My interest and my idea to work abroad came true. From August 16, 2019 to February 19, 2020, I had the opportunity to support “Chance for Children” as a volunteer, to get to know a new culture and to share my daily life with the children. Through play, fun and conversation I got to know the children who live in the children’s home at Hebron. After a longer period of arrival, due to the local languages and cultural differences, I felt very comfortable in my role as “Uncle Cyril” and I also felt appreciated by the organization. I prepared the Christmas decorations with the children, animated them to new and meaningful free time activities, helped with homework, held ICT lessons, assisted in various administrative works, could do many other interesting tasks and participated in projects.
During the last month of my internship, I got an insight into the Drop-in Center in Accra. I assisted in classes and workshops and supervised the children during lunch time and of course whiles playing.
I was impressed by the strong will of the children. With an incredible energy they master difficult life situations and their joy of life infected me immediately. This was half a year of my life which I will never forget!
I would like to thank “Chance for Children” for the good collaboration and the unforgettable experiences. I will continue supporting you with voluntary work from Switzerland and stay connected with Ghana and the children. Respect for your work.
Cyril Amrein, 25
Insights into the daily life at CFC
Our volunteers share their impressions and experiences with Chance for Children through this blog. Follow their interesting posts here.
Accra, Ghana July 2017
My incredibly diverse work
I have been living in Ghana for four months now. The first three weeks I spent in Hebron at the girls’ home to get used to Ghanaian culture and to the new climate. Meanwhile I changed to Accra and work now on a daily basis in the Drop-In Center (DIC). The work there is incredibly diverse. For example, on Tuesdays, I support the production of CFC products. This includes making earrings, chains and bracelets. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning, I assist the socialworkers in their classes. Part of it is singing and laughing, but also diligently learning English and studying mathematics. In the afternoon, I give my own workshops. In these the children can craft, paint and draw, and by doing this, discover their creative sides. The proud faces, when letting their self-made kites rise or when presenting their drawings to their colleagues, are incredibly motivating and invaluable experiences for me.
The cooperation with the children and young people is sometimes also quite challenging. On the street, they have learned to let their fists speak for them and thus physical disputes are not seldom. In these situations, rapid action and intervention is necessary. On the other hand, an incredibly strong positive atmosphere is noticeable. Despite their challenging life situation, the children and young people who visit the DIC are giving their best and have positive and energetic personalities. I’m really impressed by the children’s strong desire to learn new things. This can concern school activities but also relates to new plays and social areas. The children and young people are supported by the entire Chance for Childern team. Volunteers are placed wherever assistance and support is needed. It can for instance be that a house mother in Hebron needs relief in the supervision of the weekly clothes washing. It could also involve helping the social worker in elaborating the concept of the career choice for the young people. By this you get many exciting insights into the different areas of CFC. It also allows you to work with different people who all have vast individual experiences and specific knowledge. To learn from them is incredibly enriching.
Salome Erhardt, student of psychology
Accra, Ghana March 2016
Vibrant life in the Drop-In Center
My neighbour, Laura Müller, has been working for “Chance for Children” for more than five years. Whenever she visited Switzerland I got some news about this project and looking at her pictures made me dream of visiting her in Accra. Now this dream has become true, and it not only has made me very happy, but I also got an insight into a world that had been completely unfamiliar to me. Neither a photo, nor a movie can describe the vibrant life in the Drop-In Center.
How I was astonished about the enthusiasm and verve of these children to learn something! What a difference to some Swiss teenagers at Swiss schools! Whether reading, writing, math or craft, the kids love it all and show great eagerness. The most fascinating experience for me was singing; the classroom seems to tremble, the rhythm is in their body!
It was also very remarkable how polite the children are. I think most of them did not get much of education at their parents’ house. The girls and boys love and adore their teachers who care about them, appreciate them and pay them attention.
Most surprising for me was how professional the CFC is organised, despite a very simple infrastructure. You do not find any fancy offices or classrooms! Instead the schooling for the street children at CFC is not only very broad but also goal oriented. The management makes a considerable effort to offer the best possible education. E.g., it gave thoughts to find the most efficient method to teach the kids reading.
Tomorrow, unfortunately my stay will end, but those joyful faces will always accompany me in the rather cool atmosphere in Switzerland!
Hebron, Ghana, Juni 2015
I have been working as a CFC volunteer in Hebron for 5 months. The compound is divided into
two halves: One for the boys and one for the girls. The boys’ rooms are in the same building as
the offices, kitchen, dining and TV rooms are located. The girls have their rooms in 3 cottages.
The house mothers sleep near the girls in separate rooms in these cottages.
The Ghanian daily life on the compound starts in the early morning. The house mothers usually
get up around 4:30 am. They wake the children at 5 am to do their chores, prepare their school
stuff and to eat breakfast. At 7 am the children are brought to school by a worker in the CFC bus.
It’s about a 15 minute-drive, While the children are in school I do different tasks, such as dealing
with donations, preparing workshops, or participating in workers’ meetings. The whole morning is
at one’s own disposal. Many volunteers use their time for reading, washing etc. One time, I
accompanied our house mothers to the weekly market. It was very impressive and interesting.
Around 5 pm the children return from school. Especially the boys then like to do some sport
activities on the large CFC playing ground. It’s great fun and creates a positive atmosphere. After
showering they are ready for doing their homework. I support them and provide some extra
exercises or coloring templates for the ones who have completed their homework.
Afterwards we all have dinner. All local ingredients are prepared in the Ghanian way. The boys
and girls help cooking. Fufu, banku, indomie, rice and stew are prepared for a total of 70 persons.
