A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to work with Saha Global. While I participated in this program about 2 years ago now (I can’t believe it’s been that long), this was one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my life to serve those in need and learn a lot about myself as well. I wanted to share this with you, especially you college gals, as it is a great way to get global experience working with a non-profit, while also helping some of the poorest people in Ghana.
Saha Global trains women in rural communities to solve their village’s need for clean water by providing business opportunities. We partner with communities and train local women to launch profitable social enterprises. All of the revenue from these businesses stays in the community and is managed by the women entrepreneurs. To date, Saha Global has launched 100 clean water businesses which serve 48,174 and are fraction of cost of drilling a borehole or well. 100% of these businesses are still in operation today.
In addition, Saha Global, also trains women to open their own solar charging station, which is one of the projects I helped work on while I was there. I want to share my experience with you, and hopefully if you get the chance you can check out this amazing project too.
Saha Global Application Process
The application process is very simple and you can find it here. The team just wants to get to know you and your passions and why you’re interested in the program. Kathryn, the program director, will then give you a call at some point just to get to know you better and make sure you are a good fit for the program. They want passionate people just like yourself that want to help!
Once you get accepted to the program then comes the fundraising process!
Fundraising for your volunteer experience
This is by far the hardest part of the process, but it is definitely worth it. The fundraising accounts for all living and food costs while you are in Ghana for 3 weeks, as well as supplies for the water systems and solar panel systems. From what I remember you need to fundraise about $3000, which sounds super daunting, but it is definitely doable. I had about a month to raise money and was able to get halfway on my own, then I was lucky to have an aunt that wanted to fund the rest. People are really willing to support this project when they know exactly what their money is going to!
If you decided to take your offer and need some ideas, here are some things that I did (or thought of doing) and what other people have done!
- Sell a cookbook
- Sell T-shirts
- Host a fundraising night at a local restaurant (TONS of restaurants do these!)
- Remind people who work of potential company matching
- Host a dodgeball tournament
- Host a raffle (sometimes companies/restaurants will give out giftcards for free)
- Write letters to friends and families
Preparation for Volunteering in Ghana
I’m sure you guessed that other than fundraising there will be a few things that you will need to do to make sure you’re prepared.
- Book your plane ticket! Definitely do this sooner rather than later as flights can be pricey! Tip: You can also ask people to help you fundraise your tickets by giving flight points or vouchers etc!
- Get your vaccines. The only one you are required to get is yellow fever. BUT, I would recommend getting whatever your doctor says. Anti-malarial medication is pretty necessary, I also got Typhoid Fever and Tdap.
- Make sure your passport is up to date (and it needs to be valid for 6 months after you return)! And if you don’t have one, then get one! This will cost at minimum $110. You can see the application and fees here!
- Get your travel visa. This will be $60 and you need to leave time for your passport + visa to return back to you!
My Experience Volunteering in Ghana
My flight was supposed to be from Chicago → Minneapolis → Amsterdam → Accra. Welll….if you don’t already know, O’hare is terrible and there are always delays and cancellations. My flight leaving Chicago was SO delayed that I missed the flight in Minneapolis. Luckily, they were able to book me a flight leaving the next day to NYC, then straight to Accra. This was a much better flight, but I arrived the next day in Ghana and therefore had to get straight on the bus to Tamale.
Normally when you arrive in Accra, you spend the night in a hostel in Accra with all of the other program members, then hop on the bus to Tamale the next day. The trip to Tamale is loooong, but it’s a great chance to meet the other program members.
The part that you guys hopefully all care about. The first few days of the program you spend getting to know the other members and training. For training you learn a little bit about the history, the process, the language, and the people. You get a fancy shmancy little notebook with all the deets, to help you stay on track.
Then you get down and dirty! You get to talk with the people of your village through your translator. They speak Dagbani, which is a very difficult language (fun to learn some of the words and practice though!). First, you propose the project to the elders of the village, then you build the center, install the solar panels, train the women and community, and monitor.
I find the process that Saha Global goes through so meaningful and successful to creating a lasting change in the communities. There are many many studies that show that while people have the right intentions for volunteering abroad in impoverished areas, it can do more harm than good.
Saha Global truly does good with their main philosophy of ownership and monitoring. The fact that this is the women’s business and that they are in charge of up-keeping and maintaining the business after, PLUS Saha Global continues to monitor the business (and aid in knowledge with any help the women might need), helps this to be a sustainable model.
Saha Global let our team dive deep and do all the work. We purchased the supplies, found a carpenter to build the roof, trained the women, and talked to all the community members. Our hands weren’t held and this was OUR project. We had to troubleshoot when things went wrong and work with the community to make sure that their idea and time schedule fit in with our plans and time schedule.
What I Learned
I learned project management, team work (working with teammates of different backgrounds and a community from a different country was NOT easy), and collaboration. It was also an eye opening experience into the difficulties that people face all around the world that we might not ever think about (like drinking bacteria filled water that kills thousands of children every day.) Or children can’t study or women can’t cook at night because there is no light (or they have torch lights which are bad for health, bad for the environment, and are dangerous!)
It’s not something pleasant to think about, but a reality in the world we live in. We are so fortunate with what we have, the fact that I was able to spend a summer giving back to others is what gives me purpose in life.
Other Fun Stuff
During our time there we did A LOT of hard worker. The summer heat and the work pooped me out! But we got to experience lots of fun things too! We walked to the outdoor market where we got to practice our negotiating skills. Since the national language is English, we could speak to everyone in the market place. It was fun to buy fruits, and veggies, and we even got some fabric to get a tailor to make clothing!
On our day of we went on a Safari which was a blast! We did a walking Safari and a driving one and saw elephants up close and personal and wow, were they majestic!
Eats throughout the time were awesome (so many good fruits!) Though it did get repetitive with lots of rice and chicken. Jollof rice was my favorite dish, but we also tried other popular dishes like Fufu.
Connecting with my village was my favorite. I played with the kids and taught them tic tac toe, duck duck goose, while they taught me some games as well. Some of the babies were also so scared to see us!! Everyone was so friendly and kind, I wish I could go back and spend more time with them.
On our last day, our village celebrated with a traditional dance. They even taught me some moves. (I pride myself on the fact that I took an African Dance class in college the year before). It was a ton of fun and amazing to see their customs.
Overall, considering the application process, price, and program, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. This project, I believe, truly made a difference in the lives of people of Yakura. I also made lifelong friends and had my eyes opened to the suffering that others go through in this world. I highly recommend checking out Saha Global, telling your friends about them or donating if you can. Remember to always learn about the strategies of non-profits that are helping those in need. Sometimes they can do more damage than good.
If you’d like to see a blog post from when I was in Ghana, check it out here!