Volunteer Tips

A helpful guide to get you started

Application Process

VACI-Ghana uses the application process to gain more information on a participant's experience, motivations, achievements and interests. This information will enable VACI-Ghana to align your interests and experience with our programs and to pick a program suitable for you if this is what you desire. We wish to find the best fit of either voluntary placement or VACI project for you. Volunteer placements where participants are needed most urgently will be updated on the VACI-Ghana homepage. We will decide VACI-Ghana project and volunteer placements based upon:

  1. Your interests, experience, and motivation
  2. Specific project or position requirements
  3. Your time constraints and the minimum project time investment.

When you have found your preferred VACI project or volunteer placement, you can apply instantly to your Country Coordinator or the VACI-Ghana office in Denu. If you wish to fill the VACI-Ghana application, it can be found here.

You will get a confirmation by email when we have received your application within 24 hours. When we have checked your compatibility with the particular project or volunteer placement of your choice, your Country Coordinator will contact you to schedule an interview on phone or vis-a-vis. If you are in a country currently without a VACI Country Coordinator, you will communicate directly with a Coordinator at the VACI-Ghana office in Denu. You'll hear from your Coordinator within 24 hours of receiving your application.

Before departure, you will receive a package from your Country Coordinator with information about your host family and placement. The Country Coordinator or the organization will help to answer all your questions, and the reference addresses you will need to apply for your visa. The Country Coordinator or the administrative office will stay in touch by email or phone.

Health and Diet

VACI-Ghana has made an agreement with a group of doctors practicing in Akatsi, Denu and Aflao; the doctors will be of help Participants in need of medical care and will also inform Participants of how to take care of their health in Ghana.

In the tropics you can get a fever very easily, but not every fever is malaria (although malaria is not uncommon); it can also result from sunburning or a flu. However, malaria is the most common. When you have a fever, always check it out at a local hospital or clinic. Treat every wound with special care. Disinfect it properly to protect it from dirt.

It is advisable to buy filtered water at least in the first week of stay to gradually get used to drinking direct from the taps. In Ghana, you can find water in Bottles and in sachets. Not all the sachets are filtered very well. Always check how it is filtered or purified before buying the sachets. It is usually written on the sachet. Beware of locally prepared drinks vended on the streets as the hygyenic conditions under which they are prepared might not be known.

In countries around the equator there is a great risk of sun burning. This can easily cause skin damage if you do not protect yourself. Always use a sun block cream with a high sun protection factor. The sun protection factor tells you how long you can stay in the sun.

Money and Finance Tips

We advise travelers to take a certain amount of cash with them and the rest for safety reasons in traveler's cheques. It is also possible to open a bank account in Ghana in case you plan to stay longer at one place. That way you can transfer money easily from your home country to Ghana. However if you plan to, we still advise you to take at least sufficient funds with you (in the form of cash, credit card or traveler's cheques) for the first month(s). VACI Ghana has the general rule not to loan money to Participants. (Only in extreme cases like emergencies can this be considered).

Foreign currency can be freely exchanged at any forex bureau in the country. There are several foreign exchange bureaus (Forex) in all the major towns and cities, but many outside Accra may not accept traveller's cheque's except the banks. Forex bureaus tend to give better rates for large-denomination bills than banks normally do. The best exchange rates are for US Dollars, Euro and British Pounds. Most travellers' cheques can be exchanged, but the rate is 5% lower than cash. Private foreign-exchange (Forex) offices have better rates and hours.

Many places take major international credit cards such as Visa, Master Card and American Express. Barclays Bank in Accra will advance Ghanaian money on Visa and Master Card, minus a commission and a fee for the approval telex. If you have a US card, you will probably have to pay for two exchange rates, US$ to Pound Sterling to Cedis. Not all forex bureaus accept travelers checks. Banks charge around 15 % so we do not advise the use of credit cards in Ghana! Euro card does not work in Ghana.

Banks open from 8.30am to 2pm (3pm on Fridays) on weekdays. Some branches of Barclays and Standard Chartered Banks open on Saturdays from 10.30am to 12.30pm. However, most banks now operate Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). For cash advances, Barclays Bank accepts VISA and Master Card.

