Day 2: Monday, December 28, 2009
The flight from Heathrow to
Accra was pushed back by an hour. The wait was fairly uneventful, aside
from Stephanie’s entire carry-on bag being rifled through by security;
they thought her international electric plug adapter was a bomb or
I spent much of the layover trying not to think about being
thirsty, given that the unfavorable exchange rate of dollars ($1.77) to
pounds (1) made bottled water nearly $8.00. I tried unsuccessfully to
catch a vertical nap on a seat and, when the noise and excitement of
the day made that impossible, I journaled for a moment before delving
into a Rachel Cohn book recommended by my Aunt Nancy; librarians are
great people to know.
Our Arrival in Accra
The reception in Ghana was
tremendous. A representative of the United States Army helped usher us
through immigration and customs. Our guide/escort Kwado met us at
baggage claim. We loaded up 22 boxes of supplies, 22 carry-ons, 10
checked items, 10 Nursing Students, and a faculty advisor into a 25
seater van. Our driver, Solomon, is one impressive motor vehicle
operator- he could get that enormous van parked most anywhere. Oh, and
I almost forgot, it was over 80 degrees when we landed.
Our First Meal in Ghana
It was very late at night when
we arrived in Accra, but Kwado, his wife Sylvia, and our other guide
(Mawuli) took us out for toasted cheese (grilled cheese) at Frankie’s
before we checked into The Samartine Hotel; owned by Sam and his wife
Martine (a native of Belgium.) Both the owners were extremely welcoming
and hospitable. We were delighted to find our bathrooms contained
toilet paper! The first night I had no water to shower by, but this was
remedied on the second night of our stay.
Day 3: Tuesday, December 29, 2009
coffee or Lipton Tea; mango or orange juice; an order of ‘eggs’ got you
scrambled eggs with red pepper and onion; toast (a sweet bread); fat
spread (margarine); sugar; creamer
This morning was my first introduction to Ghanaian time. We
were all up at 7 am, due to leave for our tour of Accra and the
University of Ghana at 8 am sharp’we didn’t depart until 9:25 am. My
boyfriend would absolutely love Ghanaian time.
We were honored on this day to be joined by Director Eugene
Armani from the Ministry of Education. After our bus tour it was
arranged for us to meet a representative of the Minister of Education
where we discussed our itinerary and the kind of programs we hoped to
implement. He, in turn, offered us some insights into the history and
plight of Ghana, and offered us some excellent advice.
‘Find out how they [Ghanaian people] live; do not shy away from
difference [and] if [the clinic] has no waiting room, no drugs, find
out why; evaluate challenges [so] you can help advice, guide, and serve
as advocates.’ ‘Mr. P.K. Daneau (sp?)
We also learned in this meeting that 40% of Ghana’s population
lives below the poverty line. Though education for all is priority of
the Ministry of Education and there are enough teachers in Ghana,
deploying these teachers to remote, poor communities is a problem;
meaning quality education is not accessible to all.
Stay tuned for pictures. Describing my
impressions of the people, the roadways, and the building structures
just won’t do justice to what you can see from the pictures I’ve taken.
I will say, though we have plenty to complain about with the Big Dig,
it’s nothing compared to the roadways here-most often dirt/clay, full
of potholes (even those that are paved), with large drop offs on either
side where the sewers are. There are no speed limits, no sidewalks, and
vehicles claiming the right of way!
Day 4: Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
morning wake-up call but delayed departure. We repacked the van and
headed for Ada, a poor community of approximately 15,000, on our way to
In Ada we were given a tour of the Kasseh Health Clinic. It was
absolutely eye opening. Their ‘nursery’ housed a sink and a metal crib
with no mattress. The labor room was two metal tables an arm’s length
reach from one another that weren’t even long enough for someone to lay
flat. The Post-Partum Unit (the ‘Laying In’ room) is where women go
after delivery for six hours before being sent home with their newborn.
