Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Volunteer Profile: Jessica Paist


Tell us briefly about yourself

My name is Jessica. I am 25 years old. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. My favorite color is purple. My favorite food is macaroni and cheese (yum!) with sandwiches being a close second. I am often considered “old-fashioned” by my closest friends because I enjoy things like swing dancing, snail mail (letter writing), and antique hunting. I have a pet cat named Zippy who might as well be my child. I have a large family - 6 of us in all. I seek out good coffee, and I love elephants and reading. I have a passion for education, and someday hope to be a certified primary teacher.

What did you do back in the US before this volunteer?

Prior to leaving for Ghana, I spent the last two years working with a franchised Marriott property in Atlanta. I started as a front desk agent in 2011 and was promoted to Front Desk Lead shortly before my departure in 2013.

Why Ghana?

I chose Ghana very intentionally and for many different reasons. I knew that I wanted to gain teaching experience, but these days you can do that in most every country worldwide. I could have stayed in America to do that. However, I knew that I wanted to experience and become familiar with another culture, and I knew that I wanted to be removed from my comfort zone. I want to be the type of person who can adapt in any given environment and I figured that going to Africa was a good way to accomplish that goal; I knew that it would be very different from anything I had ever experienced. Prior to my decision my cousin had previously spent the summer in Ghana, and spoke about how much she enjoyed it. My French language skills are not strong enough to be immersed in a French-speaking country, so I knew I would pick an English speaking country. I also took current political standings into place. While I wanted something that would challenge me, and make me a stronger person, I wanted to be safe while doing this. I knew that Ghana was an independent republic and had a stable government. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I knew that while I was doing all of the aforementioned things, I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help someone “do good”. It just so happened that I made a connection with Pervita, which is based in Ghana, and the rest is history.

What are the highlights of your volunteer?

Taking the children from New Life Orphanage to the beach, getting to know the children that I teach and what they excel in, learning Ghanaian school games, and learning simple Twi phrases.

What have you learnt so far?

I have learned how to teach in Ghana schools. I have learned how to communicate in such a way that the children I teach understand (I have had to adapt my speech to use terms with which they are familiar). I have learned how to wash my clothes by hand. I have learned how to take a Tro-tro (mostly). I have even learned to like beans!

How are the children like; the ones you teach?

Currently, I have 10 children in my class. They are full of energy and LOVE to talk! They each have some area they SHINE in, but that varies widely from football to math to drawing and everything in between.

What are the differences between children in the US and the children in Ghana?

Ghanaian children have more freedom. For example, it is not uncommon to see children walking alone to school or taking the bus alone. In America you usually wouldn’t see that. Ghanaian children also have more responsibility. It seems like they are expected to help wash, cook, and clean among other things. For example, I did not do my own laundry until I turned 10. Also, American children don’t clean their own school every morning. Ghanaian children know from a very early age that they do as they are told and that they should respect their elders. This concept varies widely and is dependent on the family environment and the moral influence of the home. For example, some American children may be expected to act one way at school, and have another set of standards that they adhere to at home. These are just a few examples though.

Mention something you will miss when you leave Ghana.

I already know that I will miss the people I have come to know. My friends. My Pervita colleagues. The children I teach. The children I will begin teaching in June. They each have already become such a big part of my life, that I know it will be hard to leave it all behind come November.


Please CLICK HERE to become a volunteer at Pervita Foundation

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