All travellers are required to pay an airport departure tax of ($15). VAT, Sales or Use Tax: The VAT (Value-Added-Tax) has just been introduced in Ghana. It is 10% and not refundable.

The Ghanaian legal tender is called the Ghana Cedi (GH₵). There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency you may bring into Ghana. This must, however, be stated on the currency declaration form.

Personal Safety

Among all the West-African countries, Ghana is one of the safest. But it is still very important to take necessary precautions before you leave. You can think of medical and financial precautions, but also think of your own safety too. Below you will find some advice on how to stay safe. These are only necessary when you're going to travel around the country.

  1. Make sure that no one can see where you have put your money, traveler cheques and other important documents. Bring a wallet for daily use and put some change in your pocket.
  2. Carry a money belt under your clothes!!
  3. Make sure that you lock your suitcase and bring some extra locks with you.
  4. Put your important papers and documents in a separate place. You can possibly lock it or put it in a inside pocket of your clothes.
  5. Always make photocopies of your important documents.
  6. Visit or call the ministry of foreign affairs in your country to check the safety condition in Ghana at the time you are leaving.

Our Expectations vs Your Expectations

We assume it goes without saying that we expect our volunteers to:

  1. Respect the customs and cultural norms of Ghana and Volta Region and to treat all those you meet with respect
  2. Follow the advice and guidance of the project organisers where appropriate
  3. Live within the customs of your host family and respect their lifestyle and property at all times
  4. Attend your chosen programme every working day, arriving and leaving at the times specified by your programme co-ordinator
  5. Contribute your skills and experience with enthusiasm and commitment to ensure the progress of the particular program you are working with
  6. Respect the local methods of teaching and caring for children
  7. If possible raise valuable funds for your programme before you leave home and/or bring appropriate items to help the programme when you come
  8. VACI expect you to write a report on your program stating your views and suggestions

In return you can expect us to provide:

  1. Airport pickup in Accra, 1 night accommodation and one day orientation
  2. Transport to Volta Region (Denu)
  3. A One day introduction to Volta Region Denu including a tour of the town
  4. A cultural welcome night in a local village
  5. A thorough induction into your program
  6. Transportation to and from program where appropriate on the first day
  7. Accommodation with a host family including breakfast and an evening meal
  8. A project mentor available at all times to help with any issues that arise during your stay

About Denu - The centre of our operations

Denu is one of the popular towns in the Volta Region of Ghana and is located right on the Ghana-Togo, just a walk across Togo's capital city, Lome. This makes the town a melting pot of anglophone and francophone inhabitants. It is full of life and has beautiful beaches. That is why we promise volunteers a memorable experience. As English is the common language in Ghana and most people can speak a little, you should be able to participate in everyday life fairly easily. However, in climate, Volta Region of Ghana is humid than the tropical north and the landscape is rich with vegetation. The harmattan wind season with its dry hot days runs from November to late March or April, followed by a wet season that peaks in August and September.

Denu has good bus connections to the major cities of Accra and Akosombo, koforidua to local towns and villages. Mostly central Denu is accessible by foot or motor bikes while local taxis are frequent and cheap.

Voltarians love visitors and particularly volunteers. You'll find that these are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet and their culture is a fascinating blend of traditional and modern. We would be surprised if you didn't make many friends during your time here and find it hard to say goodbye at the end of your stay!

Denu has a number of 'chil out' where you can relax & enjoy yourself including the beautiful beaches, many bars and one or two restaurants serving western dishes. If you prefer a Voltarian diet then you can buy this from the food vendors found on virtually every street.

There are many banks, a post office, churches and mosques, an outdoor swimming pool and internet cafes. You can join the library and visit the Cultural Centre which sells a variety of traditional handmade Ghanaian goods, and offers daily drumming and dancing lessons for volunteers.

