Listen: if a seventy-one year old German woman who speaks just a few words of English can have a fabulous month-long volunteer stay here in Ghana, why can’t you?
You can be guaranteed a large and comfortable bed, a powerful and refreshing shower, scrumptious local food prepared for you at each meal, the option of meaningful and fulfilling volunteer work, and the loyal companionship of delightful and brilliant new friends, both local and international.
How? By staying at the sparkling new Youth Creating Change Guesthouse in Sogakope, Ghana!
In the year 2005, thirty-two year old German software engineer Alexander Nechanitzky (pictured to the lower left, cooking us banana pancakes) stumbled across YCC’s Director, John Glidden, on the Couchsurfing-like website called Hospitality Club.
John invited Alexander to come to Ghana to partner with YCC, and within a few months, Alexander had arrived in Sogakope, had helped fund the purchase of YCC’s first seven computers, and had launched Sogakope’s first ever Computer Education course.
Alexander’s course was so wildly popular with the town that its enrollment ballooned to ONE HUNDRED students– all patiently sharing those seven computers! None of the machines had internet access.
To merely learn how to double click and open a folder, or how to minimize a window was a beautiful revelation, and the impact Alexander made on this town through that course alone reverberates today. The course still continues on a weekly basis with local and volunteer teachers, as well as the addition of a USB internet modem for one computer.
Alexander flew back to Germany after those four weeks in 2005, but returned to Ghana over and over again as the years passed. Each time he became more involved in different YCC and Sogakope projects, including funding the education for a very appreciative young Ghanaian named Eric (who I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday), and supporting the inspirational work of a Ghanaian woman named Agnes who runs a nearby home and school for deprived children.
In 2009, John and Alexander hatched an excellent plan: they would construct a guesthouse which could help provide, though the rent it collected, funds to support YCC as well as an adjacent boarding house for youth who had been rescued from child trafficking. The boarding house would be constructed shortly after the guesthouse, once the guesthouse had begun earning money. Marla Ludwig, founder of Bright Star Vision USA, learned of the project and made a generous personal donation to the funds.
The team worked quickly and efficiently. By June of 2009, construction on the guesthouse began, and now by February of 2010, I enjoy a luxurious large room and comfortable bed, massaging shower, glistening toilet, and daily room cleaning and food preparation service… all for a fraction of the price of my rent at home, or, for that matter, of the price of most other guesthouses in Ghana.
Moreover, the YCC Guesthouse provides internet access, purified water, and a quiet and beautiful location (pictured, right) just a few minutes’ walk from the center of town, the current YCC office and classroom, and the breezy Volta River.
I have now stayed in four different guesthouses in Ghana, and I can say with certainty that the YCC Guesthouse is both the best quality and the best value.
What’s even more important than the physical comforts of the YCC Guesthouse, however (which are highly important indeed!) is the feeling of warmth and family love that I get from having the opportunity to live and eat each day with my dear YCC coworkers, both Ghanaian and international.
John, Oliver, Seth, Millicent, and other Ghanaian housemates have shown me how to eat with my hands like a good Ghanaian, taken us volunteers on tours all around Ghana, and walked with me to class each day until I learned the way. If I want someone to chat with at night, one of the crew is always around to talk. I never feel nervous for my safety or the safety of my property because a YCC staff member is in the house twenty four-hours a day, even though Sogakope, like Ghana as a whole, is remarkably crime-free.
Because this January Alexander was here for his SEVENTH Ghana visit, and brought his sprightly 71-year-old mother and her nurse and philanthropist friend (both pictured to the right), we were able to experience a vibrant mix of Ghanaian, German, and American cultures in this world family home!
I am extremely impressed with the emphasis the Guesthouse scheme puts on logical sustainability. As Alexander put it: “We refuse to begin this rescued youth boarding house project only to have to shut it down six months later. We refuse to have to put the kids back on the street, as has happened to others who tried this in Ghana. No– we have planned this so that we can see it through. The guesthouse WILL provide the operating costs for the boarding house and keep those children clothed, fed, and registered for school.”
But a need still remains. Although the guesthouse will be self-sustaining after it is one hundred percent complete (it is now about ninety percent done), funds are still needed to construct the youth boarding house. The inspirational plans include one floor for the children’s bedrooms, and one floor with YCC offices, a library (of which the Volta Region has heartbreakingly few), and a computer lab.
Already, extremely generous funds have been donated to the project by Alexander, Marla Ludwig, and a number of wonderful individuals. If you would like to get involved in this investment, please do not hesitate to contact us!
But if, like me, you are working with limited funds, consider this: you will make a much-needed impact simply by coming to stay in the guesthouse yourself for a few days, weeks, or more.
Not only will you have a life-changingly lovely experience (look at the photo to the right of joyful YCC students going to class!), but the money you will pay for lodging and food goes directly to this very worthy project, not into the pockets of some evil slumlord!
Are you currently traveling or considering traveling and are looking for guidance on where to go and what to do next? Do not hesitate to join up with the inspirational and utterly enjoyable YCC and YCC Guesthouse family!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!