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Health and Safety
As international volunteers, your health and safety is our primary concern. Ghana is rated one of the safest West African countries, however, there is always some inherent risk involved in traveling abroad and we have taken strong precautions to make sure your volunteer experience in Ghana is secure.
Prior to arrival in Ghana, volunteers will receive information regarding vaccinations recommended by current health advisories. In-country safety and behavior guidelines will be covered in both orientation materials sent to volunteers and at the group orientation session upon arrival. The Center for Disease Control also has excellent resources and health recommendations for travelers.
Upon arrival to Ghana all volunteers will be registered with the U.S. Embassy Consulate in Accra. Home-stays are located close to several excellent medical facilities.
While in Ghana volunteers have 24-hour access to Sankofa Center staff and the assistance of experienced local home-stay families. Your loved ones back home also have the comfort of contacting volunteers through Sankofa Center staff cell phones, local land telephones, and e-mail.
Health Information for Travel to Ghana
Required Shots and Pills
- Yellow Fever (required by Ghanaian government to enter Ghana)
- Hepatitis A
- Anti-Malaria Pills*
Optional (consult a health care provider to see if these are appropriate for you)
- Hepatitis B
- Meningococcal Meningitis
You should review your Tetanus/Diphtheria/Polio boosters and “Childhood Disease” inoculations and update them if needed.
*Medicines that protect against malaria in this area include Mefloquine (Lariam), Doxycycline, or Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone). The best drug for you depends on a number of personal factors that you should discuss with your health care provider. For full protection you need to start taking prophylaxis before you arrive in Ghana. There are many pharmacies throughout Accra that supply antibiotics and other medications. However, if you are currently taking other prescribed medications you should bring sufficient quantities with you.
Passport – visa – plane tickets
Passport and visa requirements
You must possess a valid passport good for the duration of your stay in Ghana. You must possess your passport at least two (2) months prior to your program start date. If you don’t have a passport you can contact your local Post Office or City Hall to start the process. It may take several weeks to receive your passport by mail.
To enter into Ghana you must obtain a Ghanaian Visa from the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington, DC. It’s important to have your passport early because you must mail your passport to the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington, DC so they can stamp in your visa and return your passport. This process will take place one month prior to your travel date and The Sankofa Center will send you an information hand-out on the proper procedures for completing the application for your visa.
Buying your plane ticket to Ghana should be done as soon as possible to get the cheapest price. You should plan accordingly for any extra travel you want to do in West Africa before or after the program. You must keep in mind that when you fly to Ghana you will be one day behind the U.S. due to the time difference and length of travel. Therefore, you must make sure you’ll arrive on time for your program start date. Arriving late is strongly discouraged due to the choreography involved in your participation in the program. Any anticipated delays must be communicated with Sankofa Center staff as soon as possible. Sankofa Center staff members will be there to greet you at the airport so it is important to communicate current travel issues. There are a few points to consider to get the best price possible for your journey.
Your final destination will be Kotoko International Airport (KIA), in Accra Ghana. Visit its website to learn about the various international airlines servicing the airport: http://www.gcaa.com.gh/
- Multiple-flight Connections – There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Ghana. You must purchase two separate tickets: One from the U.S. to Europe and the second from Europe to Ghana. Common European connections are in London, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Milan (for a complete list of airlines servicing Kotoko International Airport from Europe please visit the website above). Make sure that your separate flights connect appropriately!! Increasing flight connections usually yields cheaper tickets. If you are booking online make sure you are booking two separate reservations, one single reservation will yield an extremely high price.
- Day of Flight – prices vary depending on the day of the week you are traveling, alter your arrival/departure days to get better prices, weekends are usually higher.
- Travel Agencies – contacting travel agencies directly in Europe to purchase your ticket to Ghana for that leg of the journey usually yields cheaper tickets. As a general rule, purchasing a plane ticket from the departure country is usually cheaper. Also, utilizing agencies that specialize in travel to Africa are usually cheaper than other agencies. The internet offers a wide variety of travel agencies specializing in cheap plane tickets to Africa. A search on the words cheap plane tickets to Africa has produced some good results.
