Asaafa, Ghana: Take a Vacation, Make a Difference
By Ariel Newman
Most of the abroad volunteer abroad programs available today require you to pay a lot of money, devote a lot of time and very seldom do they provide you with any time to enjoy the area you are in.
Unfortunately, along with all of that, it can also be hard to see the changes all your money, time and effort have made, and feel as though you have made a difference.
Brandon McKay and Stefny Poillot have traveled around the world and volunteered in many different places; they both found current procedure that many NGOs use for their volunteer programs very unsettling. After visiting some friends in Ghana, they decided to do something about it.
They leased land near a small coastal village called Asaafa, and spent some time with the local people. They found that some villagers were making less than a dollar and day and were in need of help.
Along with the beautiful beach environment, that’s where their idea of holiday volunteering came into fruition.
After about a year of saving all the money they possibly could, Brandon and Stefney started the One Love Foundation.
“So now after three years,” Brandon explains, “we are now accepted as locals here and have a great relationship with the government which has been behind us all the way.”
The One Love Foundation runs completely on volunteers; there are no staff members, office or any other luxuries. Not only does this keep the costs down but it ensures all the money and time that volunteers put into this program go directly to the people who need it.
Brandon McKay told GoNOMAD that they have dedicated their life to support this local area, not only with money but with real projects that allow Ghanaians the ability to sustain it themselves, empowering them to change their own future.
“Most organizations ask you to pay large amounts of money to volunteer here in Africa which you don't see personally where it goes. Also when you finally finish your experience you feel like you really haven't made a difference!” Brandon explains.
“Therefore our aim was to make it as cheap as possible while allowing all the money paid from the volunteer to be spent by them in their choosen project. 100% donation right to the source!”
The One Love Foundation has three main projects; building a health clinic, educating the current teachers in the village to further help the children learn, and the eradication of poverty by helping the widowed women of the village and by buying fishing boats.
Education and Health Care
Right now, their biggest concern is in the fields of medicine and education. “Instead of building new schools we are focusing on helping existing government schools.” Brandon stated. “In the rural areas these schools are forgotten and traditionally are the last to receive help from the government.”
Though they are seeking qualified educators to help the schools, there is an on-site nursery that is also in need of help. Anyone with a love of children can provide them with the right tools to grow in that crucial first stage of development.
A medical clinic was just recently started. With a small donation from the surrounding villages and the support for the Department of Health, the One Love Foundation is on its way to providing those people in rural areas a basic health facility. In the near future, they will be asking for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to volunteer.
No Experience Necessary
Even if you don’t have a degree of any sort, the One Love Foundation is looking for anyone who is willing to help!
Each volunteer can choose what they want to do to help. Brandon explained that they have no parameters for volunteers, as they aim to encourage those who want to help in Africa but can't dedicate more than two weeks holiday, who want to stay in a clean friendly environment, who want to see results from their experience and leave with not only a smile on their face but also on the faces of the people they help.
Brandon and Stefny make the decision to volunteer an easy one. The typical day for a volunteer is waking up in their beachfront bungalow.
Start time is 9 am and you finish at about 1 pm. After this time they can enjoy the beach, play pool, surf, swim or just relax with a book from the on-site library; a true vacation with a purpose.
Reducing the Footprint
On top of the ideal itinerary, they also run their facilities so that they leave the smallest footprint possible. All the power is supplied solely by solar power and all the waste from the toilets are composted and used in the garden.
The huts are specially constructed to stay cool even in the hot sun, and there is also a restaurant and bar that serves fresh, local, homemade meals. To stay here, it will only cost you 10 Euros a night.
The One Love Foundation has been around for about three years now and it has shown to really make a difference.
“We have found that the experience of the volunteers has been excellent,” Brendon says, “giving them the power to decide where they want to help and also while they stay they see exactly where their help has benefited the community.”
To find out more information and to contact or donate to the One Love foundation, check out their website!
Jolanda van Dijk writes:
I have stayed at the one love foundation for two months and it really was a great experience. When I arrived at the foundation I was surprised about the beauty of it. The huts are simple but beautifully decorated and so are the outdoor showers and is the kitchen. That together with the view over the ocean, the lovely meals and the friendly owners made it a perfect place to stay.
I used my time in Asaafa to help out at the nursery. Together with another volunteer I painted and decorated all the classrooms. After that we started “teaching,” but because the school lacked school supplies for the smallest kids I used a part of my donation to buy some extra materials like paper, colored pencils, paint, balls and ropes.
We started by teaching the children English songs, the alphabet and the names of animals. We taught them how to hold a pencil, how to draw and how to paint. We let them play with toys and puzzles and we played all sort of games. It was a lot of fun for me and the kids loved it too.
I used another part of my donation to help starting up the food-programme. Now all the kids at the nursery have at least one meal each day for a very small amount of money. From the remaining of my donation I bought a streetlight for the main road in the village.
The best thing about volunteering in Asaafa was that I could decide on which projects I wanted to spend my money. I know exactly what happened with my donation and how much it meant to the people. That made it worth all the money I spent.