Experience of being a Team Leader with VSO in Ghana
For 8 months I volunteered in Ghana with VSO as a Team Leader. I was posted in the Eastern region in Asamankese under the livelihoods project; working alongside a local NGO called FLOWER. The main aim of the project was to give the local communities access and training to alternate livelihoods that they could support themselves with.
Most of the community members were unemployed, high school dropouts or illiterate so the skills training by volunteers and FLOWER provided had to be simple, practical and realistic for them to put into practice. The livelihoods project had been running since September 2015 and I was on cycles 3&4. Cycle 1&2 taught skills like tie-dye, sandal decorating, liquid soap and beaded handiwork as well as some bookkeeping and marketing skills. Cycle 3&4 continued with beaded work, soap production and introduced new skills like hair pomade, animal rearing and fruit juice making. They also continued with developing branding and marketing skills.
This cycle the Odjarde team are working with the local soap group to improve the value of their products using labels and advertising. Here is one of our lovely host mothers Aunty Regina with her product line #ttot #travels #travelblog #soap #livelihoods #volunteering #VSOICS #VSCOcam #ghana #VSCOtravel
All of these sessions and skills training combined aim was to make sure the communities have different options and are well equipped to manage their own businesses in the future.
Whilst Livelihoods was the main focus for the program the volunteers also run local reading clubs with the schools, help with infrastructure development – repairing boreholes, renovating clinics and cementing school floors, undertake personal projects and if you are pro-active you can also take on personal projects if you can fit it around your schedule.
A few of the success stories are featured on the VSO website, which you can read here
My experience of being a Team Leader:
“I’ll start by saying my overall experience and time in Ghana was incredible and I was able to gain so much from it. From management, interpersonal skills, community entry, networking and cross-cultural working these were just some of the skills I was able to gain from the role. It really is amazing to see a group of individuals from different backgrounds come together and help a community as well as develop themselves.
I felt like there were times where I was being held back a little from being more decisive as a leader; as the essence of the program is that it is ‘volunteer led’. This meant that I could not play a key role in the individual teams decisions and this was a big challenge for me as I had always been at the forefront of the work from the volunteering experiences I have had; I had to learn to be more in the background and let the volunteers ‘learn’.
It was a different approach of leadership to what I had first thought but I was able to learn a new style. To some extent you are allowed to be a part of the work by supporting, guiding and facilitating (I have never heard this word as many times as I did throughout my VSO experience – being a facilitator is a major part of the program) but you have to remember not to take over the volunteer’s work and just be prepared if someone needs anything.
From management, interpersonal skills, community entry, networking and cross-cultural working these were just some of the skills I was able to gain from the role
A lot of my experience was made up by making sure the team was healthy and able to work – whilst not getting sick myself – or if you do then putting it to the side. As much as everyones health is important, as the leader you have to prioritise the team, no matter what anyone said I felt pressure to remain at 100% for the team – even if the pressure was just from myself.
However, as far as an experience, it really was one of the best I have had. You get to completely immerse yourself in a different culture, live with a host family, taste the local foods, learn the language and interact with real people as well as manage different people, emotions and workloads. You also get to make great bonds and relationships with your volunteers and community members which helps you manage the ‘high demand’ days.
Yesterday myself and my volunteer elves, along with bloggers from the UK, managed to spread a little festive cheer to 350 children at Afranse school 🙌 thank you to my good friend Lauren and everyone who donated, packed and supported the #bloggerboxappeal Hopefully this can become a yearly cause 🙏 remember what’s important this Christmas and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas! #ttot #travels #volunteer #christmas #bloggers #travelblog #positivevibes #festivespirit
Be prepared for anything. You’ll plan your days with your counterpart in the evenings and the next morning receive texts from sick volunteers, annoyed teammates and hear from just about every community member before lunch. You could be on your way to visit a head teacher of a school and then have to completely do a u-turn because there is a volunteer who thinks they have malaria 20 mins away and needs to go to the hospital asap. I could be invited to a meeting with a chief and before I even get there have to be in a different community because a host home needs to discuss an issue. It really is a juggling act but I loved the variety and challenge that came with it.
So I’d finish by saying prepare yourself for an incredibly dynamic role and to be tested – which I guess if your signing up to do this – you are going in with the forethought of ‘challenging yourself’….or at least you should be.
Prepare to be a leader, volunteer, friend, family member, supporter, networker, confidant, councillor, hospital chaperone and local celebrity – every role comes with its pros and cons.
Be ready for sick volunteers, tears, persuading people to stay, arguments, cultural differences and volunteers adjusting to everything (adjusting to everything yourself).
also expect welcoming friendly people, big highs, great people, diversity, talented volunteers, amazing culture, interesting foods, beautiful scenery and at the end of it all being so proud of your team (a little bit of yourself) for making it through, but more importantly making an impact on the community, each other and you.”
What VSO say:
How it works
Depending on the placement, you will spend four months living in one of the following countries:
ICS is funded by the UK Government, meaning all costs are covered including flights, visas, accommodation, food etc, and you will receive an allowance during your time on placement.
As with all ICS volunteer placements we will ask you to do some fundraising before you go overseas.
All volunteers have a target of at least £800, but you don’t have to start any fundraising until you are definitely accepted onto the programme and we will offer you 1:1 fundraising support.
No one is excluded from ICS for financial reasons.
You will receive training prior to going overseas, as well once you arrive in country, and once you return to the UK.
Team Leaders must be aged between 23 and 35.
You need to have experience – either voluntary or professional – in leading and motivating young people, along with organisational and communications skills.
You need to be able to support young people both individually and as a team, and gain the respect and trust of others through leading by example.
You will also need experience in some of these areas:
- Co-ordinating a project or initiative
- Coping with change
- Empowering and motivating team members
- Managing a variety of projects in a varied environment
- Understanding of volunteering
- Living/working/volunteering in a cross-cultural environment
- Committed to VSO for a minimum of four months
If you want to do something worthwhile whilst also developing yourself then apply to be a team leader today!
Also check out what Ghana meant to me after being there for so long…
Travel. Create, Be Nice!