- Search – searching a variety of ticket brokers for both legs of your journey will yield cheaper tickets. You may find drastic differences between companies. Give yourself enough time to search since it’s important to buy early, especially Europe-Ghana tickets.
Please contact us and let us know what prices you find so we can share it with our cohort to optimize everyone’s savings.
Currently Sankofa Center is a tuition based program. Fees are calculated at the minimal cost needed to support our programming and your safe and secure experience in Africa. Sankofa Center is currently not funded by the public sector, however, we are searching for other methods to defray tuition costs and increase outside funding.
Our criterion for volunteering relies on the premise that you are an individual interested in creating change. All volunteers have the passion and curiosity to experience a life very different from their own. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. Due dates for each program cycle (summer, fall, winter, spring) are posted accordingly; apply as early as possible. Phone interviews will be granted for those who are being considered as potential volunteers.
Applicants are reviewed for the possible role they could play (“HIV/AIDS 101″ facilitator, dancer, etc.), ability to adjust to new environments, flexibility, ethics, willingness to learn and adapt, and motivation to help others understand HIV/AIDS. We accept 10-15 volunteers for each session. The number of volunteers in each program depends on the quality of applications we receive.
Candidates are reviewed carefully to make the most appropriate selections for each program. Please review your application carefully before submitting. International travel is not to be taken lightly. We are seeking responsible, mature, and culturally sensitive individuals who can handle the stress and adjustment needed.
There are numerous opportunities for you to stay involved with the program after returning home. The Sankofa Center is a growing organization and requires the talents of new volunteers to continue its growth. Recommendations and referrals of new volunteers, fundraising, networking and marketing to other HIV/AIDS organizations and corporations for funding, and serving as a volunteer coordinator for future programs, are just a few of the ways you can continue your involvement with the program. Past volunteers have served in numerous projects that helped the Sankofa Center continue its operation smoothly.
Required program work days are Monday through Thursday. Weekends (Friday through Sunday) are open for free-time and/or travel. We suggest you bring a Ghana travel guide to make the most of your stay!
Local foods can include, boiled, fried or scrambled eggs, oatmeal, porridge, eggplant, beans, nuts, legumes, white and brown fried/boiled rice dishes, yams, pasta, and cassava—a starchy root (similar to potatoes) used to make dishes such as FuFu, Agpele, Banko, and Kenke. These dishes are eaten with a variety of stews including but not limited to, red stew—similar to pasta sauce, groundnut soup—made with peanuts, tomatoes, and spices, palm nut soup—a thick stew made with spices and palm nut broth, and Kontumbre—made with a spinach like vegetable and okra.
A variety of fresh fruits are available year round including, coconut, pineapple, apple, mango, banana, papaya, and plantains. Meat dishes can include fried or boiled chicken, beef, fresh and dried Tilapia, a variety of fish, lamb, pork, and “bush meat”—animals local to Ghana. There are also restaurants located within a short distance that serve a variety of American dishes, vegetarian and/or vegan, Chinese, Ethiopian, and Indian.
Sankofa Center recommends that volunteers attempt to try all foods available to them in order to enhance the experience of Ghana. There is such a great variety of foods in Ghana that it is good to know your preferences in order to let your home-stay families know.
Ghana’s official language is English (retained from its colonial past). Many other languages are recognized by the government, including Akan, Dagaare/Wale, Dagbane, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, and Gonja. Some of the local languages widely spoken in the Accra region are Twi, Ga, Fanti, Ewe, and Hausa. Despite the many languages throughout Ghana, Twi, from the Akan ethnic group, is the most widely understood. All Sankofa Center staff members are fluent in Twi and English.
Of course! Volunteers do not need to know an African language to participate as local Sankofa Center staff will translate accordingly. Total immersion into Ghanaian culture will lay the groundwork for learning the language. Many volunteers have left Ghana with basic conversational language skills. Volunteers have a variety of talents and abilities. Many of our volunteers have been peer health educators and contributed to the HIV/AIDS 101 curriculum. Some have been influential in networking with HIV/AIDS clinics, villages, and schools in order to expand Sankofa Center to its fullest potential. If you have the desire and passion to become a Sankofa Center volunteer, we have the need for your ideas and skills, whatever they may be.