After dinner, the children can enjoy some leisure time. The boys often play indoor games, while
the girls like to sing and dance. On Saturdays, a workshop takes place in the morning, for which I
sometimes assist. On some occasions, I can also prepare my own workshop in discussion with
the social worker. On Friday and Saturday afternoons, I give ICT lessons. I was also able to
support the installation of the computer room.
I really enjoy my time here. The encounters with the children are always very instructive.
The children are excited and very interested in things I teach them. The electrical situation has
improved quite a lot since my arrival and we don’t suffer from many power cuts anymore. It’s not
always easy, but having no electricity available offers the possibility of being inventive and finding
strategies to cope with this situation. This all together I consider to be a rewarding experience.
Andrea Kennel, nurse
Accra, April 2014
A day in the Drop-In Centre Jamestown
Arriving in Jamestown, I sometimes already meet the first children before entering the gate of the Drop-In Centre (DIC). Some of them eat their breakfast that they bring along (which can also consist of sweets) while others are just about to wander in. When they see me, they greet me with great effusion.
While the social workers support the children brushing their teeth, washing their clothes and storing their money in a safe place, I start playing and chatting with some of the children. However, chatting isn’t all that easy. Some of the children speak very little English and I don’t speak any of the local languages. Yet with hands and feet, or another child as translator, we find ways to communicate.
Most of the children in the DIC adapt their behaviour to the environment. Sometimes they act just as you would expect of ‘normal children’: Playful, panting for attention, vulnerable. However, when they come directly from the streets in the morning, it’s their independence, tension and instinct of fighting for their needs that strikes me. During these first hours in the morning, I try to contribute my part to a relaxed atmosphere. Singing and clapping games are always popular and help to do so.
Mid-morning the various workshops start. I prepare the materials for my craft workshop and a Ghanaian colleague helps me to put together a group of four to six children. She also joins the workshop, translates my instructions and support me supervising the children. It’s particularly nice if some of the children find a moment of peace though devoting themselves in the creative activities. Also their joy about the final product is contagious.
After lunch we open the library – presuming we don’t have power-cut so we can cool down the room by means of a fan. The library consists of a box full of children books. The interested children sit around two tables and look at the pictures in the books or even read a few sentences. Well, this sounds very cozy, but is sometimes really challenging. As an example, it only needs one child that snatches the book of another child and this can already alter the atmosphere considerably. That’s why I try to be as attentive as possible to anticipate where the next firework would go off so that I can distract the respective children accordingly. But there are also always very relaxed moments in which I can look at a few pages together with a child.
One part of the afternoon I spend outdoors in the compound of the DIC. I let myself immerge into the children’s games or am simply present. A bit before four o’clock we start cleaning up and all the children give a hand.
I really enjoy working at the DIC. As the CFC workers all have their fixed attributed tasks which need to be fulfilled to ensure a smooth operation of the DIC, I can choose quite freely what kind of activities I like to pursue. What motivates me every day are the positive feedback of my colleagues, the feeling of doing something meaningful and most of all the enthusiasm of the children.
Suzanne Wyss, teacher
Accra, February 2014
Impressionen from the Drop-In Centre
As I enter through the gate at the Chance for Children Drop-In Centre, I see children everywhere, boys and girls of all ages and sizes. Some are gathered round the table football (yelling triumphantly when someone scores), others are playing table tennis, a small group is sitting under a tree with a social worker; others are collecting water for washing, or hanging up clothes. A social worker hands out toothbrushes, another social worker is recording attendance, others are just chatting with the children. As I come in to the compound, a few small girls run to greet me, “Auntie, Auntie!” A small boy shows me a cut on his foot and I promise to dress it for him. When I arrive, there are about 30 children, but it is early yet; by the time I leave there may be 50 or more.
I greet the manager and the social workers and find out if there are any more children with cuts or sores to be dressed, rashes to be looked at or any other minor health problems. Children who are seriously ill are taken to the local clinic but children with minor problems can be helped right at the drop-in-centre. The social workers observe the children when they arrive, and watch them as they play and if they are concerned about a child, they tell me so I can have a look at him or her. I may see 3 children in a morning or I may see 10.
As the morning progresses, the children split into groups for religious studies, one group sitting under the tree, others in small classrooms. They are singing, listening to Bible stories, answering questions, colouring pictures. Some of the older kids are restless, easily distracted and all too keen to come with me when I collect them but often the younger ones are engrossed in colouring and really don’t want to leave their classes.
Some of the children are shy and reluctant to tell me what is wrong; others are eager to show me any small sore so that I can give them a plaster. Sometimes they don’t really need to see a nurse, but for a couple of minutes I can make them feel special and cared for as I talk with them and gently clean and dress the sore. Some are so pleased just to get a plaster! Some of the children don’t speak much English and I do my best to communicate in Twi or find someone to translate. As I talk with them I try to encourage them to take care of their own health: keep that cut clean, drink plenty of water, to come daily to the drop-in-centre to get their medicine. I am aware that some of them may have no-one else in their life, apart from the social workers, who will encourage them to look after themselves.
By noon, the kids are lining up to wash their hands before the meal. They sit round a large table, eating Ghanaian style with their hands. As I pass by, they call out “Auntie, come and eat!” Often I sit and eat with them and they laugh watching me eat with my fingers too. They get a good big meal, and those small children have big appetites – but for some of them this will be their only good meal of the day.
The Chance for Children Drop-In Centre is a real haven for these children, a place to play with other children, not run errands or work; a place where they can rest and sleep if they need to, without fear; a place where children who don’t get to go to school can learn. Above all it’s a place where they can feel safe, with people who really care for them and want to help them.
Andrea Baumann, nurse