Although it doesn't have the vast supermarkets you might be used to Denu does have numerous smaller shops where you can purchase many essential branded goods like toiletries, snacks and drinks. It has a daily market selling fresh foods and a host of other products but if you can't find what you want there, you can always tour the hundreds of street sellers who sell everything from clothes to kebabs. But don't forget, Ghanaians expect you to barter so always negotiate your price before purchasing.

The cost of living in Denu is very low compared to most western countries so you may not need to bring huge amounts of spending money with you. However, you may find yourself buying such items as fabrics for traditional Ghanaian clothing and drums or jewellery to take home so please be prepared for this eventuality.

We can guarantee that being a volunteer in Denu will almost always be fun. As English is the common language in Ghana and most people can speak a little, you should be able to participate in everyday life fairly easily. However, the Voltarian appreciate you learning a little of their language, Ewe, and your host family should help with this.

Being a Volunteer with VACI

We like to think that we offer our volunteers a unique, exciting and rewarding experience. We try to place people on the program of their choice but depending on numbers, this might not always be possible.

Before you arrive we'll let you know any other important information about your visit. Once you're here you'll have an orientation to Ghana and Volta Region Denu and a full induction into your program. Daily supervision and regular mentoring sessions should ensure that we fulfill all your expectations of being a volunteer with us.

During your stay we will accommodate you with a host family. If you are working in one of the more remote villages then your home stay may well be there if you wish. This is where you will experience a truly traditional way of life and be entertained with singing, dancing and story telling most evenings. If you stay in a village then we will provide you with an interpreter so you can fully understand and participate in village life.

If on the other hand you prefer your home comforts then we will provide transport to take you to and from the village and your home stay will be in a more urban area. Most residential areas around Denu are only about 15 - 30 minutes taxi drive from the town centre and so very convenient for trips in and out.

Your host family will provide you with breakfast and an evening meal, introducing you gradually to the Ghanaian cuisine. Your accommodation will be comfortable and you will have your own room unless you choose to share with another volunteer. Your host family will also teach you about the culture and answer any questions you may have about life in Ghana. You will be free to come and go as you like but please respect the lifestyle of your hosts and try to fit in with their meal times etc. where possible.

Expect to be using a bucket for bathing in your host home as running showers are not that common, but we do try to ensure you have a flush toilet. If you're staying in a village our village home stay has a western flush toilet and running showers

We provide free transportation for all volunteers to and from their project on the first day. Apart from moving to and from work sites, volunteers are advised to make their own arrangements or discuss alternatives with their program coordinator.

Please look after yourself at all times so nothing damages your stay. In health terms always drink bottled water as you cannot be sure of the purity of the tap water. Make sure you bring enough supplies of any regular medication you're taking as it may not be available here.

Be prepared to get very dusty when it's dry, muddy when it's the rainy season and always hot in the fierce, constant sunshine. You're likely to need a high factor sun cream when you arrive and probably a hat.

Although Ghana is a peace loving nation and the level of crime is not high, never take unnecessary chances with your belongings. Keep all bags close to you and well fastened.

Packing for Your Stay

It might be easier to bring all your essentials in a backpack rather than a suitcase. The following list includes both essential and suggested items.

  1. T-shirts, trousers, cutoffs and shorts. We would suggest dark rather than light colours as clothes get dirty quickly here, especially if you're working on a village program
  2. Swimming clothes
  3. A waterproof if it's the rainy season July, November
  4. At least one long sleeved jacket or t-shirt
  5. Your usual toiletries (these can be purchased locally so you don't need to pack for the whole trip)
  6. Sun cream, insect repellant, cream for bites, Rehydration powders, constipation and diarrhea tablets, malaria tablets
  7. First Aid Travel kit
  8. Towels, bedsheets and pillow case
  9. Mosquito net
  10. Pocket torch
  11. Contact lens and solution if used as these are not available in Denu (but could be obtained from opticians from Accra or other 'big' cities)
  12. Camera
  13. A GSM/ 3G compatible Mobile phone. You will need to buy a sim card to use with the local network but these are readily available and cost very little
  14. Sufficient travellers cheques to cover the cost of your stay