JAMIE BENSON

I knew as soon as I finished school I wanted to go into political journalism. I loved reading, writing and speaking in public, so journalism seemed like the natural path to go down. The next step was choosing a country to go to. I knew I wanted to go to Africa, because I’ve always been interested in African history and politics, and it’s such an exciting and culturally rich continent!
I didn’t know much about Ghana at the time, it is a country that doesn’t make the news a lot in the west because it has thankfully been spared from the worst of Africa’s problems, partly due to the friendly, peace-loving nature of the Ghanaian people. After reading a bit about Ghanaian culture and customs, I knew it was the place for me! Ghana is such a friendly country, and it would be impossible to leave without making some life-long local friends!
I volunteered for five weeks in Ghana. I was 18 at the time, and I decided to do a journalism project for a period of five weeks, with an additional five-day’s independent travelling time, which I used at the end of my placement. I had an absolutely fantastic time at Radio Windy Bay. Their friendly staff and calm, clear organisational skills helped make this experience the most fulfilling one I’ve had in my life so far. The experience of living and taking part in a local community so different from the quiet English countryside I’ve grown up around has taught me so much, and I feel like this placement changed my lif
I was placed in the town of Winneba, on the coastal highway between Accra and Cape Coast. I was working with Radio Windy Bay, a small community radio station ran by students and staff from the local university. My placement wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing and friendly staff helping me along the way, and actively encouraging me to push myself to achieve! I got so much out of this experience because they didn’t hold me back at all, they were keen for me to do anything and everything at the station so I got a really varied and worthwhile experience!
Almost straight away when I arrived I was made the News Editor. It was my job to pick the news stories from online sources, and gather some local news, and then prepare it for the brief 10:00 am news bulletin, and the major 5:00 pm news bulletin. After about two weeks, they allowed me to become the news reader as well! After three weeks I was invited by the presenter of the morning breakfast show to take part in the newspaper review every day from 8:00am, where we read the main national newspapers and discussed certain stories and headlines. I also appeared on the evening sports program, in what the presenter called “ten minutes with Jamie”, where I discussed some of the major international sports headlines from a British perspective! The jewel on the Windy Bay crown, however, was when they gave me my own hour long slot on a Wednesday evening to write, produce and present my own radio chat show, which I called the Obroni Hour. (Obroni means “White Man” in Ghana!) I held several shows on that. Finally, I also had a chance of researching, recording, producing and presenting my own documentary about the state of the local beach. I got some really valuable experience recoding sounds and interviews, and editing clips, and the Windy Bay staff helped me all the way!
I couldn’t have asked for a better placement then the one I was given! All the staff were so friendly and helpful. At the beginning, the staff at Radio Windy Bay were my work colleagues, but when I left the station they were all my friends.

Living in a family
I think I was extremely lucky with my host family because I was placed in a family who included a professional cook! Living in a host family is by far the best way to experience local life, and make the most of your stay in another culture. At first it can seem a bit nerve-racking, having to live with a whole different family! But they’re so friendly; soon you will become part of their family! Be prepared to nosy children too, my host brothers and sisters loved to show the volunteers to their local friends!
I had no complaints about the food! It is undoubtedly different from the food I’m used to, but so long as you have an open mind and aren’t afraid of something different, the food is great! I usually got cornbread in the morning, followed by a stew with rice in lunch and some rice or fried/boiled plantain in the evening. As a small way to say thank you to my host family, I cooked them a meal of spaghetti and tomato sauce on one of my last evenings. I think they enjoyed it!

Social Time
The fondest memory I have of travelling was visiting the far-eastern Volta region with my two Canadian friends. The region was the most beautiful place I visited in Ghana, filled with cascading waterfalls, impenetrable rainforest and towering mountains. We spent about ten hours travelling, all in the dreaded Tro-Tro, but being greeted with paradise made the travelling worth it.

All in all, volunteering in Winneba was the best decision I have ever made in my life. This experience has taught me so much, and I have made so many life-long friends in Ghana and across the world. The memories of my 5 and a half weeks in Ghana will stay with me for the rest of my life.
You can contact me via my details on the home page of this website for enquiries and advise.