Performances vary based on the skills and preferences of new volunteers. The basic framework has been set up by local Sankofa Center staff. Volunteers choose the type of involvement and participation they wish, or are capable of providing.
Once the traditional African dances have been learned by those volunteers wishing to participate, the dramatic interpretation of social issues that exist in Ghana will be improvised. Each program is different based on the social scenarios volunteers wish to dramatize. All volunteers (including those that do not wish to dance) are urged to participate in the creation of dance-dramas, whether it is providing props and costumes or contributing to the development of the dramatization. Past performances have included issues such as: older men taking advantage of poor schoolgirls who need money for food or school fees, myths and fears regarding condom use and HIV/AIDS testing, stigma and misunderstanding attributed to those with HIV/AIDS, as well as the support networks that are currently place for those living with HIV/AIDS.
These dance-dramas provide an excellent way to open up communication about HIV/AIDS and sexuality in general. Following the performance, volunteers provide the education (“HIV/AIDS 101″) needed to supplement what students have seen in each dance-drama. The combination of dance-dramas and HIV/AIDS education provides the basis for open communication which fosters behavioral change.
Home-stay is an opportunity to live in a friendly home while experiencing the typical Ghanaian lifestyle. During your home-stay you will become a part of the family, which will include the chores that go with it. Every morning volunteers wake up to the sun and walk to the well to gather the day’s water. Breakfast is served after slowly cooking it over a charcoal stove. The hearty portions will make you ready for your volunteer experience. After work, you return home to the family. During this time you create friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. They will teach you their local language, how to hand-wash your clothes, or how to cook.
Depending on the size of your curiosity your education will be boundless and you will return home a true Ghanaian at heart. Host families are genuine in making your stay comfortable. You will either have your own room or share with other volunteers, and your personal space will be highly respected. Volunteers stay in touch with their home-stay families long after their program ends.
Many modes of communication are available. In case of emergency, your loved ones can communicate with you immediately via Sankofa Center staff cell phones. All home-stays are located adjacent to communication centers where you can make and receive calls from home. Email access is also available throughout Ghana in various internet cafes.
Volunteers have 24 hour access to Sankofa Center staff and home-stay families. Knowing what to expect helps volunteers make informed choices due to on-going training. Schools and village sites have been assessed to meet safety and security criteria.
Any safety concerns are immediately responded to as emergency communications and planning are in place to ensure volunteers are safe at all times. Also, Ghana is a peaceful country in which Americans are strongly admired. Yet, Sankofa Center has carefully considered factors such as access to medical facilities, banking, existence of suitable housing arrangements, proximity to staff and other volunteers, as well as the availability of communications and transportation, particularly in cases of emergency.
In matters of safety and security, Sankofa Center makes the following key assumption: serving as a volunteer involves some amount of safety and security risks. However, with knowledge and training, we can minimize that risk. Volunteers are expected to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle to promote their safety. Being a volunteer requires changes in lifestyle preferences and habits in deference to host country cultural expectations. Choices in dress, living arrangements, means of travel, entertainment, and companionship may have a direct impact on how volunteers are viewed, and thus treated, by the community.
Navigating the differences in gender relations may be one of the most sensitive and difficult lessons to learn, but one which we cultivate since it could have a direct impact on your safety and the protection provided. Mature behavior and the exercise of sound judgment will enhance personal safety. Current information on travel safety in general, and for a specific country such as Ghana, can be found on the US State Department Travel Information web site.
There is always a risk of sickness when traveling abroad; however, all necessary precautions have been taken to avoid illness during your stay.
Prior to arriving in Ghana, Sankofa Center will provide information regarding the proper vaccinations required for entrance into the country, as well as important safety rules and regulations volunteers will need to follow during their stay.
Upon arrival, volunteers will be given training on the procedures needed to stay safe and healthy for the entire length of the program. Ghana is a popular travel destination for thousands of people each year. Taking the precautions recommended by Sankofa Center and your health practitioner at home, will minimize your risks and provide a healthy environment for you to enjoy your stay in Ghana.