPhone, iPad, or anything similar as we will have access to a computer when we have access to the internet!
We recommend that you bring $500 USD, which you can conveniently change into regional currency at an in-country currency exchange. While one of the easiest options tends to be withdrawing local currently from an ATM using your debit card, it’s always good to have some exchangeable cash on hand in case of emergencies.
At Operation Groundswell, we forge partnerships with local NGOs and charities to work with them on community-requested projects. This means that the communities we work with decide what kind of partnership they are looking for, how we as volunteers can be best put to use, and how our community contribution can most effectively help them achieve their goals. It also means we don’t always know in advance what will be needed in our partner communities or how we can best serve. Seasonal weather patterns, a changing political climate, and organizational needs may change so get ready to adapt like a true backpacktivist!
Though we spend solid days on the ground getting our hands dirty and volunteering, a larger chunk of our time is spent learning from our partners to better understand the underlying issues and challenges that they face. We’re not going to “save Ghana” in our few weeks abroad, but we will be making deep connections with and learning immensely from the real change makers on the ground!
NKWA (meaning life in Twi) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving and making healthcare accessible in rural Cape Coast. They also help marginalised communities to self start business ventures providing them with tools, capital and trainings. This year we will be supporting them with Tilapia farms. Learn more.
Meaning Keep Your Beach Clean, this organisation tries to instill in young kids in Cape Coast clean attitudes towards their environment. They occasionally run beach clean up activities and games which we support and also have fun and engaging after school activities designed to support children with some practical skills like soap making. Learn more.
This organization seeks to use indigenous knowledge and environmentally
sustainable initiatives to engage in community development for the people in the villages surrounding the Paga area. Learn more.
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Our main phone line is 1-888-422-0164. Our office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
In case of emergency while you’re on program, please ask your family or next of kin to call OG’s main line at 1-888-422-0164 and follow the prompt. On-call coordinators are available 24 hours a day for emergencies related to current programs or participants.
To reach us via email for all matters, contact [email protected].
If you have any financial inquiries, contact our financial support team at [email protected].
As you prepare for your journey, OG will periodically contact you with important information about logistics, payments, safety, and more. Please check your spam folder regularly! Consider adding [email protected] and [email protected] to your contacts or approved sender list to make sure that our emails are delivered.
For more information on passports, visas, travel insurance, and other general travel logistics, don’t forget to consult your handy dandy Welcome Package!