Does anyone have experience with Projects Abroad and/or Ghana?

My oldest daughter is graduating from High School this year and for her graduation gift, she would like to spend a month in Ghana, volunteering with the group Projects Abroad. Her best friend wants to go with her.

On the one hand, she is a great kid. She is very responsible, made excellent grades, works part time, and volunteers with several different groups. Going to Africa for a month would be an awesome experience for her and she has definitely earned it.

On the other hand, she is my baby and she wants to go to Africa for a month!

I haven’t yet talked to the people from Projects Abroad, I plan to, however I have researched them on the web and I don’t find any glaring negatives about their programs.
I confess that I know next to nothing about Ghana. Just what I have read online.

I’m curious if anyone here has any experience with either the group or traveled to Ghana and can tell me what to expect.


My sister just completed a semester abroad in Ghana. I wasn’t there so I can’t really say how it was, just what she’s told me. It sounds like she had an amazing time and can’t wait to go back and visit again sometime. I think as long as your daughter is somewhat adventurous and open-minded, she’ll be fine. The locals are very friendly. My sister did get a lot of marriage proposals from people on the street, but I suppose that’s the sort of thing you learn to brush off after a while.

Congrats on having such an adventurous daughter and being willing to help her explore that!

I have friends that have spent time in Ghana. I’m pretty sure one of them did a program much like this, may have even been the same thing.

I’ve heard that Ghana is a pretty nice place- very relaxed. It’s considered one of the “good places to go” in West Africa. It’s got a fairly large ex-pat community and gets some tourism, so chances are she won’t be out in the middle of nowhere. Living in Africa does have it’s interesting parts but in general people are very welcoming. If she is with a host family, it is almost certain that the host family will take very good care of her, and will probably give her more restrictions that you would!

Programs like these can be a good first experience living abroad and my friends that have done them have had positive experiences. No doubt it will broaden your daughter’s horizons. Having lived in Africa is always a good conversation piece.

But don’t expect anyone to take the “volunteer” part too seriously. Programs like these have a reputation for being extremely expensive vacations for rich kids. Among Americans abroad, they are kind of seen as a sucker’s deal. To put things in perspective, I lived like a king in Cameroon on $150 a month. I think the average Ghanaian makes like $500 a year. So when people come in paying $3,000- which could hire a nice Ghanaian to do the job for the next six years you realize it really is just play-acting volunteering. Someone is making a ton of money off this, and it’s not the people you are “helping.” So think of it as a vacation, and remember how fortunately you are to have that option.

Ghana has a Peace Corps program and Peace Corps people can be copious bloggers, so you might try seeking out some of those for more insight about what it is like to work in Ghana. If they have net access, PCVs will usually be more than willing to answer questions- part of our job is helping others understand the countries we are living in.

Looking around, you might want to take a look at some different programs.

Ghana is an extremely popular volunteer vacation destination, and Projects Abroad seems to be at the top end of the price range- for that kind of money you could probably tour the Ghana and a couple neighboring countries in nice hotels with a private driver and still have money leftover to build a classroom and staff it for a year. There are probably some more financially reasonable options out there.

I can’t comment on the volunteering aspect, but I have been to Ghana.

I was in Ghana in the 1970s. My father was working there for the UN, so we all went out to join him. It was a complete and utter shit-hole. I remember lots of slums and shanty-towns. I remember the Akosombo dam and the Ashanti gold being impressive. I got very ill and almost died. The nurses were appallingly incompetent.

I’ve kept half an eye on the place since and it has got a lot better, but a few years ago a friend who is a professional chef was offered a job as the head chef at a major hotel in Accra and said he wouldn’t touch the country with a barge-pole.

Generally, I think that as long as Jerry Rawlings is alive, then the politicians are more or less going to behave themselves. If he lives another 15 years, then I give Ghana a good chance as the rule of education, law, and order will have had time to set.

Thanks so much for your responses.

You all pretty much reflected what we have read about the program and Ghana so far.

The one thing that stood out though, was Sven’s statement about the volunteering not really being the focus of the program. My daughter was disappointed in hearing that. While going to Africa is the major draw, she truly wanted to do the work while she was there. One of the reasons she chose Projects Abroad is because they offered a full month trip. She didn’t feel she could do much in just two weeks (the standard trips offered).
I assumed a good deal of what we were paying for was peace of mind for parent’s like me who are nervous about sending our kids off to a third world country, but your point about how much more could actually be done with the money is very valid.
We definitely have some thinking to do.

Thanks again for your responses. Very helpful!

To be frank, she’s not going to get anything done in a month, anyway.

Like sven, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and it is widely acknowledged among RPCVs that you don’t really get anything accomplished until your second year of service. You spend the whole first year acclimating to your surroundings, learning the language, trying to understand how you can best serve your community, and making friends and getting to know people in your community. After about a year, you can start in on trying to actually achieve something.

But your daughter is eighteen and no doubt idealistic and probably hasn’t spent much (or any) time in a developing country. I don’t want to sound totally negative, though. Something like this program could be a great opportunity for her to learn about the world and have what could be a life-changing experience. I just wouldn’t want her to get her hopes up about how she’s going to make a difference in Ghana in one month.