Elinor Raeside volunteered in Ghana with GAPFORCE
Why I wanted to take a gap year
I made the decision to take a gap year in 2015 whilst in my last year of A Levels when, because of a lack of work experience, I was declined by the universities I had applied for to study Midwifery. I was actually relieved that I wasn’t accepted, as I didn’t really feel ready for university yet!
How I found my gap year project
I did my gap year project through a company called GAPFORCE. I found them whilst searching online for medical placements abroad. I found a project in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and knew instantly that this was the programme for me, as visiting Africa has always been on my bucket list. Gapforce appealed to me as it meant I was able to explore a new country and meet new people, while at the same time gaining work experience.
How I raised the money I needed
All of the money needed for my programme was raised by myself. After my A Levels I got myself a job as a bartender, I had some savings from previous part-time jobs but still had a way to go. Initially I didn’t have an exact plan for my gap year, so I just worked crazy hours to raise as much as money possible to give myself options. Once I had booked my Ghana trip, I had even more motivation to keep up the 50 hour weeks and 13 hour shifts to get the savings I needed. My parents helped me out during the couple of months before my trip as necessities like vaccinations can be very expensive!
The story of my gap year
I worked from the end of summer, until a couple of weeks before I went to Ghana in June. I loved my job and the people I worked with, so I had a great year. I also took part in volunteering to gain experience and to strengthen my personal statement. I received an offer from The University of Manchester in November to study Nursing in September 2016. This meant that I could start planning my gap year around this; I had been dreaming of joining Gapforce’s Ghana project for a couple of months and so I booked it straight away. June came around quickly, and before I knew it I was living with 17 other volunteers in a town called Teshie. I will never forget the people I met and the experiences I had, though trying to explain or summarise it all is difficult! I now want to travel all over the world with my nursing degree once I have graduated, and I hope that one day I will be back in Ghana to visit the lovely people I met.
Did the project benefit the local community?
During my project I spent the first two weeks within a clinic observing and learning. Then I worked within a school teaching the children, which definitely benefited them as we were able to teach them one-on-one and could see them improving every day. We also visited a local orphanage about three times a week while we were there. We all grew attached to the amazing children and bought them clothes, underwear, toys and books. One of the girls I was volunteering with had a connection with a charity back home which had donated some money, which we all also contributed to. This paid for the children to have mosquito nets, tables and school uniforms. Without doubt this made a life changing difference to the children and the lovely ladies running the orphanage.
My advice to those thinking of taking a gap year?
My advice: DO IT! It really will change you as a person, not just because of the things you witness and are exposed to whilst travelling. You will came away with a sense of achievement. It will be so rewarding knowing that you have saved and worked hard to be on that trip, and that you been independent and have travelled by yourself, maybe for the first time. It’s the most fun I have ever had, and the best time of my life. Put it this way, I would still be there now if I could!
Elinor will be starting a degree course in Nursing at the University of Manchester in September 2016.