Volunteer Testimonials

BELOW ARE THE VIEWS OF RECENT PAST VARAS VOLUNTEERS:

“With a little time to settle in VARAS will provide you with a home away from home.”~Charlotte Cossey-UK

“This experience has been eye-opening. It was like entering a whole new world, with lush, green trees everywhere and a sky that stretched as far as the eye could see. Without tall sky scrapers and pedestrian choked sidewalks, I noticed the pace of life slowed down incredibly. People here value different things, with kinship ingrained in their language and everyday practices. Oftentimes my American values were questioned, such as the nuclear family, but it was good to have my ideas challenged. Because of that I know have a widened perspective of life. When I first started my volunteer teaching I tried to reconstruct an American classroom in a rural village school in Ghana. Suffice to say, I had much to learn. Since then I have come to understand why they do things a certain way here. I learned that the “why” is much more important that the “what,” and in that sense I have grown. Although I came here to teach, I have also learned much about myself and about the world. And for that, I am grateful.” ~Natalie Huey-USA

“The month I have spent here in Ghana has been so eventful and different from any other volunteering I have done. I couldn’t have asked to feel more welcome and despite how different it is from home here, never did I feel home sick. I remember the first night we arrived in Dzolopuita, I wasn’t sure if I could handle being in rural area. However, I really enjoyed living here where the lifestyle was so simple yet so full. Being integrated and to be part of the community is part of what made this experience so unique. The MSR-VARAS mission allowed me to learn about health practice and public health systems in Ghana as well as gave me the opportunity to spread the knowledge I had gained from my studies in Canada to young adults in Ghana. It was truly an amazing learning experience and I can confidently say that I made the most of my time here.”~Mehvish Bukhari-Canada

“It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by already. The first week in Dzolopuita was “tough” to some extent, getting used to a new place, settling into the hospital and new environment and getting to know one another. The weeks after just flew by as we got the opportunity to see more and do more as part of the VARAS volunteer programme. Overall it was a positive experience, the VARAS executives and rural community were accepting and appreciative to us, they ensured that we were safe and well throughout the trip. I’d like to thank the VARAS team for providing us with the opportunity to work in the rural communities and learn from our observations and practical work. I encourage them and other organizations to continue working on projects and programmes for the betterment of rural community. It is a great eye opener for foreign volunteers to see how things are run and understand the need for aid in the rural communities.”~Aminata B. Wurie-Sierra Leone

“I started my experience in Ghana not quite knowing what to expect. When I first arrived, I had a difficult time trying to describe to my family and friends how Ghana was and how I felt. I compared to the typical North America lifestyle, we were living simply in a house that help not too much more than essentials. The first morning, the kids of the village watched us eat breakfast because many of them had probably never seen a white person before. Working in the hospital and at the school allowed me to experience the Ghanaian culture on a completely different level. Working in the labour ward at the Ho municipal and being able to witness natural births as well as C-sections showed me the sad reality that even though all the health care staff were intelligent and able people, they lacked many supplies and resources. Teaching at the local primary school gave me the same sense and wonderful how s human beings we can allow such inequality in the world. As the weeks passed, being stared at in the streets or being called white person became the normal and to some extent expected. I felt part of the Dzolopuita community. Learning how to work with what I had became more natural and I found myself being thankful for simple things that I hadn’t been before.”~Sofia Di Girolamo- Canada

“I couldn’t believe that this is the end of my volunteer’s journey. One month could be a long time for me, as a school boy who always enjoys the convenience of urban area. The life without high-tech and internet is unbearable. Remarkable food! I think this is such excellence. Instead, the people here are nice. Ultimately, thank you Sylvester who found the VARAS and gave me the opportunity for serving rural areas serving rural areas.”~Jingyuan Wang (Sandy)-China

“Working with VARAS was truly an eye-opening experience. As a pre-medical student interested in social justice and poverty issues, this experience was truly a once in a life time opportunity. Sylvester was wonderful in helping me every step of the way. I was able to do hands on work at the Ho Municipal Hospital taking blood sugars, shadowing doctors and nurses, and even viewing several surgeries. I got to experience, first hand how different healthcare is in Ghana and its problems. I really got to learn about Ghanaian culture from the nursing staff. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming especially my amazing host family. I got to see how Ghanaians live from day to day. My host family was very accommodating and showed me around Ghana. They even took me to a family christening. They took especially good care of me and were always very kind. Overall, the time I spent in Ghana was one at the most incredible and eye opening experience of my life. I cannot wait to volunteer with VARAS again.”~Gwen Hooley-USA

