Jill Watt Torrance is a 60 year old lady living in Hawaii, where she has been for 23 years. She was born in Glasgow, Scotland and grew up in the Highlands before attending college in Edinburgh. For many years she was a soft sculpture and interior designer in her native country and also the USA. She has three grown children in various parts of the world and has been married for 33 years. Her passions are cooking, traveling and enjoying the splendors of Hawaii...especially with her dogs!
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad and why did you chose Volunteering Solutions?
After many years of being involved and volunteering with youth in Hawaii and South Africa I looked at a venture to Ghana. My research of volunteer organizations kept bringing me back to Volunteering Solutions. The extraordinary lower price than other volunteer opportunities was immediately attractive. Not only did I appreciate it for my pocketbook but I also had no sense of gouging. The use of home stays obviously reduced overhead of a catered "volunteer home". My deciding factor to go with VS was due to aforementioned facts. I wanted value for my money, an ability to live with and enjoy a local family and an organization that would provide me with a safe and viable volunteer experience, without me wondering "where my money was spent".
What did you do as a Volunteer?
My host family, in Tamale, Ghana was terrific(TOO much good food). After breakfast I would be picked up , in a very timely fashion, and transported to a school for girls. The school was rustic in building and very limited on scholastic supplies. The ages ranged from 6 to 13 but an additional group of teenage girls were accommodated in the "Sewing School". While other volunteers taught the elementary grades I assisted with the teens. I purchased indigenous fabrics and taught and encouraged the young ladies to make items for a tourist market. I successfully went on to sell all the items they made. The profit was returned immediately to fund the school. I hope, from my experience with them, that many of the young female Ghanaians have gone on to further their career, using their design and needlework education. The local staff at school were delightful, caring and supportive individuals.
What advice would you give to other people looking to volunteer abroad ? Why do you think other people should volunteer abroad ?
Anyone reading this is interested in traveling abroad and wondering if they would fit in to a volunteer situation. Indeed, the vast majority of volunteers are much younger than I. I am 60 years. Without exception, every young volunteer welcomed me, encouraged me and included me in their circle. Although we lived in different home stays, in Tamale, there were many times we would get together for meals and cultural events. The diversity of ages, nationalities and interests of volunteers only adds to the incredible ambience created by an amalgamated group with one common purpose: to volunteer and enhance a lifestyle in a foreign country. I am thrilled to say that I remain in communication with almost all the volunteers AND the VS staff in Tamale, Ghana.
Describe your overall experience in Ghana.
For me, a vacation should be relaxing, yet purposeful. Understanding other cultures is my prime intent of travel. There is NO better way of experiencing first hand what a country has to offer, the geography, the lifestyle and the "locals" ...other than getting involved!
Volunteering Solutions offered me EVERYTHING. From my greeting at airport and welcome dinner, to an amazing home stay, cultural events and wonderful excursions to see the whole of Ghana. I got it all. Organization of this company was exemplary. ANY question I had was answered immediately, both before my departure to Ghana and after arrival. The In Country Staff was SUPERLATIVE.
I would return to Tamale, Ghana in a heartbeat. For me, distant travel is an adventure in itself. I live in Hawaii so NOTHING is close! I treasure my memories and time spent in Ghana. However, without hesitation I am now going again with Volunteering Solutions to Siam Reap, Cambodia to teach next July 2013.
This could become a yearly habit! Better for me than lying on a cruise ship deck. Mahalo Volunteering Solutions! See you in Cambodia.