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Students discuss their cooperative placement at the Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre, Ghana, West Africa

cooperative placement, Africa

Two of our students, Katie Phelan (4th Year Criminal Justice) and Una Brosnan spent their cooperative placement at the Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre in Ghana. Their blogs below give an insight into the work of the Padre Pio Centre which is run by a UL Graduate, Dr Mark Mantey.

If anyone is interested in spending their coop in Ghana, please contact Dr Laura Donnellan ( for more information.


Una Brosnan

“Ghana West Africa is one of the world’s secret treasures. The natural environment, culture and traditions will excite even the most travelled person. I had the privilege of doing my coop placement in Ghana at Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre.
Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre ( is a leprosy rehabilitation centre that is expanding its services in order to meet the needs of the vulnerable and isolated people and communities in the area. At the same time, it is constantly taking steps towards becoming self-sufficient thus sustainability is key on the agenda.
As a volunteer, I worked in the office was challenged in different ways. From recording transactions to meeting guests or organising itineraries for visitors and taking minutes of management meetings. At times, when the Director was away, I was left in the office alone, entirely responsible for the day to day duties. Not only this but I was encouraged to take on extra projects such as drafting a privacy policy and sharing skills with my colleagues. 

The centre’s ambitious plans are exciting for anyone interested in NGO work. For example, since my last visit they have installed solar panels that have reduced costs greatly and increased self-sufficiency, all thanks to funding from Irish State Aid. Another exciting project I worked on is the livelihoods project. This project encourages older students from St. Elizabeth’s, a day care centre at the compound, for children with disabilities, to integrate into the work force. One of the students I was helping has since opened her stall and I was delighted to visit her at work when I returned at Christmas. While the work wasn’t easy, it was fun and flexible. The result is I have more confidence within my own abilities. 

Learning to adapt to a new culture and to become independent did not happen straight away but it was made much easier by the support system we had around us. Our Ghanaian family made sure that we had the most delicious and fresh food to eat, something that the Fante tribe is renowned for. Our home in Abee, give a sense of African village life and the children in the village gave us endless entertainment. At work my colleagues thought us the local langua and mannerisms and before we knew it we felt right at home.
History, safaris, white sandy beaches and rainforests it is all there. So, if you are looking for a rewarding placement, go and discover Ghana, it is guaranteed to be an adventure you will never forget”.


Katie Phelan

“I was extremely lucky to have undertaken my co-op placement in a non-governmental organisation based in Ghana, West Africa. While there, I worked in a centre that provides support and care to disadvantaged persons from local communities. Practical support is offered to leprosy sufferers, children with both intellectual and physical disabilities, people of old age who struggle to care for themselves and community outreach to families who are struggling in the community. I was based working with children with disabilities. My 6-month placement in West Africa was a real eye-opener for me that presented a new outlook to life around the world and immersed me within a new culture. The knowledge gained, memories made and fun that was had will be something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

This co-op placement offered by UL is an amazingly unique work placement that involves putting your learning into practice while living in a new part of the world and being involved in new experiences. This placement is one of my top highlights of my four years within UL and is something I would encourage every student in UL to consider as a possible co-op placement”.