In autumn 2011, we did a survey among 350 volunteers who travelled to Ghana. The results showed that 9 out of 10 volunteers changed their values , 8 out of 10 volunteers became more interested in global justice issues, 7 out of 10 volunteers donated gifts afterwards for their projects, and 5 out of 10 volunteers had been influenced in their choice of study or profession… So changes occur both at home and abroad!
Ripples on the water – a study on volunteer trips to Ghana
9 out of 10 volunteers have had changed values
8 of 10 volunteers have become more interested in global justice issues
7 of 10 volunteers have donated gifts afterwards for their projects
5 of 10 volunteers have been influenced in their choice of study or profession
In September 2011, Volunteer Travels conducted a survey to find out how volunteers are influenced by their volunteer stay and what volunteer travel can mean to a recipient country’s inhabitants. The survey went to 350 volunteers who worked in Ghana and 123 people responded, ie 35 per cent (a high response rate). Commitment to the questionnaires has been great, and almost all respondents have responded with detailed comments on the issues. Here is a brief summary of the findings and some of the many comments.
How has the volunteer’s values been affected by the trip?
92% report that their volunteer stay changed their values. Nearly a third have begun to trade in fair trade products, and 8 out of 10 have become more interested in global issues.
Material things are not as important anymore.
The first difference my family noticed about me when I came home from Ghana, was that I was so incredibly grateful for everything.
You get a completely different insight into life’s important questions. What is really important and what matters. Cultural exchange and understanding for others.
My commitment to issues of fairness and tolerance for other people has increased.
How simple life can be and that you can be happy in many different forms. It changed my whole idea of what happiness is.
I have seen the reality versus the television version, and I am able to form my own opinion instead of the media’s. I am more critical of the media and their presentation of issues.
How has the volunteer’s life in Sweden been affected by the trip?
97 % say they evolved as people after their volunteer stay in Ghana. Almost half of the respondents (47 %) say their volunteer trip somehow influenced their choice of profession or field of study. 20% (25 people) have begun to study topics with a focus on global or justice issues. One person has even received training on the MFA’s Africa unit. One in ten volunteers have begun to study medicine, with the aim of being able to go out again.
After my volunteer trip, I was quite sure that I wanted to work in a similar manner in the future. Therefore, I have now started studying to become a nurse and hopefully I will be able to work for a non-profit organization when I’m done
I am studying to be a nurse and want to work for Doctors without Borders. I became interested after I came home from Ghana.
I will be studying Peace and Conflict Studies. My dream job is to work within a voluntary organization or preferably within the UN. It has become obvious to me after my volunteer trip.
I’ve been studying to become a nurse in order to become a midwife and this choice was made on my experience at the orphanage where most of the children had lost their mothers in connection with childbirth.
I realized that I wanted to work with development and particularly HIV / Aids. This led me to seek a program in Global Studies with a focus of developmental studies
What has the volunteer travel meant regarding material for the projects?
Nearly three out of four volunteers (73%) have somehow bestowed gifts to projects in Ghana. Many have donated food, clothing, school supplies, toys, tools, hospital materials, personal care and more. Others have sponsored money to build toilets, add roofs to buildings, buying beds, build chicken houses or renovating buildings.
I collected money from friends and acquaintances at home to buy beds for the orphanage I worked at.
I collected money for computers and to build a water channel to prevent flooding of the school in the rain.
Swings, pens, paper, soap, towels, candy, sponges, stuffed animals and other toys.
Various gifts, from a water tank for the orphanage for the children to all hospital costs during my three months there
We built a chicken coop for the orphanage and helped to restore buildings at the orphanage
What volunteer travel meant financially to the projects and people in Ghana?
Almost half of the volunteers (47%) have donated money afterwards to the project. One volunteer had a Swedish company donate SEK 15 000 instead of giving Christmas gifts to employees and another has asked his friends to donate money to the orphanage instead of getting their own birthday gifts for 60th anniversary.
Have raised money – through lotteries – by showing a PowerPoint presentation and told people about ‘my’ orphanage in Ghana. Have sent over 10 000 SEK so far.
I supplied a donation for enough food for an orphanage for two months.
I did a project at school and donated $ 6000 to an orphanage and school.
When asked how much money each volunteer spent at their leisure in Ghana , the answer was an average of just over 4 000 SEK, ie about 500 000 SEK total for the 123 volunteers who responded. Perhaps we can dare to assume that this amount – 4,000 – valid for most volunteers going out to one of our many project countries. That would be pretty big income for the villages that host volunteers regularly. Each volunteer has also paid for the food and accommodation locally to their host families. This money goes directly – without intermediaries – to the poorest residents out in remote villages.
What did the volunteers contributed with during or after the voluntary stay?
Volunteers have worked as an extra resource in orphanages, schools or health clinics where staff were missing completely or partially. The 123 volunteers in the study have worked a total of 8,000 hours each (30 hours per week). All in all Ghana volunteers in the study would have provided approximately 22,000 hours, or 12 working years towards their project.
Two-thirds (67%) of respondents have somehow kept in touch with someone in Ghana after they came home. Nine people have stated that they returned to Ghana. Of those visited, all but one, visited the project they were previously on. Five people said they were involved in starting up new projects (orphanages or schools) in Ghana.
Through the funds raised, I have built an orphanage for 24 orphans, who I currently work with to support, develop and improve situations for.
My host mom and I, Emilia have opened our own school. It’s called “Emil’s School for the Needy” and has much as a Swedish school has. For example, lunch is included in the tuition so that children will not have to bring any money to school to avoid the risk of being robbed.
Of the 123 Ghana volunteers who participated in the survey, 97% stated that they have developed as human beings and that they look differently on their lives and the world after their volunteer trip. 47% report that their volunteer trip in some way affected their choice of profession or field of study. 67% have maintained contact with Ghana. 49% have donated money, and 73 % have donated gifts during their volunteer period or afterwards from Sweden. Five people have started their own projects in the country.
Common to all is that the volunteer trip involved a cultural exchange and encounter between individuals, with very different living conditions. This meeting has given rise to major changes in both material and immaterial things for both the Swedish volunteers and many residents in Ghana.
When I went to Ghana, I lived in a naive illusion that I would save the world. After two months in which I realized that it was the people of Ghana that saved me.
This study was conducted between the 7 to 24 September 2011 by David Asp at Travel Education Centre.