Joshua Zanker, Child Labour & Trafficking Intern from Australia

From July to October 2011, I worked as an intern with Cheerful Hearts Foundation in the human rights area. Although I have previously spent some time in Africa, this was my first time in Ghana. I was certainly a bit nervous about the trip, but seeing Eric’s smiling face at the airport quickly put me at ease.

As I write this I can’t believe how quick these last three months have gone, and I have not had any regret about coming here. For the first six weeks, most of my time was spent in the fishing village of Nyanyano. I was ‘Project Coordinator’ for the ‘End Child Labour Now’ campaign, which assisted children involved in child labour in getting an education. For the first few weeks, much of my time was spent interviewing community members, which included children, fishermen, beach vendors, sellers and community elders. I thoroughly enjoyed this part as I learned so much and grew to really love the community. From there, we started conducting formal interviews with the children, with the assistance of a group from the University of Washington, which I had the privilege of overseeing. Once they were finished, we then conducted follow up interviews with the parents before selecting those that would receive sponsorship from Cheerful Hearts Foundation. During this time, I also worked on several project proposals for funding from various aid agencies, including the U.N. In this, we designed community education classes which are designed to empower the community while reducing the rate of children involved with child labour. The aim is to eventually eradicate child labour from Nyanyano, and it was amazing to have a real part in the project.

I was also involved in a HIV/AIDS campaign in the local schools, targeting ages 12 to 15. This was a great experience, and I learnt a lot from it.

During the second half of my stay, I started teaching at one of the local schools. My placement was at a school where some of the sponsored children attended, so I was also able to monitor their progress and keep an eye on them. I was teaching three days a week, while spending the other two days working on the child labour project. I taught math to class four, five and six, and had an amazing time. The kids were great, and it was an eye opener seeing how the education system works in Ghana. The teachers were all really helpful and I felt I made a real contribution to the school, while learning so much myself.

While the work as an intern was fantastic, it was not the only thing that made my stay in Ghana so enjoyable. The home situation was fantastic, and I think that I had the best cook in Ghana! The food was so good, even though it took some time getting used to. All the facilities were fine, and I was even washing all my own clothes by the end. I had a really good relationship with my host family, and I felt that Eric was really approachable whenever I had problems or issues.

In my own time, I found several places and activities that I loved. Ghana is such an interesting place to spend some time, and it was never overwhelming. The people are so friendly, and I never once felt in any danger, even though we did quite a bit of travelling. The weather was great, even though a bit hotter than back home.

I cannot think of any things that I would change if I were to intern again. Cheerful Hearts Foundation was extremely helpful and accommodating throughout my stay, and I have no hesitation in recommending them to future interns or volunteers. It is not all easy, as my first couple weeks I did find it a challenge to adjust and get used to the way of life. One thing I did learn is that it helps to be patient in Africa. Things never go according to plan, so it’s best just to ride the waves and enjoy the experience. If I can, I will certainly be back, either to work with Cheerful Hearts Foundation again, or just for a visit. I will always remember the members of Cheerful Hearts Foundation, especially Eric, Angie and Bright. What an amazing experience!