Ghana | Community Service

Spend a month in a small fishing village in Ghana, West Africa on this summer community service program for high school students. Volunteer on meaningful projects at the Trinity Yard School with local friends, visit the breathtaking Wli Falls, and learn about Ghana’s history at the Cape Coast slave castle.

June 26, 2014 - July 26, 2014
Students completing grades 9-12
Community Service
Typical Group:
16-18 Students, 2 Leaders
4.5 week(s)


During our summer community service program for high school students in Ghana, West Africa, we volunteer during the day, participate in afternoon and evening group activities, and travel on the weekends to diverse and beautiful locations throughout Ghana.  We are lucky to have as our main contact a close friend of Putney Student Travel’s, Rory Jackson, who is the founder and director of the Trinity Yard School.  Together with local community members, we work on various construction projects on classrooms at this volunteer-run, trade-based secondary school.  The volunteer projects include light masonry, woodworking, and painting.  We also teach English, math, and social studies in the village primary and middle schools and learn about the Ghanaian agriculture and fishing industries.  In addition to our group volunteer projects, students also choose an independent project—interview local fishermen about their trade, paint the goal posts on the soccer pitch, or learn to drum on a handmade Kidi drum. Afternoons include pick-up games of soccer or beach volleyball, informal language exchange with teenagers from town, and West African drumming and dance lessons.  Upon successful completion of the volunteer program, participants can expect between 80-100 hours of community service.

Teen Volunteers and Ghanaian Children Play Soccer on the Beach

After a month working together on community projects, you’ll feel a strong connection to your Putney group and your amazing Ghanaian friends.

Our living conditions in Ghana are very basic.  We stay in two separate bunkhouses (one for boys and one for girls) on simple beds with mosquito nets. Our group uses an outhouse and showers with buckets of clean water from the well.  Our food is cooked by local women, and several times throughout the month students have the chance to help them prepare the group’s meals.  Meals include rice, pasta, eggs, meat, fresh vegetables, and fruit.

“Olivia made wonderful friendships not just with the kids on the program but also with the kids at the Trinity Yard School. She was beaming when she got home and we had a long talk about her experience and its impact on her. She connected that the local kids didn’t have the luxuries that she has, but were as happy if not more happy than most kids she knows.”

- Deirdre and Gary Gartner, parents of Olivia, Briarcliff Manor, NY

On weekends, we travel to nearby points of interest including Kakum National Park to see wildlife on a canopy walk, Busua Beach for surfing lessons, or a canoe trip to the stilt village of Nzulezo.  Other excursions might include a trip to the bustling market in the nearby city of Takoradi, a stop at Cape Coast Castle to learn about the history of the slave trade in Ghana, or a visit to the bead market in Koforidua to try out your bargaining skills.  During weekend excursions, we stay in hotels with running water and electricity.

Teen Volunteers and meet monkeys in Ghana, West Africa

Make new friends and share a snack together!

Our month ends with a journey to the Volta Region, located just east of Ghana’s capital, Accra.  Visit baboon and monkey reserves, watch professional kente cloth weavers, and hike to Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in Ghana.  This time together before the program ends allows you and your group to reflect on what you have accomplished and how you hope to take what you’ve learned back home with you.


  • Help with building projects at the Trinity Yard School.
  • Learn how to speak basic Nzima, one of Ghana’s many languages.
  • Sing the Ghanaian national anthem at a friendly soccer match.
  • Dance and drum with local friends at a village celebration.
  • Cool off with an afternoon swim at the local beach.

What to Expect

For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work.  This work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside.  Everyone participates in the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup.   Since we live in our village, accommodations are very simple with separate spaces for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities.  You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences, and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.


Tuition: $5,790

Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Community Service Ghana Blog.

This program begins and ends at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Departure • Join your group for a month of community service on the coast of Ghana.  The group flight departs from New York where you meet one of your leaders who fly with the group to Accra, Ghana.

Accra • Spend two days in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, acclimating to life in Ghana.  Get to know your leaders and the other students, watch a drum and dance performance, and taste Ghanaian food at some of Accra’s many restaurants.  Participate in an in-depth orientation to discuss life in Ghana, your project, and group dynamics.

Teen Volunteers and Ghanaian people complete community service together

Working together with new friends can be a rewarding way to contribute to this small Ghanaian village.

Community Service Village • Transfer by private bus to a small coastal village in Ghana’s Western Region.  This is our base for the next 3 ½ weeks.  Volunteer with the local community to complete construction, education, and agriculture projects.