“My experience with VARAS is one that I will never forget. I met some of the greatest, most helpful and genuine people during mu stay in Hlefi. At first it was really hard to adjust but once I did, I started to have an amazing experience. Once I leave, I feel like I will be leaving what I have come to know as my second home.”~Kelsy Sackrey-USA

“I volunteered with VARAS through the Doctors with Borders Organization at the University of Florida. We collected donations of schools supplies and medical supplies. We shadowed at the HO municipal hospital and visited the mobile clinic to hand out donations. I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering with VARAS. In addition to volunteering at the hospital, we were able to experience Ghana and meet some awesome people. At the mobile clinic my group and I gave a talk to the people about diseases such as hepatitis and hypertension. Before volunteering through VARAS, I didn’t realize how much there is to be done here in Ghana and how much we can actually make a difference, By the end of the week, this place almost felt like home and I would definitely come back in the future as a doctor to help in any way I could.”~Zeo Zelanzy- USA

“I enjoyed VARAS very much!  Sylvester and all of his friends were warm and welcoming to us, and always had our best interest in mind, we were really immersed in the culture, and I appreciated that. Our host family was welcoming as well and the food was excellent. I really enjoyed working in the hospital and meeting the community chiefs and elders. It made me feel personally welcomed to Ghana and that the community really appreciated us being there. I hope to come back soon with lots of friends! Thank you!”~Arielle Schultz- USA

“Coming to volunteer with VARAS has been an amazing experience. I have never felt so welcomed by a community anywhere in the world. First of all, the food that we were given was more than delicious. They meticulously prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. It was some of the most fresh food I have ever had. Not only did I try new foods but I also learned its significance in Ghanaian society. The trip we took to the waterfall was also incredible. Being able to complete the hike was one of the hardest thing I have ever done. I really felt accomplished. What gave me the biggest satisfaction however was being able to help the people of this country, especially those who welcomed us in the Volta Region. Being able to work in the municipal hospital not only made me realize how privileged I am, but it opened my eyes to the immerse suffering the rest of the world encounters. I learned that even though most have no maternal possessions, almost all have inspiring hope and faith. Being able o donate medications to the clinic so people could have them at no cost is something I wish I could do everyday. It was such a satisfying feeling. Overall, my experience in Ghana has completely changed my outlook on life. I met beautiful, welcoming people. I made friends I hope to always keep in contact with. As Sylvester said “don’t pass through Ghana, let Ghana pass through you.” Thank you so much for everything. I hope to one day be back.”~Maria Alexandra Rojas-USA

“I had an amazing time being a part of this program. I learned a lot about the culture of the surrounding area, and the medical officers and nurses taught me a lot about career through observations. The host family was very kind and made sure our meals were prepared on time. Everyone we met was very kind and welcoming and I never felt like I was in any danger. The extra activities we experience were very enjoyable and unforgettable. Sylvester is an awesome director and person, and he was always concerned for our safety. Everyone involved with the program were amazing and helpful.”~Nick Moody-USA

“The past few days here in Ghana with VARAS Organization has been amazing, I truly enjoyed everything Ghana and VARAS had to offer. Everyone in the program and in the community were extremely welcoming. From the excursions to the hospital and clinic, everything was extremely organized and well planned. This trip was everything I hoped for and more. I will definitely like to come back again to experience everything Ghana has to offer. Being in Ghana and part of VARAS program made me feel at home. Everyone in the community was kind and generous. I will miss Ghana very much and hope to be back soon to continue collaborating with VARAS to help the people of Ghana. Sylvester and his friends were every sweet and helpful. Thank you so much everything!!”~Katherine Mackenzie – USA

“My experience with VARAS has been nothing shy from perfect. The daily activities are very well planned and organized. Everyone has been very inviting and warm towards us. I have experienced Ghana to the fullest. Sylvester made sure that everyone was accommodated and very comfortable. Sylvester also went out of his way to ensure that we received the full Ghana experience. Sylvester and his friends have made us feel very at home and comfortable. We were educated about their culture and were fully submerged in it. This trip exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it any one that wants to experience a different culture and has the drive to learn and help others. I look forward to staying in contact with Sylvester and VARAS and hope that one day I will be back for some more wholesome, loving, Ghana fun! Sylvester, I would like to thank you for making this trip one that I will always remember! Thank you for accommodating us and for going above and beyond to ensure that we are having a great time. You are a great person who has a heart of gold. I wish you luck in your future and may you never stop trying to reach your dreams. Hope to see you in the near future. Good luck!”~Suzette Gonzalez- USA