This area housed four frames with mattresses hemorrhaging stuffing at
all four corners, and lacking any kind of plastic or protective
covering. I work in Labor and Delivery, so this touched a very
sensitive cord for me. Thanks for the tissue Renee; that experience was
overwhelming. New mattresses could be purchased for 80 cedis ($55.50
American) but this expense is far too great to be affordable to the
clinic. Again, I feel like words are not enough and look forward to
when I can post pictures for all to see.
I stayed in Ada for a blood pressure clinic with Zanele, Whip
(Stephanie), Lauren, and Renee. The other half of the group loaded up
into the van to go to a nearby village.
At our BP Clinic we could not prescribe meds because Val was
with the other group, so we worked with the clinic and referred people
over to their consulting room when we found extreme BPs. I was shocked
by some of our findings.
Male, aged 60, 200/90
Male, aged 47, 248/148
Female, aged 40, 210/94
Male, aged 37, 158/100
Many of these people had been on medication for their blood
pressure but reported that it was ‘finished.’ They did not understand
that blood pressure medication is something you need to be on for life.
Through our translators, Prof and Sylvia, we worked with these clients
to explain the complications of high blood pressure, lifestyle changes
that help improve BP, and the importance of getting on and staying on
The hardest thing about this interaction was the patients who
sat before us for a BP screening but who really had some other medical
problem they hoped someone could treat for free, because they could not
afford the clinic.
Female, 75, c/o foul smelling urine, question UTI
Female, 23, severely jaundiced, question TB or Hepatitis
Female, 53, c/o right sided pain radiating to her back, possible kidney stone
We had no antibiotics to give these women, no means of
testing for hepatitis or TB. Our possible kidney stone was in tears,
but we didn’t even have strong pain medicine to offer her relief. It
was depressing, but really drew a vivid picture of just how much these
people need, because we were offering such a small service and they
were still so thankful to be seen by white ‘nurses.’
Our First Supply Donation
Though we did not have as
much to give as we would have liked the donations we offered the clinic
at Ada probably doubled the resources that we had seen during our tour.
They were all gratefully received by the nurses and other staff members
Day 5: Thursday, December 31, 2009
We are staying in
Kpando at Cedes Guest House. The girls last year became familiar with
this location because they would eat at Cedes Restaurant, which is
closed for the time being. The internet caf’ is located directly across
the street, but the owner Eyram informed us that the internet was down
for the day and he wouldn’t be open on the holiday, New Year’s Day.
The Ministry of Health
I’ve been amazed at how
welcoming important government officials have been to us. Twice now
we’ve been invited into Ministry buildings to speak with very important
people. Today we spoke to representatives for the Ministry of Health
and the Director of Health, a Doctor, for the Volta Region. With them
we negotiated how our time would be spent during our stay in this
region (through January 12th.)
BP Clinic in Torkor
We saw well over 250 patients on
this, market day, in Torkor (a fishing village along the Volta Lake.)
People waited in the hot sun, many standing, to have their blood
pressure taken at one of our four stations. We also set up two other
students with BP cuffs who circulated through the crowd taking BPs.
Many were sky high, stroke material, blood pressures. We kept Val very
busy calling her over to consult about a patient. It was hard to tear
ourselves away at the end of the day, but we had dinner arrangements
waiting for us on the other end of the day.
Day 6: January, 1st, 2010
Happy New Year! We spent the
day in Torkor again. Lauren, Zanele, Jocelyn, and Mawuli walked through
the village with a speakerphone to inform people of our location in the
market place. Lauren videotaped a good portion of her journey on foot
and had some amazing storied to share about life in the village. If
there is ever an opportunity to raise awareness about our presence, I
will certainly jump at the chance. One man approached the group asking
that they come see his ill mother, too sick to travel to the market.
The girls saw a hawk with no wings, being kept as a pet. They reported
huts upon huts upon huts corded together. And, as we have found to be
the case everywhere, they encountered gratitude that we had come.
