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Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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3-6 months
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Living Conditions in Ghana

Communications

Mail

Mail usually takes two to eight weeks to arrive. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Air Mail” on their envelopes. Your address during the 10-week pre-service training will be: 

Your Name, PCT

Peace Corps Ghana

P.O. Box 5796

Accra-North

Ghana West Africa. 

Packages should only be sent to the Peace Corps Accra office address listed above because this is more reliable. Once you have become a Volunteer and are at your site, provide friends and family members your new address and ask them to send letters to you directly. 

Telephones

Each Volunteer must have a mobile phone in Ghana. The international phone service to and from Ghana is good. Some Volunteers do not have coverage in their communities and use a phone when they travel to a larger town. If you choose to bring your own phone, be sure it is a global satellite positioning (GSP) phone and can operate on the systems (900 and 1900 MHz) available in Ghana.

Internet

There is email access in all major cities and in some towns. Access is usually available at communications centers. The cost varies, and equipment and connections can be extremely slow. Many Volunteers bring laptops and find them very useful. Even if you do not bring a laptop, it is recommended that you bring a high density memory stick, sometimes called a pen drive.

Housing and site location

Housing varies by region, district, community, and sector. There are few generalities about housing or site location. Peace Corps Volunteers are placed at the request of the government, so Volunteers go where they are needed. Peace Corps Ghana requires the community to contribute housing that meets the minimum standard of at least one room with a porch/sitting area. Housing is to be adequately ventilated with a roof, a solid floor, walls, access to year-round water supply, latrine (often a long drop or pit), bathing facilities (often a bucket bath), and secure doors and windows. If you have electricity, the current is 50 cycles, 220 volts. Some Volunteers find that their housing greatly exceeds these minimum standards, while others live in mud huts at the minimal level. Peace Corps/Ghana has Volunteers in nine of the 10 regions of the country. Some sites are very remote, while others are in sizable towns or cities. Once you arrive in Ghana, you will be interviewed by an associate Peace Corps director to help guide the final placement decision.

Living allowance and money management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and diet

Many food items available in an American grocery store (including spices) are available at stores in Accra and other large towns. The prices of foreign imported food are comparable to American prices, which is extremely expensive on a Peace Corps living allowance. Meats (Proteins): Chicken and eggs, fish (smoked and dried), beef, pork, goat, grass cutter (bush rat), beans (Bambara, red, and white), and ground nuts (peanuts). Vegetables: Tomatoes (fresh and canned paste), okra, garden eggs (like small eggplant), onions, kontomire (like spinach), hot peppers, and cabbage. Staple Foods: Bread, coco yam, rice, plantain, pasta, sweet potato, yams, cassava, and oatmeal. Fruits: Mango, banana, orange, avocado (pear), pawpaw (papaya), coconut, pineapple, and watermelon. Spices: Red pepper (not black!), curry pepper, salt, cloves, bay leaves, sugar, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. Miscellaneous: White flour, popcorn, oils, corn flour, dry whole milk, soft drinks, coffee, tea, baking powder, vinegar, crackers, cookies, canned whole milk, and Maggi cubes. Available sometimes but expensive: Lettuce, potatoes, apples, cucumbers, cheese, and green peppers. Bring recipes which include these items. It is very unlikely that you will have an oven, but you can make a “Dutch Oven” and bake almost as well as with a conventional oven.

Transportation

The main mode of transportation within and around your site is by bicycle. It is very likely that you will ride a bike on a daily basis. Volunteers are provided cash as part of their settling-in allowance to purchase a bicycle. You may bring a bike helmet with you from the U.S. Peace Corps Ghana will reimburse you up to $50 when you arrive and present a receipt for the helmet. Otherwise, you may wait until you arrive and determine whether you will be using a bike. Wearing helmets while riding a bike is a requirement. Peace Corps/Ghana prohibits the driving of, or riding on, any two or three-wheeled motorized vehicle for any reason. Violation of either of these regulations can be grounds for administrative separation. Volunteers are not allowed to own private cars without express approval from the Director of the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., or to drive private cars in Ghana without the written approval of the country director in Accra. For longer distances Volunteers travel by local taxis and tro tros (vans). Longer trips around the country are on large “Greyhound-type” buses. Internal airline service between Accra, Kumasi, and Tamale is provided by two airlines, but the cost is out of the range of a Volunteer living allowance. Family and friends may enjoy this opportunity when they visit. Many major airlines fly in and out of Accra daily, in addition to other parts of Africa and the world.

Social activities

Many communities where Volunteers live are farming communities. The daily schedule is based on the season (rainy and dry seasons). Also, most communities in Ghana have festivals that are celebrated annually. Community members from far and near come together during these occasions for the celebrations. In most cases the dress code is traditional attire, and communities are engaged in drumming and dancing.

It is also common for community members to gather to celebrate weddings and naming ceremonies. Funerals are seen as celebrations of life in Ghanaian culture, and often include months of preparation with many attendees, music, and noise. Every member of the community is expected to participate in communal activities. Community members gather to play games like oware, ludo, and cards in the evening. It is also common for children to gather and play football in the evenings after school.

Market days are significant to most communities as it generally happens once a week.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior

Professionalism in the Peace Corps requires an awareness of the host community workplace culture, community values, and your self-presentation. To maintain a positive, culturally appropriate professional standing within a host community or workplace, Volunteers may need to adjust their style of dress, hair style, facial hair, make-up, piercings, manner of greeting others, etc. to demonstrate respect for local culture and customs. How you present yourself, in both informal and professional settings, is a reflection of you as an individual and of you as a representative of Peace Corps and the United States. In the U.S., dress (and other elements of personal appearance) may be seen as an expression of personal freedom and identity. In many host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the way you dress and present yourself may be interpreted as an expression of regard – or disregard – for those host community members around you.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities, to develop their language skills, and to get to know the individual members of their community to better understand their traditions, culture, and local norms. As mutual trust is established over time, there may be opportunities for Volunteers to adjust their personal appearance and dress outside of the more rigid local standards. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss these potential adjustments with staff and other cultural mentors.

In Ghana, you are expected to greet people first when you enter an area by shaking hands and be especially polite when speaking to elders. When shaking hands, only use your right hand and shake hands with individuals in a group from right to left.

Ghanaians tend to be meticulous dressers and appreciate when Volunteers follow these norms. For men, lightweight trousers are more proper than shorts during the weekday. Shirts with a collar are also the preferred during the weekday. Men should not go shirtless except at the beach, poolside, or festivals and shrines where your shirt should be removed. Shorts and T-shirts are fine after the workday hours or at weekends, when it is casual time. For women, modesty is preferred. You may be considered improperly dressed when you wear tight or tattered jeans, sleeveless tank tops, shorts, spaghetti straps, low-cut blouses, or midriffs.

Ghanaians prefer to be addressed by their academic, professional, or cultural title and their surname.