‘There is No Place like Home’ – January 18, 2010

We wake up early for our 8 am departure which turns into a 9 am departure. This is typical of our trip and the alteration in our schedule is often frustrating for us. Our day begins with a visit by a few of the Nurses at the Kpando Health Center. I am sure due to Shine’s intervention that they have traveled 3 hours to Accra to present us with a gift of appreciation to us for all of our donations and hard work in their community. Each of us is presented with a length of fabric with the distinctive imprint of the Ghana health services logo. Maura and I admired these last year. I think it is the hope that some of the UML nurses will make some nice scrub shirts with this material for our next trip tip Ghana. We are deep touched by their generosity.

We have been told that arrangements have been made to meet with the University Of Ghana School Of Nursing. I am somewhat disappointed that the dean has either been non-committal in her decision to meet with us or our leader has really not made the appropriate inroads in scheduling this event. We are told on our drive in that the Dean is very busy and is trying to gather some of her nursing educators but our proposed meeting with the student will not happen. We drive through the University of Ghana for one last time. It is actually a large campus. We are ushered into a room to meet with dean and few other educators. I have brought with me a folder of information about UML and a gift of one of our senior textbooks. Introductions are made and I explain that our purpose was to meet with them to begin a relationship that may be one of reciprocity with both Universities that that there is potential for future collaboration. The dean seemed interested in our graduate programs specifically if some of her educators could get a PhD at our campus. I will put her in contact with our departmental leaders. I had hoped for more dialogue with the UML nurses about their educational preparation but not too many questions are asked. After our meeting we quickly use their washroom and go on a tour of their bookstore. We see may interesting titles but I am struck by the age of the text books. I consider purchasing a book about the health care system in Ghana but then I read that was first published in 1975. It was ‘revised’ in 2005 but all of the charts and statistics are from 1963-1980. I find this unacceptable to be selling books to their students that contain likely outdated information. They have an unusual assortment of textbooks in the nursing section. American paperback novels are available for a small fee but most are not recent editions and I wonder where they get their supply of books. Many appear used.

We had also been promised a visit with Dr. Karl Kroman who is an infectious disease specialist who is workingon a malaria project. Again somehow either he changed his plans to meet with us or possibly the plans were never finalized. He is unavailable due to a meeting.

We are then treated to a very nice surprise. Lt Col Holly has arranged to have us spend an afternoon at a local hotel pool for swimming. We are thrilled because the hotel has also given us a room for the day to use for changing and there is internet and a lovely restaurant. I spend some time on the internet (thanks for all the communication from home). Maura and I enjoy a nice club sandwich with more French fries and a diet coke on a lovely table with linen tablecloths and warm towels to wash our hands. We can almost feel like home. Our waiter is a nice man from the Volta Region and once he hears about our recent journey he lobbies me to include his village in our trip next year. The request for visits by the UML nurses is growing and growing. We have a nice concluding ceremony poolside as Kwando thanks us for all of our hard work and the statement that we have made such important impacts on the communities that we visited. It is hard at times to believe that we have made a difference because logic would tell me that these people will have ongoing health and welfare issues long after our departure and it will take generations to solve. For the time being I guess we have to be satisfied with what every little bit of care we can offer.

We return once more to Oxford Street. I have told the students and Maura bout GLOBAL MAMAS and we return for one more shopping trip. Some of the students did not eat at the hotel so we have our last meal at the place where we had our first meal in Ghana. As was the case last year many of us are down to our last cede and there is much skimping. We manage to pay the bill and I take a few moments to offer my thanks to Nicholas, Kwawdo and Mawuli. These men have the best of hearts and will work hard to ensure improvement in the health and welfare of the people of Ghana but more specifically the vulnerable women and children. I applaud their dedication and I am so appreciative to have them as our leaders.

We arrive quickly at the airport and mass chaos happens. There is a mad rush for carts and we try to stay together as we make our way to the long line for customs examination of our bags. Nicholas is able to use some of his political power to get me to the front of the line and the officer in charge marks my bags. As long as the UML students follow behind me then that is a quicker way for us to navigate this process. After an hour we have checked our bags and it is time for our African friends to leave us. Hugs and kisses are given and we are left to maneuver that last few obstacles on our own. We are becoming seasoned travelers and know who to stick together and make the best of the ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality. We are fortunate that it is a Monday night and travel seems a bit light.

I sit here and write this last entry on the British Air flight on the final leg of our journey. I slept through much of the first leg. The virtual map on my headrest indicates that I think I am somewhere over Eastern Canada. Home is getting closer. We land in less than 2 hours. Our first order of business is a long hot shower and the next is a warm comfortable sleep in our beds. The trip has been successful beyond my expectations and I hope to be a messenger for others who want to hear about the plight of the Ghanaian people. I will be adding photos and possibly addendums to my entries as I start to remember more details. Please feel free to contact me if anyone has any question or you want a presentation to your school or church group. Well that is all for now.

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