Ghana

Living Conditions

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

Volunteers immerse themselves in their communities and take part in various festivities, weddings, funerals, parties, storytelling, local dances, and other interesting activities. Many Volunteers pay special attention to youth and develop informal time with children by reading, coloring, playing games, singing songs, or doing household chores together. Volunteers are encouraged to explore the areas around their community and visit nearby interesting sites during the weekends. Visiting and spending time with people is a primary form of socializing. You will find yourself hanging out with friends in their compounds, under a tree or on a bench, for hours on end. Being present is a critical factor in building relationships. There is a continually changing repository of books at the main Peace Corps office in Accra and at the offices in Tamale and Kumasi. When you join the Peace Corps you expect it to be difficult. That’s why you join; to challenge yourself, to give, and to grow. You will choose what kind of Volunteer you will be. Will you be the kind who gravitates only to other Volunteers or will you be the kind that goes out of your way to develop strong friendships with Ghanaians? Choose wisely!

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

You will be representing multiple organizations, and as such you are expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your Ghanaian counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or old clothes, this is due to economics rather than by choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing ragged, un-mended clothing is likely to be considered an affront. Ghanaians are very meticulous about their dress in the workplace and wear their good clothes. They are particular about their personal hygiene (a real accomplishment in communities of mud-brick houses and no running water), and cleanliness is a sign of respect. Shorts are acceptable around your house after work, but Peace Corps Volunteers must never wear them in public. Above-the-knee length skirts are seen in the cities, but not in small communities. Besides, they are not practical, comfortable, or appropriate when traveling in a crowded bus. Although it is hot here, you can only wear tank tops with small neck and sleeve openings. Tops with “spaghetti-string” straps are only appropriate at the beach so do not bring too many of them.