Back at the clinic’we had quite an influx of children on Day 2,
compared to day one. We listened to heart and lung sounds, checking
their mouths and discussed dental care, several went home with
antibiotics for ringworm-more than I would have anticipated seemingly
had umbilical hernias so parents had to be referred to a doctor for
The adults waited in line for two stations and, again, we found
some very high blood pressures requiring amlodopine prescriptions from
Val and clinic referrals. We are very lucky to have an NP with us who
had access to prescription medications and the knowledge base to
prescribe it appropriately. We also saw ringworm, a large venous ulcer
on the calf (that was dressed,) vision problems, bilateral leg edema,
On our way out of the village,
there was an argument over our agreed on cab fair (50 cents a person.)
It’s the first time I felt somewhat unsafe in Ghana. The vast majority
of people are very welcoming and friendly. The people of Ghana are
typically friendly, truthful, and thankful. Many young children do call
us out as we walk down the street (Yovo: white person) but it all feels
welcoming. Adults frequently greet us with a ‘you are welcome to Ghana.’
Our escorts were speaking rapidly in Ewe to the driver, trunks
were opening and slamming shut, one man put a hand to another’s chest-
it may have been less frightening had the whole argument been in
English, but even though this it the ‘national language’ I have been
surprised by how many citizens (outside the cities) do not speak
English. Most, even who know English, speak in their native tongue
In any case, we piled (literally as there were 5 of us girls in
the cab) our and jumped in another Taxi. Mawuliu has been an incredible
advocate and guide for us. I was extremely thankful he negotiated us
out of that tense situation. The root of the problem we encountered in
this instance is poverty. When some people here see a white face, they
see an opportunity to bargain for a higher price. There is this idea
that all Americans are extremely rich. Compared to Ghanaians, we are,
so I can see where they are coming from. In reality, however, the
NSWB’s funds are limited, so we rely on the help of our escorts to keep
extra costs reasonable.
Day 7: January 2, 2009
We spent the day visiting the
Christian Children’s Home in HoHoe and touring the Wli Waterfalls.
Today was the first time I saw an actual chicken pen; most chickens
roam around the streets. The children were absolutely adorable. They
eagerly greeted our Trotro, carrying 15 of us, and sang songs I
recognized’The Lion King, and songs I didn’t, but that appeared to be
the kind of children’s songs that have hand movements that go along
with the words.
We got a tour of the facility from one of its leaders, Nicholas.
There is a girl’s dormitory and boy’s dormitory, three classrooms that
are broken up by age, a kitchen, a sleeping area for the volunteers,
washrooms for volunteers, and the chicken coop previously mentioned
that houses poultry to provide protein sources to the children. Outside
the facility is also a playground with an area utilized as a soccer
field, swing sets, and some other metal jungle gym type equipment.
It was heartbreaking to see how little these children had. One
little girl grabbed my hand and dragged me from room to room, before
pulling me into her dormitory, over to her bed. There she dragged a
black trash bag out of a cubby and dumped its meager contents on the
bed, two plastic horses, a kaleidoscope, a stuffed bunny, a coloring
book, and four broken bits of crayon. These were all her worldly
possession and she was so proud to hand me her bunny and show me
pictures she’d done in her coloring book. Than she gave me her most
complete crayon, purple, pointed to a page and said ‘You draw!’ She
gave the best of what she had, and shared. It was touching.
Later, before we left, we gave all the children a page from a
coloring book and one crayon. We didn’t have enough, at that time, for
two per child. However, we have tons of chalk and crayons that will be
given to Nicholas, the director, to distribute. Still, I watched the
children share colors or come up to trade for a different color. It was
certainly nearly a riot to get their hands on the initial round of
stuff, but than they were all very kind and civilized’not remotely
whiney or selfish as sometimes children in those age brackets can be.
Truly, truly impressive’it makes me appreciate so much all that I have
and that my parents were able to provide for me.