From Glitter to Ghana

How did it go down? After my army service, I joined ProjectTEN in order to make my dream of visiting the African continent come true.

Name: Tom Rosental

Age: 26 years old 

From: Kibbutz Galed, Israel. 

How did it go down? After my army service, I joined ProjectTEN in order to make my dream of visiting the African continent come true.

1.) Where did you volunteer, for how long, what did you have to do there and what was the outcome when you were done?

First, I volunteered with a project in Ghana for three months. Then I felt I hadn’t had enough. I wanted more, so I volunteered again with ProjectTEN in Uganda for 4 months. Next, I became a coordinator at the Uganda volunteer center for just about 2 years. 

In Ghana, as a volunteer, I was in charge of the Kids Center, which is called “Books and Things.” This center is open in the afternoon, so that when kids finish school, they’ll come to play, read books and be together with each other before going home. 

When I had just arrived to Ghana, I had brought items from Israel that I thought would help me with some activities. I had glitter, stickers, bubbles and balloons. In our orientation week before starting work, I learned that it would be really bad to expose the kids to those materials because I could get them easily, but for them it would be much more challenging or even impossible.

That was OK. I found a way to  make  informal educational activities with the kids using sustainable materials that the kids would be able to get themselves. That experience guided me to develop a project I call “thinking games made from sustainable materials.” 

I looked around and searched for common materials that the kids would be able to find at home. I started to collect bottle tops, bottles, cans, cardboard boxes, Jerrycans and toilet rolls. 

From those materials I created brain games, and taught the kids how to make them by themselves. I also encouraged them to take their games home and teach their families and friends how to play.

We saw that the kids loved the games, so we began to ask them every week if they had played the games, and if so, with who? Since we made the games with sustainable materials, it was so clear and easy for the kids to make their own versions as well at home and if some parts would get lost or need a touch-up, it was an easy fix because they had all the materials around them at home. 

I brought my “thinking games” idea from Ghana to Uganda and replicated them there. The games are still run by the remaining staff and the volunteers even today.

2.) What was the most shocking thing you experienced during your volunteer experience?

I experienced so much shock at the beginning. I had to adjust to the weather, the new landscape, people, smells.  But It wasn’t a bad shock. I was so curious and excited about everything. I wanted to learn from the local people. I wanted to feel like them, to be a part of them.I wanted to feel that I was a local myself. I wanted to eat local and dress local, too.

3.) What was something you discovered that you never knew before? 

Wow. What a big question.

Through this experience I learned and discovered new things every moment.

This experience changed my mind so much. It changed the way I think, how I see the world, how I understand different communities and cultures. This experience blew open my mind and one of my life missions was to pass it on. To pass how to volunteer, how to do it right, to learn while you’re teaching. I found that it all comes together! 

I learned to be very open minded. I am humbled and full of respect for the local people who gave us the chance to be part of them.

I still feel so connected to our work in the Project, to Ghana and Uganda, to the local people and our partners. 

I’ll never stop being a part.