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Volunteers' Story : Overwhelming Construction Project in Ghana

Christopher and Matthias shared their overwhelming experience in Ghana, as volunteers in one of the building projects; this is their story.

Welcome to Africa, Where Everything Seems to be a bit Different

"Let's do this!", When Christopher and Matthias, two brothers, and a real team, decided to follow their wanderlust and go on a world trip they had no idea of the adventures that awaited them. After visiting Argentina, Bolivia and Peru they ventured on to Kasoa where they helped build the foundation walls of a new children's home in Kasoa. Brick by brick and with the support of locals they set the foundations for the brickwork.

5:30 = Wake Up!

You are awoken by the sound of a rooster crowing, signifying that it’s almost time to get up. Savoring the moment, you cuddle your pillow, drifting back to sleep and before you know it your neighbor is knocking at your door telling you its time to get up. Not having an alarm clock ain’t that easy.

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Morning Heat

...indicates that it’s going to be a hot day! It’s already oppressively hot and it’s only 6 am! You need to be fully attentive as you push along the bumpy, sandy road, keeping your eye out for potholes and other obstacles. It doesn’t take long before you are wide awake and winding your way through the cars, which all seem to be heading to the church. The kids at the side of the road call you “Obruni,” which means “white man,” and wave friendly. Sometimes they will even put on a little dance performance just to grab your attention. They appear to be happy, celebrating life.

Time flies and before you know it, you have arrived at the construction site. You load two bags of cement on the wheelbarrow which is well past its prime. The wheel is crooked, but with a little effort you manage to reach your destination a few hundred meters away. Having good tools would definitely simplify the work, but in Africa you need to deal with whatever is available.

One of the locals, who is there to guide you, brings you a plastic bag of water which you need to open with your teeth. Water has never tasted so good, a real refreshment in this 40 °C heat with 90% humidity. Without water you would be a dead man.

You toss the first cement bag on the pile of sand, shovel some fine gravel on top and mix it all up, until you eventually add water and stir the concrete – manually, of course.

Slowly but surely you start to really feel the heat. You look at the concrete that needs to be used today. Your clothing already sticks to your body and the sweat drops down your forehead. The concrete is all over you, your clothes, your hands, your feet and even on our face.

Barrow by Barrow spread the concrete over the foundation walls, to create a basis for the brickwork. One third is already done. When you start to lose your strength, you ask the local for a short break. He starts to chuckle and tells you that you can take 5 minutes. Even just sitting still in the shade you continue to sweat. You look at Ajingo, the local worker. He also takes a break and starts to eat. He works like this day by day. Incredible. He appears slender, but his muscles are made of steel. He could carry a bag of cement on his head for a mile if he needed to. He doesn't seem to be bothered by the oppressing heat. Ajingo wears sandals or walks barefoot on the fluid concrete. He can straighten crooked nails by hitting them 5 times with a stone. You learn these kinds of skills in Africa.

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Lunch Time!

You walk to the next hut where food is being served. The Ghanaians are very friendly and welcoming and offer you a seat. The waiter brings you fish soup. You ask him for some cutlery and all the others start to chuckle. The only option is to eat with your hands. You begin to eat. Again everybody laughs quietly and you try to grin back. What have you done now? Oh right, you are using your left hand, which traditionally is used only to clean yourself after using the toilet. You switch to your right hand. Still, everyone is smirking at your attempt to eat with your hands. You actually enjoy the food, especially since you are starving. Delicious.

Back to the Construction Work

The midday heat is the worst. The barrows you deliver are now only half-filled. Unloading is the hardest part: inhale, exhale, the hot air streaming through your lungs while you lift the barrow and dump the concrete. The grout splashes on your bare shins. Luckily, the weather seems to cool down, now it’s only 30 degrees celsius. How many barrows of concrete are left? Five, ten, fifteen? You are now down to the last couple barrows and it starts to rain. At first it’s just a drizzle, and then suddenly it seems like buckets are pouring down from the sky. You think it can't get any heavier, but it does. You need to find shelter. A real thunderstorm. You are lucky it’s rainy season, as it must be even hotter during dry season.

On the other side of the roof there seems to be a waterfall. Time for a short clean up to get rid of the sticky cement on your hands and feet. Ajingo lays down to take a nap. Suddenly he jumps to his feet as he remembers that he has left his phone. He spurts to the construction site and comes back laughing. Life is always easier if you don’t take things too serious. Another great lesson you will learn from the locals. Luckily, his phone still works.

Everytime you hear or experience another funny or weird story, you just need to remind yourself:

Everytime you hear another funny or weird story, you just need to remind yourself:

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“TIA – This is Africa.”

Finally, the rain has stopped and you start to dry. Only two barrows left and you are done: Aiko, done! Now you only need to clean up your tools and you can hit the road. On the way home you can barely grab hold of the handlebars. After 9 hours of physical, hard labor, your whole body is in pain. But you have just enough strength to wave back at the seemingly endless stream of waving and hollering kids at the side of road.

You have finally arrived at home and have dinner. Your sweaty, dirty clothes stick to your body. You take a shower by scooping and dumping buckets of water over your body. Most often the water faucet doesn’t work. You feel new, as if you have been born again. After the day you just had, a simple shower can seem even better than the best Jacuzzi.

In Ghana everything Seems to be Different

You are totally fatigued, so you will sleep very well. All the muscles in your body burn and yet it feels good. It is a divine feeling to have accomplished so much and done something good. Before you sleep you imagine the kids that can hopefully soon play in their new home.

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