“I thought this trip was super fun. I liked seeing Ghana and eating the local traditional food. I am glad we got to see Ghana’s cultures, visit the elders, see waterfall and visit the hospital. Visiting the hospital wasn’t as hard on as I’d hoped but following doctors on his rounds taught me a lot about common diseases here and about difference in the health care and medical system. I felt very safe throughout the trip and the local are all very friendly. It was evident that safety was #1.In addition it was great to see how caring the founders (Sylvester at all) were about this program. I’m really glad I decided to come and start the New Year in Ghana with new and old friends!”~Yishui Chen – USA

“I had a great time here in Ghana! It could not have been a better experience. I learned more here in a week through both observation and action than I have in all my years of school. Sylvester and friends were perfect hosts. They are certainly some of the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I felt very comfortable around them right from the beginning. The program was very well organized. I was able to experience so much of Ghanaian culture in such a short time. From fantastic food to breath taking sights. I have nothing negative to say about my time here. Volunteering was not only fulfilling but also taught me lessons that I will keep for a lifetime-lessons I may not ever learned with all the distractions back home in America. Anyone who is able should absolutely volunteer with VARAS.I hope beyond hope I am able to return one day. This has been a life changing experience I will never, never forget.”~Holly Carnell – USA

“I have had a great experience. The people in the hospital and community have showed us nothing but kindness and respect. The doctors at the hospital were very helpful and knowledgeable. I got to go hike to a waterfall and feed monkeys. Sylvester has been an amazing director and kept everyone very safe. The host family was very sweet. I loved waking up to kids laughing and having someone to play with. The food was awesome and well prepared. We were doing activities all day and I was never bored. I enjoyed walking to the towns and picking up some of the language as well. I liked meeting the elders and being welcomed in their community. I have learned many things I will take back to the states with me and share with others. This has been one of the most greatest experiences of my life. In the future after I have finished medical school, I want to come back and volunteer some more. Ghana and all the amazing people I have met will be in my heart forever.”~Morgan Bennett –USA

“My experience on this trip has been. We were constantly going out and doing things and even when we weren’t, our guide would look for things to do like walk to the village or go to a church session. After my injury, I couldn’t eat hard foods so I asked if the cook could make a special dish for me and she did so. They actually care about our while being. The house is very nice with fans and a working toilet and shower which is really good and not what I was expecting. The whole trip was excellent.”~Christian Zimmerman –USA

“It is hard to put into words an experience such as the one I had this past summer in Ghana. Upon my arrival in Africa, I had no idea what to expect. Like most travelers, I had a preconceived vision of what the country would be like: lush green vegetation, strange looking animals, friendly people, spicy cuisine…  If someone had told me that I would be spending a month riding with 7 other passengers, not including the livestock, in the back seat of taxis, eating without utensils, climbing waterfalls, sleeping under a sky sprinkled with stars, and learning to walk with a bucket of water on my head I would have said they were crazy. But I did just that. I had the opportunity to work in the town hospital where I spent my time helping out the nurses by taking vitals, learning from a very patient and knowledgeable doctor, watching surgeries and I even participated in a birthing. I gave talks to church-goers on Sundays about health issues and also spent a week helping teach a grade 4 class. These children are perhaps some of the most gifted children I have ever met. They are very eager to learn despite the barriers they face, such as limited resources. One recent project they are undertaking and are extremely excited about is putting together a library. Their faces lit up when they received the handful of books I brought them from back home. The people of Ghana were extremely welcoming. As I walked down the dirt road to the hospital, there were shop owners and children on their way to school that would know me by name and greet me everyday without fail. This quickly became one of my favorite parts of the day. One of the hardest parts about leaving Ghana was perhaps leaving my host family. I could not have asked for a more welcoming and hospitable group of people with whom to live. From the first day, they integrated me into their family with open arms. We cooked together, ate together and talked about our day. I truly feel that I left my sisters, my mother and my father behind the day I returned. They will truly be missed. Plainly put, it was like taking a journey on a roller coaster; there were the ups and downs, both emotionally and physically, but in the end, it was all more than worth it. Our presence alone in the small town showed the people that there is hope and that there are individuals out there who care and want to help. I witnessed first hand that the smallest gestures go a long way and I hope that more volunteers continue to give their time and effort to this wonderful country, allowing VARAS to carry on with the much-needed projects that they have started.”~Angela Stamiris – Canada