Cape Coast  Spend a weekend in Cape Coast visiting the Cape Coast Castle to learn about the history of the slave trade in Ghana.  Visit Kakum National Park to observe wildlife from the breathtaking heights of a guided canopy walk.  Stop at Busua Beach for a beachside picnic and surfing lessons with local guides.

“This program definitely exceeded my expectations. The memories and friendships that I brought back with me are better than I could have imagined. The projects we did were hard, but fun, and the weekend trips were amazing.”  

– Jillian Sweeney, Concord-Carlisle Regional High School, Concord, MA

Weekends • On weekends, travel to nearby points of interest such as the stilt village of Nzulezo – where we float between houses in canoes.  Other trips may include a visit to the bustling market in the nearby city of Takoradi or the bead market in Koforidua to try out your bargaining skills.

Ghanaian fruit markets, West Africa

Ghanaians are known for their friendliness and warmth. A visit to the fruit market in Takoradi might result in a wonderful conversation.

Volta Region • Spend the last three days of the program in the Volta Region visiting baboon and monkey reserves, a village famous for its kente cloth weavers, and hiking to Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in Ghana.

Return to New York • Fly with the group, including one of the leaders, from Accra to  New York and continue on to your final destination.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule.  However, we may implement changes to improve the quality of the program.


Background • The coast of the small West African nation of Ghana, with its tranquil beaches and picturesque fishing villages, is populated by some of the friendliest people on earth. Beginning in the 16th century and continuing for over 300 years, the West African slave trade carried hundreds of thousands of captives to the Americas. As commerce in gold and cocoa replaced the slave trade, British influence in the region increased, leading to the establishment of the Gold Coast colony. At the time of independence from Britain in 1957, Ghana was the most prosperous colony in Africa. In recent years, problems resulting from corruption and political conflict have interfered with economic growth. Today, the average Ghanaian family farms or fishes, lives in relatively primitive conditions, and confronts serious challenges in accessing education, health care, and adequate income.

Teen Volunteers in Ghana Community Service Village

Our connection to our host village allows us to dialogue about the challenges of the average Ghanaian family. Here, a Putney student interviews local women to learn more about their lives.

Population  • Ghana has a total population of almost 26 million inhabitants.  The majority of Ghanaians practice Christianity, with small percentages practicing Islam and traditional African beliefs.  While our host village has less than 1,000 people, it is close to the twin cities of Takoradi/Sekondi, Ghana’s 4th largest urban area with 450,000 inhabitants.

Language  • Ghana is home to approximately 50 languages.  English is the official language–the language used for business and classroom education.  Nzima is the language spoken in our host village.  Many villagers also speak Twi, Fante, and basic English.

Climate • The climate on Ghana’s coast is tropical.  Temperatures during July are in the 80s, with humidity between 50-80%.  The rainy season typically goes through the end of June, which means July has sunny days, but the landscape is lush and green.

Ghanaian landscapes of West Africa, Travel for Teens

During weekends, accompanied by local guides, we’ll explore the lush landscape of Ghana’s rolling hills.

Cuisine • Many Ghanaian dishes start with a starch (rice, plantain, cassava, cocoyam, or corn) that is complemented with a sauce or stew made from a combination of locally grown fresh vegetables – tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and eggplant.  Ghanaians eat a range of meats including chicken, beef, and goat.  Fresh tropical fruits abound and mango, banana, oranges, papaya, and pineapple often accompany meals.

Voltage • Ghana uses Type D and Type G plugs.  Voltage is 240V/50hz.

“My highlights included sleeping in a treehouse at Kakum National Park, meeting all the wonderful Trinity Yard students and making great connections with them, having fun, laughing and bonding with all the other Putney students, going to Nzulezo (The Village on Stilts), eating fresh fruit, feeding monkeys in the Volta Region, and seeing all the projects we accomplished.” 

– Milo Rechler, The American School in London, London, United Kingdom

Currency • Ghana’s currency is the Ghanaian Cedi (GHS).  There are opportunities to access banks and ATMs during our weekend trips and excursions.

Visa • A visa is required for U.S. citizens to travel to Ghana, and Putney Student Travel provides complete information on how U.S. citizens can apply. Non U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements.


The Community Service Ghana program is directed by Kelsey Burns.  If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

Kelsey Burns

Kelsey Burns: St. Lawrence University, B.A., Spanish. A Vermont native, Kelsey has led programs in Spain, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana, and has co-directed Putney’s Global Action programs at Yale University. She has worked as an associate director at Putney Student Travel since 2003. She currently coordinates programs in Cambodia, Vietnam, The European Alps, Brazil, Iceland, and Ghana. Kelsey loves to travel, ski, dance, and spend time with her new baby boy.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.