By Kate Jegede (Volunteer, UK)
When I first learned about the US based charity Point Hope over Christmas 2018, I had no idea that just months later I would have the opportunity to witness some of the organisation’s incredible work for myself. My brief trip, in May 2019 brought me first to the Buduburam ‘refugee’ camp in Ghana, a settlement which lies approximately 44 km outside of the capital city of Accra and is made up of predominantly Liberian former nationals. Here, Point Hope has provided clean water to the camp’s roughly 16000 residents and in addition has established vendors who help control the water’s usage and distribution as well as using their role to generate income for the settlement, all this independently of the United Nations’ (UNHCR) aid and relief efforts which you can read more about online.
As for Point Hope, it’s tricky, trying to do justice to the scale and scope of the work in a single blog post and that is what I think makes volunteering such a valuable and important opportunity for those who want to help.
Being on location up close and personal with just a handful of the people of Point Hope helped me to gain perspective and a meaningful sense of the difference the organisation is making to their lives. That Point Hope provides meals to destitute families, takes on a whole new meaning when you’re looking directly into the eyes of a child who would otherwise be dead from malnutrition had Point Hope not stepped in.
I spoke to Point Hope’s director Jan Haynes about the weight of her position and told her how impressed I was by her ability to motivate her colleagues in Ghana while staying on top of the charity’s building work, partnerships, funding and fundraising. It felt to me an insurmountable task and totally overwhelming. Jan paid tribute to Point Hope Ghana’s In-Country Director, Adam Sandow, a trained nutritionist who is at the helm of the charity’s Ghanaian operations. Jan said that it helped that she and Adam thought so much alike about many things related to the charity. Adam, said Jan, made implementing guidelines much easier whenever she was not physically in Ghana (somewhere she strives to be as much as possible). She also praised the entire Point Hope Ghana team for their invaluable hard work and dedication.
As I watched Jan in action, her approach appeared to be very hands-on and firm, but fair; she is clearly a believer in doing things right, and doing them well from the outset. On one occasion, I witnessed her on-site at a building project encouraging builders there to refer to the carefully drawn up plans rather than trying to wing-it. When it became clear that the plans had gone missing, Jan made arrangements for replacing them. On a separate occasion, we got the opportunity to do some batiking at a Point Hope training centre — Jan demonstrated the hot wax stamping technique until we were all at it like pros. Its obvious that Jan dearly loves what she does.
A highlight of my trip was visiting with one of the organisation’s partners which is located at a nutrition centre. It was interesting to learn about how bureaucracy works in facilities like these including the rules for representatives of organisations who have made significant financial contributions and continue to do so. The staff at the hospital and the annexed nutrition centre greeted us all with genuine warmth which to me was a testament to Point Hope’s popularity and standing.
All in all, I learned a fair bit about the nuances of charity administration which clearly reaches farther than just giving and receiving.
My aim in visiting Point Hope was firstly to be clear in my own mind about why the charity matters so much to its beneficiaries and secondly to better understand my contribution, and I am thrilled to have achieved my aim.
I cannot express how lucky I feel knowing that I can be involved, especially now that I have witnessed first-hand the difference Point Hope is making to the lives and futures of so many people.
I had a magical time in Ghana with Point Hope. There is something truly special about west Africa and the resilience of West Africans. I find their cheeriness in the face of relentless adversity a mixture of moving, empowering and inspiring. This quality is honed in Ghana by Point Hope’s highly practical presence. Thanks to Point Hope a great many people in Ghana can look beyond their impoverished communities and begin to notice and enjoy the beauty that exists all around them.
My stay was brief and so I didn’t get to see a great deal of the work being done but the little I did see transformed my view of charity work as a whole.
As Adam Sandow says, Point Hope is giving the people it serves the tools they need to build sustainably productive lives. I can attest to the truth of his statement. I am back home now, but thankfully my journey with Point Hope has only just begun!
If you’re inspired to volunteer head over to the Point Hope website for detailed information about what the charity does and how you can become involved
Don’t forget to check out testimonials from past volunteers and enjoy some of the stories of the People of Point Hope.