Report for Woodfield Manor
I always wanted to teach and working with children with SEND has always been a passion and a priviledge. It’s a cliché to say that I wanted to help make a difference and improve the lives of others, but nonetheless it has remained a truth, and I have also gained a great deal from my experiences along the way including lasting relationships and memories that have the power to make you laugh til you cry.
I initially heard about Woodfield Manor when the founder, Cornelia Boateng visited us in London at the beginning of her quest for support. Cornelia was charismatic and the project of setting up a school for children with Autism was both important and compelling.
I visited the school in Ghana in October 2014 having never travelled to sub-saharan Africa before. My plane landed and I was greeted by Cornelia who took me to my accommodation. I know Woodfield Manor now has it’s own accommodation for volunteers which is a wonderful provision.
It became apparent, quite quickly that I had little idea of the sparse facilities, staffing and resources that I have always taken for granted in the UK. But the children… WOW! They were amazing, and the staff were so warm and open to working with me to find out more about the children’s needs and the approaches that could support them I felt welcomed immediately. I had lots of questions and received enthusiastic and friendly answers.
Cultural differences mean that expectations of children can be very different away from the UK and the most valuable way at this time I could support the children and staff was to begin to develop play. Through demonstration and discussion the staff were able to become less self-conscious and cast off their inhibitions to make relationships with the children on the children’s terms that have over time helped develop communication, purposeful interaction and curiosity.
I was taken to the market to source everyday, affordable items that with a little imagination could become the learning resources the children needed to develop some of their play skills.
I was filled with excitement carrying back chick peas, cardboard boxes, washing up bowls and jugs and couldn’t wait to see how the children would react. They loved it, but for me the most rewarding sight was the staff enjoying the experience of handling the resources and playing with the children.
I loved Accra. It’s a busy, vibrant city with lots of markets, places to visit and fantastic food. Jollof rice, if you’ve never tried it is an absolute must and also just happens to be a speciality of Mama Ekwia at Woodfield Manor. As well as Accra, The Gold Coast is definitely a trip worth taking, as is Kakum National Park, where you can brave the canopy walk through the tropical rainforest.
Since my trip 2 years ago, 2 further members of staff from London have visited and they have told me about all the changes to the school since my own visit. Woodfield Manor now has an incredible new building with accommodation for volunteers. It has it’s own swimming pool and vegetable garden and Cornelia continues to plan more because children with Autism in Ghana need more.
This school is a very exciting prospect for volunteers looking for new experiences, challenge and fun. I feel proud to have played a tiny part in it’s development and you could too. I will never forget the things that I did and the people I met. I have been lucky enough to travel to some amazing places and I have no complaints about my time at Woodfield Manor.
Thank you to The British Council and the staff of Woodfield Manor for making my time in Ghana so memorable.