“My experience in Vendome, Volta region, Ghana, Africa was truly amazing. The time there was well worth the flights, delays and many hours of preparation and travel. My experience in the country, which is beautiful, in one word is amazing. The community in which i lived was simply fantastic. The first few days people of the village did not really talk to us because they were not sure who we were etc however after we started doing construction work with them they began to talk to us, make jokes and teach us Ewe, their language. The children, well it took them a bit longer to warm up to us but when they did they would invite us to play soccer, talk to them and they showed us their skills in English and us in return showed them our skill in Ewe, which they found funny. V.A.R.A.S gave us the opportunity to go and see some of their country and in the evenings we would talk about local customs, politics, culture etc and compare it to ours, here in Canada. So the village was very nice, calm and peace full and I did not feel scared once when I was there. The chief of the village was extremely welcoming, evening calling us his children and said he wanted to say hello to us every morning to make sure we were ok. The building experience with V.A.R.A.S was interesting; meaning it’s something I have never done before but was very rewarding. Sylvester and Juliano were there on site sometimes taking pictures, talking to us etc and we were able to build a water well, building platform and the crucial first steps of the foundation for the school. So in all, even though there were some rough patches, which got dealt with immediately, were worked out and everything went back to being good and the rest of the time was very interesting. Obviously the living conditions was something that we (Canadians) are not used to, meaning in the village I stayed in had no electricity, running water, internet etc. This seems like something you may not want to live through however I loved it and even tried to change my flight to stay longer. However if you think you cannot live like that, you can always go into another village or little town because V.A.R.A.S does have projects in all kinds of areas around the Volta region of Ghana.”~Matthew Fletcher- Canada

“My experience with VARAS is one that will be with me for the rest of my life. I immediately fell in love with Ghana and the friendliness of the people. The people at VARAS made me feel welcome and were always there to answer any question I had. My experience in Ghana changed me in so many ways and I have returned to Canada a more grateful and happier person. I would highly recommend the experience to anyone and I can’t wait to return.”~Hannah Thomas-Canada

“I have really enjoyed my stay in Ghana. The experience was true to what rural life is and has been a real eye-opener. Despite knowing about the conditions of living before arriving, it is never the same than being there with the lovely people of the village and the support of Sylvester and Juliano. I have realized to which point some people needed basic things like teachers and resources that we use everyday without taking that into account. I am missing the kids from Vedome a lot and I wish I could renew the teaching experience I had there ASAP by returning next summer!”~Beatrice Jimenez-France

“I participated in the volunteer program to build a school in a rural community in Vedome. We lived there for a month and became very close with the rural folks we stayed with and made some lifelong friends. The project ran smoothly with the help of our mason Emmanuel and we were able to provide a good start to the building of the school. It was an experience of a lifetime, something I will never forget and I truly believe that as much of an impact that we had on the people of Vedome, they had a greater impact on us and our lives. I came back with a better, more positive outlook on life and I encourage anybody to get involved to further help these people. It is a wonderful thing to discover another culture and help people in need, especially these people who have big hearts and high spirits.”~Karla Harris-Canada

“Working for VARAS has been a great experience. When I worked in the hospital I gained a lot of knowledge and experience. The organizers are great and always willing to help us. The village in which we lived was very welcoming and the people were all very nice to the volunteers. The programme as a whole is very safe and well organized. Ghana is a great country to travel around in.”~David Corcos- Canada

“My experience volunteering for VARAS is one I will never forget. I felt completely welcomed and at home in Dzolopuita, the village we stayed in. I felt safe and taken care of during my entire stay. Thanks to Sylvester + Juliano, the directors of the organization. In my experience working at the Volta Regional hospital I was exposed to variety of different cases that I could have never seen in Canada. I also got to explore Ghana which is a beautiful and very inviting country.”~Tanya Marciano-Canada

“Joining VARAS and traveling to Ghana in August, 2011, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The people and the culture are amazing, and I had the opportunity to embrace the lifestyle and fully appreciate the country. Ghana has the most hospitable and friendly people I’ve ever had the great chance of meeting, and they made my trip unforgettable. My volunteer works at the hospital and at the school construction site were valuable experiences for me, and I learned many things. Also having taken the time to roam about in Ghana, I saw the diversity of the beautiful country, and had lots of fun. Sylvester and Yehadji were very accommodating and organized and genuinely wonderful people that I will cherish forever. My time in Ghana gave me beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.”~Kristina Arion-Canada

“Every time someone asks me about my experience in Ghana, I first pause and just smile for I feel like there are no words to describe what I felt, not only due to its greatness but also because I don’t even know where to begin! Ghana in itself is a very interesting country with so much potential! The organizers made the experience even better by providing what was required for a comfortable stay and by being so friendly that I honestly felt like I had known them for much longer than just a month! I was volunteering in the hospital, for teaching in a village school and for the building of a school. All 3 projects brought me closer to the people and taught me quite a bit. I definitely recommend both this organization and Ghana for an unforgettable experience!”~Negar Jafari-Canada

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