Bucket Showers and Baby Goats: Volunteering in West Africa by Christine Brown

The Synopsis:

What is it like to volunteer in a rural farming village in West Africa? Aside from chasing chickens from the outhouse and braving over-crowded vans held together by string, Bucket Showers & Baby Goats is a moving non-fiction narrative based on the author’s experience volunteering in the Volta Region of Ghana.

While living with members of the community on a daily basis, Brown paints a vivid picture immersed in village life and the challenges that accompany it. We are introduced to the children and families of Saviefe as the narrative unfolds, and the reader is taken day by day as the intended tasks transform from sorting donated books for an unfinished library, into conducting much needed sex education workshops for the students.

In describing community efforts to improve their lives through education and collaboration, Bucket Showers & Baby Goats is uplifting, honest, funny, and poignant as it reveals the reality of those projects when the author returns to the village eighteen months later. An eye-opening account, Brown depicts the community of Saviefe and her volunteer experience by giving readers a unique view into the common challenges and solutions associated with community development initiatives.

I received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 


I am currently studying public health, and I love social change and related topics. So when I saw the description for this book I jumped on it, and was not disappointed. I loved how it was written in a diary format. The details of everyday activities made the culture and lifestyle in Ghana come to life in an interesting way. Christine does such a good job of infusing humor, sarcasm, and storytelling into her writing, and so it was engaging from beginning to end. Hearing the details, like how they would take showers using buckets and get excited about running water and working internet, just reemphasized to me how much I take for granted. Who would’ve thought that something as simple as taking a shower could be so different?

I also loved that this book (the second half at least) talked a lot about her experiences conducting research in Ghana for her Masters program. A lot of the topics she touched on (such as education, reproductive health, and healthcare access) strongly overlapped with what I’ve studied in public health. My program specifically focuses on rural health, and as Christine was in a rural part of Ghana, it was cool to see the commonalities of rural healthcare across countries.

I really only have a few complaints – first, I wish there had been pictures. Everything Christine described sounded so interesting, and she made all of her friends come to life, and I spent the whole time wanting to know what Jessica, Mama, and everyone else looked like to complete my mental picture. My second critique is that sometimes I felt a bit ‘dropped’ in the story. There isn’t a whole lot of information about Christine, her family, or her personal life. I would’ve loved to hear more about why she chose to go to Ghana in the first place, and what she ended up doing after returning from Ghana the second time.

Overall it was a very enjoyable read, full of precocious children, bizarre adventures, and incredible people.

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